Interview with a lampshade maker
Hi, I’m Laura, I’m a Lampshade Maker, living in Adelaide, South Australia and have been making custom/bespoke lampshades for designers, architects and private clients since 2010. I operate my business Amore Lampshades, from home and thoroughly enjoy the flexibility with work hours combined with family commitments, it’s a great balance.
I have always been quite creative, sewing took a hold on me at about 11 years old when my Mother taught me, taking me into our local haberdashery store, picking out a pattern and fabric and that was it, I was very much then into making my own clothes, knitting, crochet and a whole lot more, this eventually led me into studying fashion and design in my teenage years.
I never worked in the industry however, feeling that at the end of the course it was just a hobby for me. I do still remember though quite significant thoughts during the course, and ones that I will reflect on in later years, that I loved people admiring my work, and perfecting it was something I strived for. Not being quite sure about working in it full-time, I chose a career in secretarial/office admin roles, which further led me on to the IT industry working in help desk and eventually onto computer programming.
Why lampshades? How did it all start?
Life became very busy through my mid 20’s – 30’s as it does, married, young children, working full-time, childcare, studying to improve my career, life seemed crazy! It was in my mid 30’s that I began thinking about working creatively and wanting change,
I worried that I’d get through my working years and had not given my creativity a go, it was in the back on my mind constantly.
I enrolled in an interior design course, studying in the evenings, but I never finished. This too wasn’t quite for me, I’m more practical than that was all I could think, I love working with my hands and creating something beautiful.
At the age of 38 I had my long service leave, this gave me time to look at a few home projects. I’ll make a lampshade, never thought about it before but I can’t find what I want in the stores. I’ll buy one just to get the frame, strip it back and make my own, bought a reference book from the USA on Ebay, once it had arrived I set to…
I remember that light bulb moment
No pun here it was for real! The light coming from the lampshade was beautiful and I was taken with it. I thoroughly enjoyed everything about making it and it encompassed all my skills I had learnt in my teenage years, wow! Working with my hands, fabrics, trims, hand stitching, lining, stretching and perfecting! It all fell into place and that was the start, it had me thinking, ‘I wonder if there’s a business opportunity…’
Making a start was very daunting, I knew I could do it, but I had no-one to help me, there were no courses in lampshade making in Australia. I was on my own. Putting myself out there with little experience I thought was crazy, but to be able to purchase fabric wholesale I had to register my business so off I went.
Visiting the fabric agents they were so supportive and they helped launch my business, ‘Bring in your work and your business cards and we’ll be happy to recommend you’ they said. It was only at this time that I learnt that there were very few lampshade makers and I had my first job within two weeks of registering my business. Yes, I learnt on the job but I took on everything that came to me, developing my own techniques along the way, as well as researching reference books, and I’ve been doing it since, it’s been quite a journey!
How do you find working solo?
I’ve always been a quiet achiever, so working alone doesn’t bother me and I’m driven by what I love doing. Lampshade making encompasses all my skills I learnt twenty years prior and I’m finally using them to create a small business where I can express my creativity. I’m loving it!
Who and what inspires you?
I don’t think I can say anyone in particular, but I love hearing about anyone that’s put themselves out there with their own business, I know the struggles, probably not as great as some as I only need to look after myself, but it’s hard, it’s a big step to say here I am and I can do this for you, but…
…the rewards are fabulous and that sense of achievement is a great feeling! I’m so thankful for where I am and it all happens for a reason.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to turn their passion into a business?
You never know where your passion may take you so give it a go, this is you and don’t let age be any barrier, I only found what I loved to do at the age of 38 and started my business at 40. I love hearing about new business startups, it thrills me, really! I was driven by what I found but was also very mindful of creating a business that was viable, this was really important. Start small and build yourself up, keep your overheads in control and build your business from there. The internet is a great platform to get your business out there, along with social media, interact with these regularly.
What’s your favourite lampshade you’ve made to date?
Ok, this has got me looking back over my photos… there have been a few, I think it has to be one that another lampshade maker brought in to me. She had been making lampshades for 30 years, retired but had kept doing a few jobs for some clients. She couldn’t do it anymore and had heard of me, she rang and told me her name. ‘Yes I know of you’ I said, ‘lots of my clients talk fondly about you and your lampshade making’.
She asked me to make her a lampshade for her client and I said I’ll be happy to help. She came around, inspected my work, looking over all my lampshades and we talked for almost 2 hours but by the end I was very pleased to see that we used similar methods, even though I’d been self-taught. Love everything about that shade, it turned out beautifully, my first time doing this shape.
Keeping those old traditional lampshades going is also a favourite of mine, restoring lampshade frames where I can (with the help of my hubby, he’s helped me a great deal with many things, welding jobs and pattern calculations, I couldn’t have done it without him).
I have lots of clients that love this aspect, and I’m a great believer that if it can be fixed, then let’s keep it. They are always challenging and it’s something about working with custom lampshades is that there is always something different coming in which makes the work varied and interesting.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Creating lampshades for a number of well respected and recognised Australian designers is always exciting, I love meeting with them and discussing the projects, specifying all aspects of the design though to delivering the final product. By being in total control of the creations, the end result is very satisfying.
Making custom lampshades for public spaces, restaurants etc. is always great, being able to see your creations out where everyone else can is very rewarding. My favourite would have to be at Stella Restaurant by the beach in Adelaide, big 1 metre tapered lampshades with bold lemon design, they look spectacular and so beautiful by the sea!
What would you like to see happening in your world of creativity in two years’ time?
Mmm, interesting question, I have always had other aspects of my business that I’d like to explore, but custom lampshades keeps me busy and business rolling. I would like to create quite elaborate lampshades and sell them complete with lamp bases, but time will tell.
Do you have any top tips for other creatives?
Don’t hold back on your ideas. I procrastinated for a while because I wanted everything well prepared before I started my business, the reality would have been that I probably wouldn’t have got there, other things would have gotten in the way. I had clients to look after, work coming in and I had to get moving on everything, products, suppliers, procedures, methods, it was a busy time. I love this quote and it is so very true, to be able to learn confidence in our own judgement:
To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong Joseph Chilton Pearce
Love your creative life, it will reward you!
Thank you Dannells for this opportunity to talk about my business, I appreciate your support and as I’ve said before, your products are the foundation to me creating beautiful, quality lampshades. Cheers!
Laura – Manager/Designer, Amore Lampshades