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Meet the Maker - Katherine O'Shea

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

At a time when a lot of us would love to see a some different scenery, we're excited to be chatting with Katherine O'Shea, who's picturesque rural illustrations bring a breath of fresh air to the art of lampshade making. With a passion for the great outdoors and the intricacies of history and architecture, Katherine's eye for tiny details transform her lampshades into tonal beauties, each with it's own individual character. Mainly working with customers to bring their ideas to life, she tells us all about her lampshade making journey...

Hi there!

How are you today and what’s on your workbench?

I'm hunkered down in my studio. My desk is actually covered in seedlings at the moment, as well as oil paints. My guitar is in there too. Lampshade making is just one of my many creative outlets as an artist.

How do you start the design process and where do you get your inspiration?

If I am doing a personal commission I always keep the customer in mind and take inspiration from what they are after. I draw all my own fabrics designs for my lampshades. Sometimes a particular style really entrances me, for instance I made a series of designs inspired by Victorian greenhouses which I love.

How would you describe your style?

All about the detail! Because I love drawing so much I always have this as my start point. I like to think it gives my designs a unique voice.

You’re clearly a very talented artist. When did you start your journey into art and where does your love of the countryside come from?

Thank you! I've always been making art in some form or another I don't think that's ever going away. I started off in children's book illustration which is where my love of drawing really came into its own. I grew up in the countryside and came back to it after a long break living in cities. It's definitely a big source of inspiration for my art and at the heart of my life in general. (Although I can't wait to go for a city break once this awful lockdown is over!)

What’s your favourite creative technique?

That's a great question – I think lampshade-making is a great way for artists to get their work onto products, but I also enjoy printmaking and making hand-stiched notebooks... I even went through a brief origami phase. Making things by hand can be very rewarding and there seems to be a big resurgence at the moment

Your designs include landscapes and more detailed nature. What’s your favourite thing to draw?

I do love landscapes and botanical imagery, but it's equally nice to try something different. Anything with organic lines and lots of detail is great fun for me.

When did you start making lampshades?

I started about 4 years ago when I was looking for ways to put my illustrations onto products. Dannells was the best supplier of parts around and I started using their packs from the start.

What’s your favourite part of the lampshade making process?

As an illustrator, I love the design part – planning and sketching out ideas. But my favourite moment is always the first time I turn on the light and see it in action!

You mainly work by taking bespoke commissions for lampshades. What’s the process for deciding on the design with the client and style or size of shade?

Whenever I take on a personal commission, be that for a lampshade, or a piece of art, I will always begin by listening to what they would like – sometimes it's complete blank slate, and sometimes people have a specific idea or space in mind. I designed one once for use on a particular handmade lampstand which was good fun. It's nice to have a different challenge.

Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?

Let me know if you have any! I'm always learning things as I go along, as with all my creative ventures. Joining the Dannells Lampshade Makers Facebook group is really valuable for swapping practical tips with others and picking up second-hand parts.

Do you have any plans to stock a range of off the shelf lampshades using your designs?

I actually used to do this! But I found that it was too much work to produce and to sell all on my own, and I prefer the process of working on occasional one-off projects instead. Dannell's does offer a great range of reasonably-priced manufacturing packs for anyone who wanted to dive into this.

What are the values that you base your business on?

I set this up with the desire to bring art into an everyday home setting. As I said, I always start with my own illustration work as a foundation, for me this is the most important thing. I love to think of people having a unique product of mine in their home. I think it is nice alternative way of owning something designed by an artist, rather than a picture on the wall.

When are you at your most productive?

At completely random points in the day, and in my lifetime!

And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?

Right now I'm eating jelly babies, but I must stop myself from snacking while I'm making. The slightest bit of grease on your fingers or table can show up as a mark.

Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?

You can just about see it in the background in the main image!

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

I hope that whatever I am doing, I'm using my creativity to spread a bit of joy into the world.

What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process? Never be afraid to try out new ideas, because no matter what happens you will have gained something of value by the end.

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