Talented illustrator and printmaker turned lampshade maker, Tori of Harbour Lane, has captured her customer's hearts with her beautiful drawings that depict her Scottish surroundings, from quaint villages and industrial landmarks to local flora and fauna.
After opening her successful bricks and mortar shop in South Queensferry in 2016, lampshade making quickly became a key part of her business and now, as her online business continues to grow, Tori has built her own garden ‘Lampshed’ allowing her to make lampshades and be a mum to her young daughter. Find out more about Tori’s story and Harbour Lane in our Meet the Maker interview below.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench?
I’m good thank you. I have a mixed bunch on the ‘to make’ list today but that’s pretty normal. I make all my designs to order in a range of sizes so each day means something new.
How do you start the design process and where do you get your design inspiration?
Designing is my favourite bit of the whole process. I’m always inspired by the landscape and the plants and animals that would live there. My designs are like little panoramic snippets of the world I guess and I like the idea of bringing the outside into your interior design.
You clearly have a love of capturing what’s around you. How would you describe your style?
I’m just inspired by what I see. All my designs have a Scottish connection in there. Whether it’s a beautiful Scottish beach, some of our fantastic wildlife or even inspired by Scottish folksongs, it usually always starts with something close to my heart.
Like any other piece of artwork, I want it to capture a feeling or tell a story. I think it’s important that people connect with my designs too though. I know that sounds kinda over the top but they can really be a focal point in someone’s room. So when people ask about their lampshade, I want my customers to be able to say, that’s the beach where I got married, or that’s the street I grew up on. It’s all about memories and telling stories I guess and having that little emotional connection.
How do choose products made by other makers and designers that you stock at Harbour Lane?
I’d love to be able to say there is a sensible science behind it, but honestly, it’s gut feeling. If I love it, then I think my customers will love it too. We only stock work that we fully believe is brilliant and I think that is what comes across when visiting Harbour Lane. We are passionate about every single item we have and want you to love it as much as we do. Why wouldn’t you want to fill your house with things you just absolutely love?
When and why did you start making lampshades?
I opened the shop at the end of 2016, so I must have made my first lampshade in 2017. I’m originally an illustrator and printmaker. Making lampshades had never crossed my mind until a customer came into the shop one day and was buying my prints and asked if it would be possible to have the design on a lampshade. I did a bit of googling, bought my first lampshade making kit and it grew from there.
What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
I have two favourite bits. The very beginning and the very end. I love the designing process as illustrating is what makes me happy and then the final moment of switching a new design on for the first time and seeing it come to life. I never got that wow moment from prints, it’s something special that comes from making lampshades.
In your online shop, what’s your most popular selling shade?
This is a tough one. I definitely have my favourite designs but it changes. Whatever my most recent design is, is my favourite one for that moment until the next design comes along. The online shop seems to go in trends and all of a sudden everyone wants the same design! But if I had to pick one, I’d say my Edinburgh skyline is probably the best seller.
What’s the mix of shades you make to sell online versus lampshade commissions, as part of your business?
I used to take on a lot of commissions but it ended up taking up all my time and I didn’t get to work on the designs I wanted to create so I have really scaled it back. The commissions now are something special. I love hearing people's stories and their memories of why a particular place is special to them. It’s always a mix of nervousness and excitement creating a bespoke piece for someone, especially when it has a sentimental aspect.
We couldn’t help but notice your love of table and floor lamps for your designs. What do these shades offer you and your customer?
Oh, the table and floor lamps are always a firm favourite with my customers. I think the fact that they don’t need to worry about finding a base is a big plus point. They also look great without taking up much room so can fit on a shelf, in a narrow hallway or on a bedside table. People really do love them and they make the perfect gift!
Any tips for new lampshade makers in business? Just give it a go! I think with anything creative, it’s important to find your style and the thing that makes you different from everyone else. It’s the best feeling when someone stops to look at your work and just says ‘WOW’. That’s when you know you’ve nailed it.
How do you fit in your shade making and running with the Harbour Lane physical and online shop? No sleep and lots of coffee? I won’t lie, it’s hard work. It is like running two businesses that both want all your attention all the time but I love both sides and couldn’t give either up. It got even harder when I had my daughter 18 months ago and I had to split my attention 3 ways!
During the pandemic, I was working from home a lot, as the shop had to close and once I got pregnant, I knew I wouldn’t be able to be in the shop as much so that’s when we built the ‘lampshed’. I spend most of my time in there now as it’s fully set up for lampshade making and I have an amazing team who help me with the shop. It’s a constant balancing act but it’s one I’ve definitely got better at.
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
Check out my beautiful Lampshed in all its glory!
When are you at your most productive?
Oh, good question. I’m definitely a morning person. I like to get up and get started on the to-do list and tick off as much as I can. But since becoming a mum my schedule does have to revolve around my daughter so I tend to do most of my designing and drawing in the evening now (after bedtime!) which is pretty new to me.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?
Probably biscuits, but crumbs are definitely not good when lampshade making so I try to keep the snacking until after the shades are made.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time? I am desperate to open a second shop. I’ve been slowly working on extending my homeware collection to involve things to compliment my lampshades such as cushions and furniture. This is something I really want to explore so that in 10 years I can have a full-on homeware brand and can help people style their interiors.
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process? Take risks. I wouldn’t be here, doing what I’m doing if I hadn’t taken a risk and tried it. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, but then you never progress and you never learn anything new. I have to remind myself of this all the time, as I get scared that new ideas won’t work and I never want anything to fail but without giving it a go, you might miss out on something amazing.
Browse Tori's beautiful range of drum, floor and table lampshades depicting Scottish scenes and nature and her handpicked gifts and accessories from other talented makers. Give her a friendly follow on her socials linked below.
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