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Meet the Maker - Poppet Retro

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Catering for every taste, our fabulous lampshade makers use their passions and skills to make our lampshade making products sing - and Poppet Retro is no different. Ali, Poppet Retro's founder, takes her passion for all things vintage and her love of sourcing original vintage fabrics and trims to create stylish, one of kind midcentury lampshades. Her enthusiasm has even lead her to create her own beautiful hand turned wooden lamps. Let's find out what floats Poppet Retro's creative boat...

Hi there,

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

I am good! Quite busy at the moment which is nice. On my workbench today will be some orders I got in over the weekend, lampshades, cushion covers and a dog collar. Two orders are from customers who are abroad, which is quite exciting - The Netherlands and Australia!

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

My inspiration definitely comes from midcentury fabric and midcentury lighting. I love looking at original lampshades and all the gorgeous fabric and trims from that era. Although a lot of my shades are quite modern looking my favourites are ones which look like they could be real vintage, in the true style of those times. I tend not to go for in your face 'flower power' designs but woven patterns. They have really interesting colours and geometric designs.

How would you describe your style?

I really love pretty much everything retro and midcentury! I almost never buy anything new, preferring the quality and style of items made from the 50s to the 80s. Whether it's crockery or furniture – even my car is a classic. I know I'm not quite old enough to remember when it was around the first time but I so appreciate how well most things were made then and of course I love how colourful it all is!

You obviously have a passion for retro and a keen eye for design. Where do you source your fabrics and how do you decide which fabric goes with which shade?

I get my fabric from various places, second hand shops mainly, vintage sellers online and I have been lucky enough to get a number of bolts of fabric from a vintage fabric supplier in Denmark. Sourcing vintage fabric can be tricky, especially since a lot of it will not be in quite as good a condition as you would like. This, of course, is made harder if you are buying online. There will often be faded bits where it has been folded for decades and the sun has got to areas. Or it might have stains or pulls, cigarette burns or wax on it, I've seen it all!

Some fabrics are quite sheer and they work really well with the clear backing plastic. Occasionally I have to make a shade a certain size based on which parts of the fabric are useable but mostly I let the fabric take the lead and let the style of fabric decide what sort of shade I will make with it. Usually even before I even get it home I know what sort of lampshade I would like to make with a particular fabric.

When did you start making lampshades?

I started just over 5 years ago when I left my full time job in catering and started Poppet Retro.

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

Definitely making a new style with a new fabric! It's so nice having the freedom to choose the size and style of shade and making something new from something old. Something which might have been discarded can take pride of place in someone's house for years to come!

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

I wouldn't say I had one style which is a lot more popular than the others but I do have some 'best sellers'. Mustard and yellow shades are very popular at the moment.

We couldn’t help notice your love of wooden and wallpaper shade interiors. How tricky are your wooden shades to make?

I originally started doing the wooden lined lampshades because I got some fabulous vintage pine style wallpaper and I just thought it would work so well! Unfortunately I have run out of that now – this is one of the problems with working in vintage, it's very hard to re-stock! I still make them though and have turned to pine and teak style adhesive vinyl and I think they look great! It's not too hard to use, you just need patience.

We also love your Hand turned wooden lamps. How did the ideas and design for these come about?

These lamps were something I had wanted to do for years but couldn't find the right supplier. Then last year I found a local wood turner who agreed to make them for me and I was thrilled!

The idea behind them was really to offer a base which would work really well with some extra tall lampshades I'd wanted to make. I wanted them to be really good quality and made of a wood which works with the style, similar to teak. They turned out exactly as I wanted and I'm so happy with them.

Any tips for new lampshade makers in business?

I definitely don't think I'm an expert but I would say, be patient, you probably aren't going to sell loads at first. Only sell lampshades you are really happy with. Bad feedback when you are starting out can really hurt. And don't scrimp when buying postage boxes! Posting lampshades is a pain and expect the worst from the couriers!

Is running Poppet Retro your main job?

Yes, although I work part time in a local vintage shop as well.

When are you at your most productive?

I'd say early afternoon. My husband Mark also works from home and as much as we try we aren't early risers! So we'll walk the dog, get some odd jobs and procrastinating done in the morning and really get into it after lunch. We'll often work through until 7pm though.

And your favourite sustenance when you’re working?

I'm not much of a snacker and it's best to keep your hands clean when you're working but we always have a steady supply of tea on the go.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time?

The answer to this changes every day! I don't really have aspirations to open a shop, I love the flexibility of selling online. We are very lucky that we can take time off if we want to.

My work space at the moment is one of our spare rooms and Mark and I share it so it would be lovely if we moved to have a proper work shop. I've recently taken up upholstery so it would be nice to have a bit more space to do more of that.

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

It is much more satisfying to make and sell things you are really proud of. If you think your lampshades are really nice and you want them in your home then hopefully somebody else might want it in theirs.

Sadly I'm already at lampshade capacity in my home so I don't keep any now. Maybe it's time for that move! o

You can browse Ali's gorgoeus retro lampshades, cushions and much more at Poppet Retro or follow her on Instagram @poppetretro.


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