In this month’s Meet the Maker we chat with Jenny Fraser, an expert in making traditional hand-sewn lampshades, who now shares her skills and knowledge with a global audience, teaching students to make lampshades both online and face-to-face from her studio in Hampshire.
After inheriting a lampshade that needed plenty of tlc, Jenny developed a passion for traditional lampshade making and her thriving business followed, Jennifer Fraser Lampshades, offering beautiful bespoke lampshade commissions, available in an extensive range of styles and shapes, made using a variety of techniques.
Read our Meet the Maker post below, to get to know Jenny and her lampshade making journey.
How are you today and what’s on your workbench or to do list?
Today I’m sitting near my cosy wood burner looking out on a chilly Hampshire. I’m between appointments for virtual lampshade tutorials - one in Britain, the other in America - so I have the rare pleasure of working on a pair of gathered lampshades for myself!
How do you start the design process when making a lampshade and where do you get your design inspiration?
I begin the design process by listening carefully to the client to understand what it is they want to achieve. Does the client want something formal, casual, vibrant or sedate? These pointers guide me to discuss with the client which lampshade frames, fabrics and styles will help them to best achieve their goals within their budget. More recently, I have focused my work almost entirely on lampshade instruction - both in-person and virtually - so I find myself advising budding lampshade makers on these very issues.
How would you describe your style?
In my own home, I prefer colourful, modern interpretations of classic British style. That said, I do not impose my personal taste on my clients, but instead, take my cues from them. During my career, I have hand-stitched lots of lampshades in many different styles, from the most classic pleated and ruffled examples in cream silk to unusual shapes.
When and why did you start making lampshades?
Years ago, I inherited a beautiful, but tired lampshade from my late mother-in-law. Wanting to give it new life, I decided to take a lampshade course in Winchester and that left me inspired. After one lesson, I was hooked and went on to take many more courses. After a good deal of practice making lampshades for those close to me, my friends and family encouraged me to launch my own business, which I did. Several years and many, many lampshades later, I started to teach lampshade making in person to individuals and small groups, both in my workroom in Hampshire and around the country. Then, due to overwhelming demand, I launched my virtual courses that offer the same personal attention and time given to my in-studio students, for those who cannot make it to Hampshire.
What’s your favourite type of lampshade to make?
While it is difficult to choose because I enjoy all types of lampshade making, my personal favourite is the knife pleat. It is a classic style that requires practice, skill, precision and patience to get right.
And your favourite part of the lampshade making process?
Lately, my favourite part is watching my students grow into skilled lampshade makers. In every course, whether it is in-person or virtual, there is that wonderful moment when my students realise that they have mastered the basic professional skills required to make a proper lampshade. It is a rewarding moment when my students step back and realise that this precious skill can translate into beautiful lampshades for their home or even a business. Some of my students have gone on to become professional lampshade makers in their own right!
Can you tell us about the kind of lampshade commissions you take?
Due to increasing demand and the desire to constantly innovate, my work today focuses almost entirely on traditional hand-stitched lampshade instruction. That said, I have undertaken commissions for many types of traditional lampshades, including stretched, gathered and pleated in many different shapes and fabrics.
You’re a pivotal member of the Dannells Lampshade Makers Facebook Forum. What do you feel are the benefits of the group?
Lampshade making can be a solitary activity, as one typically works alone. I have learned that for many, it can also be an endeavour that people want to master but in which many struggle to find professional instruction. The Dannells Lampshade Makers Facebook Forum provides a valuable, international resource that connects people who might never meet in person to provide, encouragement, support and advice to those wanting to enter the field and those who are in it but want to meet or get help from others at various stages in their lampshade making careers.
Although you’re an accomplished lampshade maker, more recently you’ve focussed on teaching specialist lampshade workshops. How did teaching workshops come about?
About eight years ago, I noticed a lack of people teaching lampshade making. I was approached by a couple of soft furnishers requesting that I host lampshade workshops in their studios. Though I was outside of my comfort zone, I agreed, and the rest is history. I started my online courses when a student from America wrote about wanting to study with me. Once the pandemic happened and international travel became difficult, I agreed to try teaching him virtually. I’m ever so glad that I did, because not only did those initial lessons succeed, I have learned with each student new ways to successfully teach this traditional craft even when teacher and student may be separated by continents!
What kind of lampshade making workshops do you offer?
I offer different types of workshops so that I can tailor them to the needs of my clients while providing a consistent quality of individual attention. In terms of my virtual workshops, I use FaceTime and Zoom so that I can offer one-to-one live video lessons with clients around the world. I believe that only through dedicated, personal, real-time attention can one truly master the various techniques required to achieve professional results in lampshade making. I have been astounded by just how much can be achieved by people working virtually, even when separated by thousands of miles and many time zones.
For those who are able or prefer to come to my workroom in Hampshire, I offer individual and small group lessons on many types of traditional lampshade techniques. First-time students might try stretched or gathered lampshade making. For more advanced students, I offer pleating and other advanced techniques. From time to time, I work with businesses throughout the United Kingdom on group lampshade workshops for crafters and professionals seeking to expand their skills. These sessions are kept deliberately manageable in size so that every person can receive individual attention.
What do enjoy most about sharing your skills with others?
I particularly enjoy watching my students’ faces light up as they realise that they have mastered a new craft that can be put to immediate use in their own homes and possibly even become a profitable business venture.
How do you manage the different elements of running your own creative business?
Like all small business owners, I have to manage the various elements of running a business myself. While I would, of course, prefer to focus purely on the creative fun of lampshade making, the reality is that all businesses require a good deal of administrative work. Fortunately, I have a wonderfully supportive family and friends that help, and I do take time to get out of the studio and into nature where I can disconnect and recharge my batteries!
When are you at your most productive?
I love mornings when I have returned from taking my little dogs, Maisie and Coco, for a walk, and can delve into the day’s teaching and lampshade making uninterrupted.
And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?
Sometimes I am lucky when my husband, Hugh, arrives at the studio with a lovely cup of tea and a warm, freshly-baked scone - my favourite!
Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?
It’s not always as organised as this image would suggest! But seldom are creative spaces so pulled together.
Where would you like to be in 10 years?
I’d like to continue innovating in lampshade instruction, inspiring lots of people to master the craft of lampshade making.
What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?
There are many, many ways to make a lampshade, so listen to those who have mastered the skills but never accept them as the only way to approach a project. New technologies, techniques and approaches from other fields can yield wonderfully successful lampshades!
Browse Jennifer's website for more information about her online and face-to-face lessons, workshops and lampshade commissions. Give Jennifer a friendly follow on her socials linked below.
#meetthemaker #jenniferfraserlampshades #jenniferfraser #traditionallampshades #softlampshades #lampshadelessons #onlinelampshadelessons #facetofacelampshadelessons #groupworkshops #creativebusiness #professionalshademaker #lampshademakers #lampshademaking #sellinglampshades #smallbusiness #smallbusinessuk #lampshadeinspiration #bespokeshades #uniqueshades #lampshades #lampshademaker #bespokedesign #oneofakindshade #handmadeshades