American Craftsman: Eric Kaster of Eleek Inc.
A third-generation patternmaker uses his woodworking skills to create molds for metal light fixtures reminiscent of original masterworks from the shops of Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright
Looking for a replica of an Arts and Crafts sconce you saw on a historic house tour? Forget Google Shopping or the big box stores. For a fixture that's virtually indistinguishable from the original, you'll need a lighting fixture patternmaker like Eric Kaster, co-owner of Eleek Inc. The Portland, Oregon, artisan practices the old-world craft of carving detailed wood positives from which molds for metal castings are made for everything from chandeliers to cabinet pulls. Keep reading to learn more about Kaster's art form, and his company.
Because most mold patterns today are made by machines guided by computer software, they lack the depth of detail, palpable heft, and tiny imperfections you get with forms hand-carved from a chunk of pine or alder.
A good patternmaker can take a photograph of a fixture you want and craft a wood replica, which is sent to a foundry to be cast in metal.
"Very few people do this sort of thing anymore," says Kaster, who worked alongside his grandfather at the family's patternmaking shop for a dozen years before opening his own company, Eleek Inc., in 2000.
Most of the metal parts and some of the blown-glass shades used for Eric Kaster's exquisite sconces and chandeliers are created from wood patterns he carves by hand at his 12-person shop in Portland, Oregon.
In addition to custom work, Eleek sells original designs featuring Kaster's spin on Craftsman, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, and modern industrial styles.
Using equal parts engineering, craftsmanship, and imagination, Kaster creates not just light fixtures but functional works of art. As he puts it, "They feel authentic, made from real stuff by real hands."