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Several years ago, Ted Bradley was a burned-out Google project manager in San Francisco with visions of a sculpture he dreamed of making—and a mounting set of questions about how he’d ended up with a job he didn’t love. “As a kid, I had this passion for art, design, sculpture,” the Boulder-based lighting designer says. “But the message I got [from influential people in my life] was that engineering was my career, and it was inherently separate from my ‘art thing.’”
Bradley was so enthralled by the sculpture in his mind’s eye—and so haunted by the desire to create—that he left his job and, in 2019, began bringing to life sculptures that marry his engineering and artistic skills: high-end, custom light fixtures comprising metal spines and delicate white porcelain rings embedded with thousands of LED lights.
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The process of transforming delicate porcelain—which starts as “dirty, brown, wet mud,” Bradley says—into a perfect circle that has precision within a few hundredths of an inch, and then building the sculpture to a client’s specifications, takes months. “I can visualize the piece in my head, but I can’t visualize all the details, so going from idea to reality is a thrill—and sometimes a challenge,” Bradley laughs.
A key component of his creative process—and an impetus for the shift in his career trajectory—is his new(ish) Colorado environs, Bradley says. “I came here in 2017, which was the beginning of this move toward a life of choosing my own path.
In the Bay Area, if you meet someone and ask what they do, they say, ‘I’m a PM at Apple.’ Out here, they say, ‘I’m so into the Indian Peaks.’” The culture of exploration and adventure is only one reason why the artist chose Boulder for his new home base. Another draw? “Natural beauty,” he offers. Many of his creations nod to the environment: A wintry aspen grove inspired a series aptly named Weighted Branch, in which the tilt of the sculptures’ glowing rings reminds the viewer of the soft angles of tree limbs as they shift under the burden of piled snow. “I like to say that I will work the rest of my life trying to bring beauty into my forms, but I believe that nothing I ever build in my lifetime will be as beautiful as a single columbine flower [encountered] on a hike,” Bradley says. “The real beauty is outside our doors.”