Art & Entertainment

Artist Spotlight: Interview with Paul Bonenberger of M1 Craft Co.

Note to readers: Etched craft lighting should not be tried at home without the proper education on how to safely do the craft. As with any type of construction which involves electricity, it needs to be done in a very safe manner because the process can be dangerous.


When Paul Bonenberger first discovered etched crafted lighting, he had no idea it would gain the attention of a TV show.

In 2016, the artisan created his etched crafted lighting. The beginning of 2017, he established his business M1 Craft Co.

A few months after starting his business, he was invited to appear on INSP’s Handcrafted America to share his design on national television! The show appeared in September 2017, featuring Bonenberger with his design. (Way to rep the Motor City, Paul!)

“Detroit is so industrial. It kind of allows you to run with a theme and incorporate different aspects of what you’re doing.” —Paul Bonenberger, M1 Craft Co. Creator and Founder


Handcrafted America

Handcrafted America, hosted by actress Jill Wagner, is a TV show which highlights various artisans in America who have created stunning, handmade products. The television show is part of the INSP network and it is in its third season.

“From tea pots to espresso makers, straw hats to pine needle baskets, goblets to glass doors, America’s makers are waiting to share their joy of creating with you. As always, Jill gives her all in every episode!” —Handcrafted America

Handcrafted America
Artisan Paul Bonenberger and Host Jill Wagner with etched craft lighting | Photo Courtesy of INSP


Discovering Etched Crafted Lighting

Bonenberger first discovered the creative form while experimenting with different ways to create unique designs in furniture.

He was watching a video of an artisan creating a glass sculpture with the use of lightning. Thinking the glass sculpture creation was “pretty cool”, Bonenberger decided to research using electrical voltage, very similar to lightning, as a creative form.

“One night, while browsing online, he found a video of students experimenting with creating Lichtenberg figures, using electrical voltage to create patterns similar to a lightning flash. That discovery was Paul’s “flash,” the missing link he had been searching for.” —INSP Network


You can watch a video here to see how the process works.

Photo Courtesy of INSP


What is Etched Craft Lighting?

Bonenberger came up with the term himself. The overall design it creates is called “Lichtenberg”. When I viewed Bonenberger’s work, it reminded me of a tree or a bonsai design.

Bonenberger has used his unique design to make furniture pieces such as a desk, end table, light fixture, and floating shelf. “I wanted to make something that would be a discussion point,” Bonenberger said of his design.

Paul Bonenberger M1 Craft Co.
Photo courtesy M1 Craft Co.


M1 Craft Co. is Born

Instead of spending money on a furniture item at a commercial retailer, Bonenberger chose to invest in making his own creations. First, it was to make furniture for his home. Once he created the furniture pieces for his home, he decided to make more items and sell them. He then started his business M1 Craft Co.

“M-1, Woodward Avenue, serves as the dividing line between Detroit’s East and West sides. As Michigan’s first paved road, M-1 is synonymous with the American Automotive Industry, Historic Detroit, and decades of resilience and innovation.” —M1 Craft Co.

What’s so unique about M1 Craft Co., other than of course the etched crafted lighting, is that Bonenberger makes each furniture piece himself. He spends up to 15 hours on one piece and he doesn’t take his craftwork lightly, either. If the furniture piece is not made to his liking, he will without hesitation start the design process over.

Paul Bonenberger M1 Craft Co.
Craft Farmhouse Style Light Fixture | Photo courtesy M1 Craft Co.


What’s so unique about Bonenberger’s business M1 Craft Co., other than of course the etched crafted lighting, is that he makes each furniture piece himself.


Safety First!

Safety, of course, is very important to Bonenberger. He told me several times being safe while creating the designs is one of his top concerns. He takes the necessary precautions to ensure he does not get hurt.

For instance, he doesn’t create the designs at home. When burning the wood, he works at his friend’s farm where there is more open space. He also wears special gloves and keeps a fire extinguisher on hand.

Artisan Paul Bonenberger’s etched craft lighting. | Photo Courtesy of INSP


A True Michigan-Made Product

Customers can truly appreciate Bonenberger’s hard work and dedication to their furniture purchase. He gives his all and works hard to ensure each piece is built to perfection. He even saves the leftover scraps from the wood he uses and finds a way to make good use out of it, such as creating wooden coasters with the etched lighting design.


Stacy Adams

If you would like to learn more about M1 Craft Co. or contact Paul Bonenberger directly, you can visit his official business website here.


Special thanks to Paul Bonenberger for meeting with Good Life Detroit to learn more about his M1 Craft Co. business!


Read more interviews in the “Artist Spotlight” feature:

Metro Detroit-based photographer Jason Walker

Detroit-based artist Rua Francis


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