Next time you walk into the Austin Film Society’s Cinema or find yourself sipping a drink at Lonesome Dove, take a moment to stop and look up.
The light fixtures are the creations of two Austin lighting designers, and they’re illuminating some of the city’s most notable commercial spaces in a whole new way.
The designers, along with hundreds of other artisans, are opening their doors to the public this weekend as part of the East Austin Studio Tour.
“We use ceilings and walls as our canvas,” Nathan Warner says.
“We make what I would describe as sculptures that just happen to be a light,” says his partner, Buck Hubach.
Warner and Hubach, the co-owners of Warbach Lighting & Design, specialize in creating large-scale light sculptures.
“We always say here that we’re making the next wave of antiques, and I believe that we are," Warner says. "We use steel and very durable products. It’s heavy. It takes time. It's impactful. It’s not dainty. It’s got weight. It’s got character."
That’s a perfect way to describe Warbach’s most recent light installation at Fareground food hall, which is expected to open at 111 Congress Ave. in late fall.
The 42-foot-long span of geometric cubes are suspended in the building’s atrium. They look like the Wright brothers' earliest aircraft designs, only in the form of a modern industrial light.
“I would say a general thing to describe our aesthetic is simplicity. The beauty is in the simplicity. Nothing is ever overcomplex,” Hubach says.
That’s true whether it’s a piece that looks like a blueprint for a rocketship or a rectangular labyrinth of light.
Warner and Hubach met five years ago when they both worked at a woodworking shop. They started making light fixtures for fun at first, mostly for friends and family.
Then in 2012, the duo was commissioned to create a light fixture for a company called Peddle, which was opening its headquarters downtown.
“It was more of an art sculpture than anything," Warner says of the roughly 110-foot-long fixture they created that snakes up, down and around. "It was the first time we actually had to engineer something, and we had to be mindful of the wattages, and we had to be mindful of structural."
That’s when the lightbulb went off in Warner’s head.
“It was Sunday night and we had just finished it. I remember we were sitting there, and I just kind of felt my life take a change," he says. "A week later we were – ‘Hey, we’re Warbach.’”
But Warbach is more than just a combination of their last names.
“I describe Nathan and I as a Venn diagram of skills," Hubach says. "I’m definitely more technical and then Nathan is very good with people and things. We meet in the middle and the design kind of overlaps."
In the past few years, the business has taken off. They’ve partnered with a nationally known architect on high-profile projects like the Shake Shack burger chain.
“I feel like every project we do we’ve pushed ourselves a little bit further and a little bit further,” Hubach says.
Warner adds, “We just like making awesome stuff.”