The year’s shortest days are upon us, as are the mix of holidays tied to them — all reflecting in some way a desire to shed light in darkness. These days, more and more of that light is shed via LED, cooler and more energy-efficient than the incandescent technology that revolutionized the world beginning in the late 19th century.

An LED — light-emitting diode — is a solid-state technology that produces light via a pairing of negatively and positively charged semiconductor materials. The interaction of electrons when exposed to electrical current releases light as photons.

The light-emitting result of applying voltage to carborundum (silicon carbide) crystal was noticed at Marconi Labs more than 100 years ago, but light-emitting diodes of various colors did not emerge as electronic components until the 1960s and ‘70s, too expensive for broader commercial use. As high-intensity white LED lights became more affordable, they were used in utilitarian applications, such as flashlights. But in this century, LEDs, now brighter and whiter, are beginning to offer an alternative to incandescent lighting in almost every setting.

The revolution can be spotted in the holiday lighting aisle, as more and more Christmas light strings boast LED bulbs. And at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship’s Messler Gallery, a hint at what the technology is bringing to lighting design is on view through Jan. 3.

“Most of the shows are obviously furniture, so lighting is a little bit different for us,” said Messler Gallery Manager Victoria Allport in mid-December. “There’s such an interest now from our students, though, to do lighting, now that the LED technology has taken away the heat.”

It’s true; the typical incandescent lightbulb found in residential and commercial fixtures converts less than 5 percent of the energy it uses into visible light; the rest becomes heat. LEDs, which use at least 75 percent less energy, produce little heat … which means many more materials are options for design, including the one that has inspired the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship — website — for 25 years.

“Wood used to be off-limits for lighting, and now it’s not. So we wanted to take a look at who is doing what with lighting design using primarily wood,” said Allport.

The result is “Contemporary Wood Lighting,” a group show curated by American light design luminary Christopher Poehlmann. It showcases work by 23 contemporary designers and makers, ranging from functional products to conceptual sculpture.

The show’s exhibits come from six countries — “there would be seven, but we couldn’t get the light from Italy through customs in time,” Allport said. More than half the designers are women, quite unusual in the furniture world; and one of them is from Maine.

“It happened sort of organically,” said Allport of the show’s distaff leaning and of the inclusion of Stonington’s Julie Morringello.

“And I don’t think he was trying to get ‘a Maine person,’ but she was included because she’s of the caliber to be in the show. She actually teaches here,” said Allport.

Poehlmann’s contribution, including a comprehensive essay in the show’s online catalog, resulted from his connection to Center founder and Director Peter Korn. One of the curator’s picks gave Korn pause.

“This is just sculptural,” said Allport of Shana McCaw & Brent Budsberg’s “On Oak and Maple.” It’s more of a commentary, though I’m not sure what it’s saying. Peter’s more of a purist and said, 'it’s not a light!'"

What it is, is a sculpted wood depiction — right down to the flame-tip “bulbs” behind broken “glass” — of an old-fashioned street lamp that seems to have fallen to the ground and been kicked around. The other work that has a found-object quality to it is one of Poehlmann’s popular newGROWTH chandeliers, branch-like cantilevered fixtures of repurposed aluminum scraps and LED bulbs.

Walking around the one-room gallery, one finds both show-specific works and those in production. Allport points out a table lamp by Garry Knox Bennett, “the famous studio furniture guy,” and one by New Hampshire’s Peter Bloch that crosses the maker/manufacturer divide.

“He does a lot of these, but they are all one of a kind. That’s a seedpod from some Australian tree called a banksia; he turned that on a lathe,” she said of the lamp’s vertical base.

Likely the best known of the designers showcased at the Messler is David Trubridge, whose large sculptures oversee many a restaurant and other public venues. The works, which mimic the way leaves throw delicate patterns of light, are produced via CNC laser-cutting.

“The amazing thing is that there are all these intricate parts; this one came to us all set up, but usually they mail flat and then you put it together,” Allport said.

Other pieces, such as a thin veneer sconce by Obe & Co. Design’s Graham Oliver, marry high-concept design with practicality. The lamp articulates, so it can be pushed into various positions. And a magnetic base means “You can stick it on the side of a refrigerator!” Allport said.

Cameron Mathieson’s “Life Forms” draws the eye immediately, a softly glowing object that lives up to, if not specifically defining, its title.

“Someone said they wanted to get that and put it on their roof, like a big moth climbing up. I love the shadow it casts,” said Allport.

In the southwestern corner of the gallery, Peter Pierobon’s “Fine Plumb” looks like it could be the pod that produced Mathieson’s work. Delicate strips of yellow cedar are combined in ways that create a play of light and shadow in all directions.

The show’s postcard image is anything but delicate, and yet it glows with compelling power. Two of Duncan Meerding’s “Cracked Log” lamps, made from chunks of salvaged radiata pine, shoot beams of light through strategically carved cracks. Meerding is legally blind, and his carved-by-feel work reflects the peripheral way he perceives light. Allport said she wishes the show could have included Meerding’s larger seat-or-table works, “but the shipping from Tasmania was very prohibitive.”

One doesn’t have to go around the world to see what the world is doing with LED lighting design; the Messler Gallery is just off the Route 90 entrance to the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship. Gallery hours are weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Dec. 23 through 25). Next up in the nonprofit school’s gallery is the popular biennial “Maine Wood,” which will have its opening, always a big one, Friday evening, Jan. 19.

“Our January opening is always on the same weekend the ice bar opens, so people can come see ‘Maine Wood’ and then head off to the Samoset,” Allport said.

For more information, including the “Contemporary Wood Lighting” Flipsnack catalog, visit