Tom Lehman is the co-founder and CEO of Genius, the world’s biggest encyclopedia of music. Known primarily as a software creator, programmer, and tech innovator, he began sculpting when he was 14 years old and has continued to shape ceramics and metals since then. Lehman’s multimedia expertise is matched by his skilled use of glass, metal, clay, and other natural substances.

2017: The Second Best Time

Resulting from a full year of dedicated, recursive practice to perfect the ideal lamp form, The Second Best Time presents 60+ inimitable creations of lamps. Each exquisite artwork will be fully functional and may be used as originally intended, while existing simultaneously as a sculptural statement to literally brighten any room.
The title of Lehman’s latest showing (the second of 15, planned for the next 13 years) comes from one of his favorite sayings, a proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now. That wisdom–that the opportunity to effect change now and into the future is never really gone from us–is particularly applicable today. Lehman’s lamps, like all cylindrical objects, have no starting point and no ending point. None are ephemeral; each is forever.
While in his studio space, Lehman shared his production’s purpose: “The major theme is it’s not too late. Whatever dream of ours we’ve been putting off for so many years that would feel ridiculous to finally start...No! Do it! The second best time is now. For this show, I picked the simplest shape that still has something going on: a tapered cylinder drawn by my friend Rémi. I decided to make the show all lamps to add a functional twist to their minimal design, and because they–per the theme–look like trees.”
The first known lamp in world history was made of a hollow rock stuffed with damp botanicals and ignited, in 70,000 BC. The modern person would never use those materials to construct a lamp, yet those elements worked thousands of years ago; they are timeless.

2016: Worse Is Better

The ceramics teacher announced he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right graded solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would weigh the work of the “quantity” group: 50 pounds of pots rated an A, 40 pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot—albeit a perfect one—to get an A. Well, come grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity! It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work—and learning from their mistakes—the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

— Art and Fear 

"The smushes symbolize the primacy of the artistic process and the irrelevance of the process’s results.

Henry James once proposed three questions one could productively ask about an artist’s work:

  1. What was the artist trying to achieve?

  2. Did they succeed?

  3. Was it worth doing? 

I, on the other hand, think there’s only one question you can ask about a piece of art: did it play a role in its creator’s development?

An artist’s “output” is making progress. Everything else is a scrap."