Each of Steve Donegan’s lamps is unique – not even those sold in pairs are exactly alike.

He works with vintage finds – perhaps a glass shade or an antique metal base – and sometimes with new pieces he makes in his studio, like a copper torch.

A sculptor by trade, Donegan came to design lighting only a few years ago and discovered something addictive about creating functional objects that also make a statement and impact the environment.

“The right light can create a mood. That’s what theater is all about. . . . In a museum, the light can make the work come to life,” said the artist, who lives and shows his work in West Mount Airy.

Donegan is one of 50 artisans who will show this weekend at the Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show at the 23d Street Armory in Rittenhouse Square. Perhaps it would be better to add “and furnishings” to the show’s title, as wall art, rugs, and other decor will be displayed at the three-day event, which opens Friday night with a ticketed preview party. (At “Whiskey+Wood+Wrens: A Celebration of Nature Inspiring the Finer Things in Life,” Peter Handler, a local furniture craftsman who often works in aluminum and wood, will get the annual John James Audubon Center Award for Art Inspiring Conservation.)

It’s the show’s 21st year, but the first under the management of Green Tree Events of Maine, known for celebrating local, sustainable products.

“We have a sweet spot for American-made, high-quality work,” said Stefa Normantas, a managing partner in the family-owned business. “This group is really working on the world-class level, at the top of the game.”

Also new to the show: On Saturday, professional interior designers will offer free advice about that beautiful bench you may be thinking of buying.

On both days, visitors can view the work of Keunho Peter Park, an MFA graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology whose wood furniture looks like sculpture. The emerging artist contest, now in its second year, draws applicants from esteemed schools like the Rhode Island School of Design and Parsons in New York.

There will be some new artists, like Donegan, who plans to bring an array of lamps starting at about $600. Others, such as photographer Armond Scavo, are show veterans.

Two of native Philadelphian Scavo’s favorite subjects are his hometown, “the city I love,” and the Jersey Shore, “one of my favorite places in the whole world.” He was trained as a painter, and his work reflects that of a painter’s eye. One of his newer works, a shot of the Race Street Pier on a foggy night, could be interpreted as a painting.

“You need beautiful things to look at given that everything else, all the imagery surrounding us 24/7, is so grim,” Scavo said. “But you can find beauty in everything, even in something that’s dilapidated.”

Scavo’s work runs from $25 for an 8-by-10 matted photo to $1,500 for a 40-by-50 attention-grabber. Besides city scenes and seascapes, he also enjoys abstract work, like a close-up of a jasper stone that looks like a landscape.

The first photo he ever took, in January 1970 after receiving a camera for Christmas in 1969, is still in his portfolio. It’s a destroyed pier in Brigantine, just the pilings reaching for the sky.

The piece obviously is important to Scavo, but he’s also seen it resonate with buyers, reminding them of people and places.

“Just as you need emotional connections with people, you need emotional connections with your environment,” he said.

By Natalie Pompilio, For The Inquirer
Posted: April 11, 2015