Sculptor of Light

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There’s a magic in the beauty of light that has the power to amaze. Put the right materials into the hands of someone who understands that power (along with amps, volts, watts, circuits and all of that), and the result is an art piece that can steal your breath away and light your path at the same time. Such are the works of Michael Sestak, a Sacramento lighting designer and electrician whose art just happens to be lighting. It wasn’t always. At one time, Sestak was a pastry chef, but after an industrial accident ended his career creating confections, he regrouped. “I know it sounds crazy,” he says. “How do you go from working with flour and sugar to working with electricity? The answer is you follow the creative thread.” He went to school and became an electrician, passing the state test the first time. He calls that accomplishment his “golden ticket” to becoming a contractor. Opting to focus on lighting only, Sestak began turning out one-of-a-kind, precisely engineered, solidly anchored chandeliers, track lighting systems and gracefully suspended sculptures. Art met science. Sestak’s been ignoring the limits of conventional lighting solutions ever since.

 

GARDEN ON THE CEILING

If you’ve seen Dale Chihuly’s “Fiori di Como” chandelier at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Lina and Kenneth Fat’s dining room in Sierra Oaks probably will bring that astonishing glass garden to mind. But there’s much more to the Fats’ art-filled ceiling than that. “This was about lighting the table as well as providing art,” Sestak says. The lighted candycolored array is composed of 30-some handblown glass “blossoms” that Lina found on a trip to a Las Vegas trade show with her friend, interior designer Bernadette Chiang. The manufacturer told Lina that the brilliantly hued glass discs, which measure roughly 18 inches across and weigh about eight pounds apiece, were for wall decoration only. Period. End of story. Lina thought differently. She bought 17 on the spot, confidently turning them over to Sestak and introducing him to artist and stainless steel fabricator Keith Peschel of Rock and Iron Design in Shingle Springs. Sestak looked at the glass pieces, asked Lina for about 20 more and came up with a three-dimensional glass garden that Lina loved. Installation began by laying out the design on the floor under the 18-by-8-foot sky-lighted space. Each disc was then affixed to the ceiling with an individually configured armature of 1-inch hollow stainless steel pipe. “Hollow so we could run power through it and put LED lights behind each piece,” Sestak explains. “We’d drill the hole and put the stainless steel tube into the ceiling, through the Sheetrock and up another eight inches to a plywood deck.” Dimmable halogen spotlights on flexible “tendrils” were included to illuminate the glass pieces as well as focus light on individual place settings, the center of the table or artwork on the facing wall. “Michael and Keith made the glass almost come alive,” Lina says. “It’s so different from what I saw, which was the pieces hanging flat on the wall. That was OK, but it was nothing spectacular like this.”

 

For the rest of the story, pick up the February 2013 issue of SACRAMENTO magazine, or view the digital edition here (free for print subscribers; not a subscriber? Sign up now.)