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Meet the Maker - Lily Greenwood

Drawing inspiration from the natural beauty surrounding her studio in Cumbria, artist Lily Greenwood masterfully blends intricate hand-painted details, abstract backgrounds, and collage to create stunning artworks, which then become exquisite handmade lampshades.

In this month's 'Meet the Maker' feature, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lily about her journey in running a thriving creative business, the influences behind her unique artistic style, and her passion for creating pieces that bring joy and delight to her customers!

Hi there!

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

Hi! I’m very well thanks! I’m having a rare weekend away from the kids soon, so I’m just making some orders before I go. Today I’m making a large lampshade to go to Hamburg, Germany, which is an Etsy order – a lampshade order from my website to go to Durham, a print order to go to Cheshire, and making some new stock to go to ‘Shop For the Senses’ – an artisan shop I’m part of based at the Rheged centre, Cumbria. I’m also framing and photographing a new original artwork, so I have plenty to keep me busy today.


Where do you get your inspiration for your artworks?

My inspiration seems to mostly come from what is right on the doorstep. I have a little work cabin on a farm, where we used to rent a cottage. I’ve realised so much of my subject matter is right here with me. There is a koi pond on the farm, Swallows swooping outside the windows, mushrooms and fungi in the fields and by the river, the changing colours of the trees, hares scarpering past from time to time – I’ve even painted the sheep, after having them for near neighbours for so many years. My artworks aren’t a gritty reality, I tend to just take elements of beauty from my surroundings as a starting point and use them as a vehicle to play with shapes and colours on the canvas.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and what techniques you use to create your art?

I use paper collage material to create my artworks, however rather than found material, I use copies of my own painting, drawing and printmaking studies as the basis of my collage. I have a ‘library’ of studies that I add to periodically, which I don’t consider as finished pieces, but more as material to go towards creating a work on canvas.


The studies are usually quite detailed and painstaking, however the next stage where I paint the canvas backdrop to my collage is more intuitive, experimental, abstracted and free. I have a rough idea of where I might want to go with the canvas, but don’t hold myself to it too strictly, and allow space for happy accidents and play.


Once I’m settled with the background, I print and cut my collage material, and play with the layout and composition. I then use glue to fix the collage in place. Once it’s dry, I then use washes of inks over the whole thing, which colourises the paper in different ways, and adjusts the background colours once more – more playing!


Sometimes drawn details are added next, and then I apply two or three coats of varnish to finish. This ties the whole thing together, protects the collage, brings out more depth of colour, and gives an opulent sheen.  

How would you describe your style?

I don’t have a name for how I work, as I’ve never come across anyone who works quite the same way. There is certainly an influence from Japanese artworks, particularly kimono design – I use the same sort of luxurious colours and patterns. Ultimately, I’m trying to create something beautiful, and when I’m on the right track, something goes ‘ping’ in my brain. I guess I’m searching for the ‘ping’! Perhaps the people who enjoy and purchase my artwork get the ‘ping’ too.

When and why did you start making lampshades?

I first started making lampshades about 7 years ago. There were a few reasons – the first being that I was intrigued to see how some of my artworks looked with light shining through them – I thought it could potentially work well with the colours. The second reason was that as a small business and quite recently relocated to a very rural location, it made sense for me to diversify and have a different income stream which complimented my income from original artworks. Thirdly, I just love making things, and I thought it would be a fun thing to try out.


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

I know some people dislike the ‘tucking in’ part of the process, but it’s my favourite part. My trusty butter knife works a treat, so I don’t find it fiddly, and there’s a satisfaction to the way it ‘snaps’ under the lamp ring and gives that lovely clean edge. I use a fabric which doesn’t fray or stretch, which helps the process along.


How do you decide which of your artworks to use for lampshades or do you paint specifically with lampshades in mind?

Usually, I paint without lampshades specifically in mind, and then periodically I’ll have a painting which feels like it could work as lampshade fabric, and I’ll then go ahead with a prototype, which may then result in a new design being added to my range. There is only one exception to that, which is my Mushrooms and Fungi lampshade design. I had a very clear vision in my mind about that lampshade, and so I worked the process backwards, and created an original canvas which would lend itself to what I had in mind. 

In your online shop what’s your most popular selling shade?

I would say my most popular design is ‘Swallows’. The simplicity of the line going around the circumference works so well with the shape of the drum lampshade. It’s a very calming design, and I’ve had lots of lovely messages from customers telling me it evokes special memories of their own experiences of Swallows. I also love the connection it has with travel and adventure, the Swallows gathering to embark on a great journey.


We noticed that you showcase your work at various art shows. How important are shows for your business?

Art shows can be a precarious way to sell artwork – some are extremely expensive, and even established artists will tell you that it can be a fine line between a show being a roaring success or a complete washout. That said, I do Manchester Art Fair every year, and have done since it’s inception, and it’s become an important part of my year. I lived in Manchester for 14 years (where I was a resident at Manchester Craft & Design Centre) before moving up to Cumbria in 2016, and I’m lucky enough to have a loyal customer base in Manchester who still remember me. I’ve noticed a real buzz in Manchester in the past few years, and I love going every year.

Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?

This is a tough question! I guess my main one would be not to undervalue yourself. If you don’t value your own work and time, why should anybody else? The way you price your work needs to be sustainable, otherwise you won’t manage to stay in business. If your lampshades are of a high quality, people will pay accordingly, and will appreciate having something which is made to last rather than mass produced. 


How do you fit running a creative business around your family?

My kids are aged 5 and 8 so it helps that they are both in school full time now – their school time is my work time. It also helps that my work cabin is around 20 minutes away from home – far enough that I’m not popping home to do the laundry. Once I’m at my cabin, all I can do is work, so I do. The separation works both ways – apart from a little bit of admin from time to time at home, evenings and weekends tend to be about the kids rather than being tempted to work, as it’s just not there for me to have the choice.


When are you at your most productive?

As my work time is limited to during school hours, I need to make it all count, so I tend to be busy for that entire time. That said, I do sometimes get a bit of an afternoon slump…so at those times I try to get out for a quick walk, to get some air.


And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?

In the whirlwind of getting everyone ready for school and work on time in the morning, I rarely have time to be creative with my packed lunch and end up with a bog-standard cheese sandwich most days. So, my favourite sustenance is anything but a cheese sandwich!


Could you let us take a peek at your workspace?

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

I love my job and where I work, so maybe not too far from where I am now! I have no grand plans to become a multi-national brand or pursue world domination – I think that would bring lots of stresses that I don’t have now and isn’t so healthy for the planet. My products would lose part of what makes them special. Small but sustainable businesses are where it’s at, so if in 10 years’ time I’m still creating, and making enough to support my family in the process, I’ll be very happy with that.

What have you learned that’s been invaluable to your creative process?

I think I’ve learned that being patient is key, and letting things take the time they need to grow. Day to day it can sometimes feel like slow progress, but if you look back over several years, you can see how far you’ve come.

Any new products or plans for your business that you’d like to share?

At the moment, I’m feeling inspired by my kids and their fascination with animals. They are going through a drawing phase where they fill sheets of paper with all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures from around the world. It’s a bit of a stereotype that kids love lions and tigers and bears and suchlike, but there is so much joy in exploring these creatures, that I think we sadly forget all too easily when we grow up. Watching my kids fill pages with drawings of animals has made me want to fill a canvas with a joyful celebration of animals too, in homage. I’m only in the very early stages, and excited to see where it might lead.

Shop Lily's beautiful and unique lampshades and paintings on her website and keep update with Lily's artistic journey by giving her a friendly follow on her socials, linked below. 

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