Jane Warren has been making lampshades for around 8 years and runs her small business, The Lampshade Loft, from home. Jane is very active on the lampshade scene and her beautiful lighting creations are an obvious winner for our #lampshadebusinessinabox competition! Jane has won a Needcraft lampshade manufacturers pack’ to help her on her business journey. Read on to find out how running her own craft business works for Jane.
The name relates to the fact that I sell lovely genuine vintage original lampshades (that your grannie would have in her loft!) as well as – a nod to the modern loft living of today’s interiors – contemporary drum shades and hand sewn lampshades using current fabrics.
I went to College in Kingston to learn all about soft furnishings, as we needed roman blinds and curtains for a new house extension! – but I loved it so much that I stayed for two years studying for a City & Guilds at advanced level. I loved the lampshade making tutorials the most. We were taught the traditional skills of hand sewing fabric onto a strutted frame and making all our own trims and embellishments.
Before this, I worked in marketing at a high level, I was marketing director of a leading UK book publisher and worked in other sectors too such as charity, finance and IT. I wanted a change of career both to fit in with my family life and to stop sitting in front of a PC all day! I haven’t missed a single day of that!
I learnt how to make the modern drum lampshades to add to my stable and soon found I had a lot of work being offered to me. Although it was great working at home and around my family, I did feel quite isolated and therefore set about teaching lampshade making to others and started in a local craft studio. I now teach both modern and traditional styles of lampshade making and do so from either my own home or at venues in London and the SE. I really enjoy the atmosphere – everyone comes along wanting to enjoy themselves and are full of enthusiasm – I have made some lovely friends too!
I set up my website shop last year – www.thelampshadeloft.co.uk – and it has been surprisingly successful – the key is finding someone who understands you to build it for you, and the design should reflect your own standard. Ingrid Walker who built it for me runs her own online fabric store too (www.belovedfabrics.co.uk) – and I met her when she attended one of my lampshade making workshops! I have orders to pack every week from the site, and I get approached all the time through it for teaching or orders.
Regarding set up costs – I really only invested in the website. – I wanted to have an efficient e-commerce offering so people could shop for my lampshades with confidence. The platform I use is not expensive and it has more than been paid for. I am currently putting together regular mailings to customers – you can sign up on the website – this lets them know when new stock is in or what I am writing about on my blog. I think I am very lucky having the marketing background that I do – I am not afraid to ask or approach people for opportunities. Along the way, I have collaborated with designers, helped textiles students, and had regular selling spots in shops. I haven’t paid for any advertising – word of mouth plus social networking seem to work for my small business.
The biggest challenge that I have faced personally is working so much alone. Although I don’t miss being part of a big corporate organisation, and really enjoy managing my own time, its important to organize things during the week to get out and about, and link with other makers to share tips and ideas – as everyone is in the same boat, people do want to meet up!
Another challenge I took on was after 6 months I did an audit on my working life! I realised I was spending too much time on admin, and not enough making – I was too busy organising delivering, teaching, taking the orders, ordering frames, sample fabrics and trims that I didn’t seem to have any time left to make items! And also I realised that I was heading towards a 6 day week at one stage.
So I set up a spreadsheet and recorded everything both in time and cost and as a result have streamlined to simply selling on-line and teaching. This has transformed my time and means I earn efficiently!
I don’t really have a favourite item to make – I enjoy making different things at different times – sometimes it is drum shades using cute wrapping paper or at others is a hand sewn classic bowed empire scallop shade using rich fabrics and lovely hand-made trims. I think that is what holds interest – that every shade is different, and I certainly wouldn’t want to make 50 of the same one! I have recently been on a 6-week textiles screen printing course and am now experimenting with my own designs onto fabric for both cushions and shades. I also collaborate with the brilliant textile designer Zeena Shah where she teaches a group of students screen printing in the morning, and in the afternoon I teach how to make their lovely work into a lampshade –
it ‘s the way to go – truly bespoke interiors.
I use all kinds of fabrics to make my shades with – from poplins to velvets, tweeds to woven vintage cloth – it’s the pattern and weave that I look for. I am not a fan of making plain white shades – and anyway these are plentiful in the high street shops – so the brighter the better for me!
Needcraft products are unrivalled in the lampshade making world – they are a lovely friendly family company who get all the components made in the UK and offer a really personal service. I use their products a lot, and if I have ever had a problem or query about making, they are always so happy to help.
My three top tips for budding lampshade entrepreneurs:
Get a great website and sell online – your audience will be national (and international) instead of local – and if you use other websites you will just give them more of your profits
Share your tips and be generous – and ask for your business to be mentioned. There is more than enough work to go around, work with others, you will make new friends – they will be the only ones who really understand what you do!
Try and make things that are different – there are so many Cath Kidstone shades out there, so instead of competing, do different!
Three warnings for budding entrepreneurs:
Be confident about your making skills – if you don’t work in a team you wont get a pat on the back so give yourself one!
It’s hard working from home at times, and to cut off from domestic duties! Only answer your home phone before you start work and after you finish
If you are making shades for individual customers, remember to factor in time for emails, getting samples etc – charge for this as well as for making the shade otherwise you may find you will be earning less than the minimum wage!
Find The Lampshade Loft:
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