Collector of vintage and antique finds, Louise of Foresters Lampshades turned her hand to making hard lampshades to compliment the antique lamp bases she was discovering. Since then, she's not only grown her traditional lampshade making skills but built a successful business creating beautiful, one-of-a-kind lampshades for her bricks and mortar and online shop, customer commissions and also for TV and magazines!
We talked to Louise for this month’s Meet the Maker interview, to find out how she developed her fledgling business, the joys and challenges of bespoke lampshade making and how her 'modern vintage' style and love of fabrics, continues to influence her creativity.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
Hello, welcome to my studio where it’s becoming full of colour and pattern, as a regular client from a local soft furnishing shop called in with an array of fabric offcuts in fabulous prints. She has given me creative free reign on a batch of lampshades to re-stock her shop. I’ve made various drum shapes, a pleated tiffany pendant is in progress and am cutting out for some tailored styles.
I also have a stack of ‘naked’ frames queued up for customer commissions eagerly awaiting fabric deliveries.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your inspiration for your lampshades?
I’m often working to customer specifications, though I try and create several new and original lampshades each month to showcase in my on-line shops and social media. What I make either starts with the frame shape else a fabric that has caught my eye. I recently came across an unusual cloud shaped frame which I covered in an abstract 1930’s ‘Cloud’ linen fabric. A serendipitous pairing!
How would you describe your style?
It’s hard to categorise as I have quite eclectic and varying tastes but I think ‘modern-vintage’ would be close.
We can see you have an eye for vintage and traditional lampshades. What draws you to these particular styles?
I’m a lifelong ‘vintage’ collector which developed into a business 20 years ago, selling my surplus and sourcing for clients. Whilst this has scaled back a bit over the years, I still love hunting for beautiful ‘treasure’ including antique books, chairs, china, paintings and fabrics though lamps and lampshades are often my favourite finds. I live in a period home which has some gloomy North facing rooms, but an abundance of table, wall and standard lamps make them feel so cosy.
When and why did you start making lampshades?
I was always on the hunt for suitable lampshades for various vintage and antique lampbases and actually started with a Dannells drum kit and was delighted with my creation and from there I was keen to delve into more traditional styles, especially as I had a huge stash of gorgeous fabrics I’d collected over the years. However, with young children, running a vintage, gift and craft business (which later included a tearoom), a house renovation, a large vegetable garden and menagerie of animals it took some years to actually find the time to properly learn the craft of lampshade making.
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
I think it’s when I’ve completed a commission for a recover and compare the ‘before and after’ and, for a local project, it’s absolutely seeing the owners reaction!
What Dannells products help to support your lampshade making business?
Ooh lots but I really like the matt-metallic liners for solid-sided lampshades as they give a ‘high-end’ look to the finished lampshade and I’m starting to use the double-sided Stick-it more frequently for the bespoke options it offers.
I usually cut my own linings, but the candle-clip manufactures pack is such a time-saver.
Interiors trends are always changing. What do you find is your most popular selling shade?
I literally always have a large traditional William Morris under construction. Such a timeless style that will work in any interior setting. I have supplied these to modern loft/barn style conversions, new builds and period homes in equal measure. Recently I’ve introduced a quirky patchwork version as customers often struggle to pick out their favourite fabric.
We understand some of your beautiful lampshades have been featured on TV and in print. Can you tell us more about the lampshades that were featured?
I have some very exciting projects over the years including making an array of large velvet lampshades for the launch of the Sanderson ‘Archive’ range which appeared online and in all the glossies including Vogue Magazine. This came from my work being spotted on Instagram.
One of my William Morris lampshades was featured in last year’s Etsy Christmas campaign with Banjo Beale and I also made three ‘swishy’ maximalist lampshades for a fabulous, Arts and Crafts inspired bedroom renovation for the last series of George Clarkes ‘Old House New Home’. All such proud moments.
What’s the mix of shades you make to sell online versus lampshade commissions, as part of your business?
I would estimate about 40% are online direct sales, about 25% from online commissions through my website, Instagram or Etsy and the remainder (about one third) are local clients (shops, Interior Designers and private clients).
And what’s the trickiest commission you’ve been asked to make?
I have a regular commission for a very small pleated silk lampshade for an American Lighting company. Very fiddly work as the top ring is tiny! I’ve made dozens but I still find them challenging.
Any tips for new lampshade makers in business? Even though I’d run my own company for 15 years and before that I’d had a career as a Project Manager, when I began focussing on lampshades I felt a little out of depth in some facets of the business. I received a series of free mentorship sessions through a regional business support organisation which was such a positive contribution to have that ‘second opinion’ and suggestions to improve. If you do have similar opportunities locally then make time to grab them!
Through the same grant funded organisation I attended workshops in social media, writing press releases and iPhone photography. I saw the effects of the latter within days … never under-estimate how important good product photos are!
Can you describe your typical day as a lampshade maker?
I’m a very early riser and usually in the studio around 6am as I am always at my best in those early hours. I then break off around 9.30am for a gym class or run, then back to the studio until dog-walk/ school run time. As my studio is based in my home I will often return to work in the evenings, especially now as I get super busy when the nights draw in and people’s thoughts turn to lighting!
What’s your favourite sustenance when you’re working? Tea & home-made cake. I’m especially partial to a clotted cream scone. I ran a tearoom for 8 years which closed three years ago to release more time for lampshade making, but baking is an ingrained habit.
And what do you listen to?
Nothing … ever! I run, drive and cook with my playlist blasting but prefer peace when I work. Though it’s never truly quiet here as I have chickens, a cockerel, dogs and a very vocal cat.
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
Where would you like to be in 10 years time? I really feel I’ve found my ideal niche and work-life balance so another 10 years of the same will be just fine.
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
I’ve come to realise that self-care is a priority. You are your businesses’ most valuable asset and should treat yourself as such. Even when busy always make time for a walk, run or other exercise (even if it’s a shorter than usual session), batch cook so you always have a nourishing meal to hand in busy times and take time to log daily positives so you can readily reflect on your achievements.
Browse the Foresters Lampshades website, to see the exquisite range of soft and hard lampshades handmade by Louise. Give Louise a friendly follow on her socials linked below.
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