Frank Buchwald

Frank Buchwald

Berlin-based Frank Buchwald was born in Hannover, Germany in 1956. After studying design at the University of Arts in Berlin, Frank worked as a freelance artist and science-fiction illustrator until 1993 when he turned his attention to designing and manufacturing metallic furniture.

Frank Buchwald workshop

He created all manner of metal furniture until about a decade ago when he started to focus his efforts on making lamps. It took Frank many years before he felt that the designs of his sculptural lights were moving in the right direction, and an even longer time until he could say he was completely satisfied.

“The individual lamp models were not designed spontaneously in a moment of inspiration,” he says. “It was rather a long groping for a hard-to-comprehend, meaningful form.”

“I have the feeling that the Machine Lights now portray what I imagine them to,” he says. “I think that they have now reached the right level of completeness and perfection.”

Machine Lights

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Light XL1
  • L. 52cm H. 85cm
  • Price: CHF 27’000.- (including Swiss VAT)
  • Limited Edition 6 pieces

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Lights Type No. 1
  • L. 30cm H. 47 cm
  • Price: CHF 9’900.- (including Swiss VAT)

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Light XL1 vs Machine Lights Type No. 1
Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Lights Type No. 5
  • L. 64cm H. 38 cm
  • Price: CHF 9’900.- (including Swiss VAT)

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Lights Inox No. 1
  • L. 86cm H. 53 cm (height adjustable up to 85 cm)
  • Price: CHF 14'900.- (including Swiss VAT)
Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Machine Lights Type No. 12
  • L. 44cm H. 42cm
  • Price: CHF 9’900.- (including Swiss VAT)


How would you describe yourself?

Pencil, glue and cardboard... railway stations, steam engines... childhood memories. Creativity and enthusiasm form the golden thread that has weaved through my life. They’re my fuel. I follow ideas and impressions. I am passionate about sketching and drawing because they allow me to bring my visions to life. If I don’t manage to make something of the ideas in my mind, then I feel unsatisfied. I’m a little bit obsessed, maybe slightly crazy. But that’s okay; it helps me to survive and stimulate myself when I am creating.

What motivated you to create the Machine Lights?

I like to create timeless objects. I am fascinated by the strict and uncompromising functionality of machines especially those created when men − for better or for worse − began mass-production. For me, the most basic are the raw machines from the industrial era, where there is no need to cover the machine by a shell. Perfect engineering is so beautiful. My Machine Lights challenge the beholder and I believe this is their unique appeal.

A simple quick sketch is usually the fondation a new project, followed by drawing after drawing. I always make rough drafts using pencils and marker pens. This is the only way for me to find the essence of a new object. I never work out a concept on a computer. My work has to be open, capable of being quickly modified: Any detail can change with one stroke at any given time. It's an evolutionary process in motion.

Then an engineering draft follows, but the final artistic process also happens in the workshop. The nature of the material, whether it is steel and brass, or a spontaneous idea can still transform the original concept, which makes for an exciting process.

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights Type 5

What inspires you while making the Machine Lights?

I am inspired by the creative process that leads to them. As a designer and artist I am interested in various forms of expression as a source of inspiration. Art, architecture and natural forms are the influences for my work, giving my machine objects their techno-biological character.

My philosophy and inspiration behind the Machine Lights has to do with the realisation of an independent reality that is hidden from humans, but exists behind the appearance of mechanical objects. 

I also like to play with what I call “secret principles” that interweave the sphere of machines. When men design and make machines, we transfer a part of our human spirit into the machinery and I like this to be obvious in my art. Electricity and machines are our second umbilical cord, we are in a permanent symbiosis in which they can help us, or they can dominate us.

You craft every single part of these Machines yourself. I have seen you at work and there is clearly a bond between you and the metal you work with. What does making these components by hand bring to you?

Metal is the perfect material to work creatively and I can use a variety of techniques in working with it. The process of melting in blast furnaces and shaping by massive machines is an "act of creation" for me. This brings energy and power into the steel / matter.

Steel... the material of the Industrial Revolution where obsessive engineers like James Watt and Isambard Kingdom Brunel realised their visions of a new age.  I think that creating heavily-engineered machines evoke / capture the raw energy and excitement of industrialization and has bundled it into these machine creations.  It excites me to work with this material. Crafting objects into being. It is a little archaic in this digital age. 

My work follows no specific design trend. That gives me the freedom to create light objects that eschew modern trends or market requirements. Positive reactions from both customers and art connoisseurs strengthen my resolve to create pieces that resist and avoid the ‘latest design trend’. My clients are not interested in industrially manufactured products. They prefer exclusive, handmade creations.

How do you cope with people not understanding or not appreciating your work?

I’m sure that there are many who do not understand my art, but then I do not expect the majority to understand. Generally I’ve received very positive reactions from people, and others have even attempted to copy my style; as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Twenty five years ago you were barely 30 years old. What did you imagine you would be doing today? 
I never thought of myself doing a ‘conventional’ profession. I have worked as an illustrator and exhibition designer, later I was painting large pictures, always visionary and detailed, hoping that would be the final purpose of my life. I never expected metal to ‘find’ me at the right time, or that I would find my calling in working with metal.

So you are not surprised by the path you have taken?

You can't have everything under control in your life. Life can change in many ways as fate creates a nexus of positive and negative elements. Therefore, it’s a positive surprise. I would call it a gift. 

Do you wish anything might have turned out differently for you?

It makes no sense to regret anything since everything I did in the past formed the building blocks for what I am doing now. 

What would you ask for if you had a magic wand?

A magic wand in the right hands is a fantastic idea. Though I wouldn’t use it for my own benefit. I think a magic wand should only be used for a higher purpose.

Frank Buchwald - Machine Lights sketch

Apart from your Machine Lights, are there any other bespoke projects that you are working at the moment?

I have just completed a custom-made pendant light for the block-buster movie director Roland Emmerich, which took me a lot of time to create. I have also been asked to design a movie camera body for an American Company as part of a co-creation. And I am also working on a new table light for the Machine Light series.