Archive for the ‘Birdcages’ Category


Inner resources

July 25, 2016

It seems like a shockingly long time since I posted here. I was busy with other things for awhile there, but really I just haven’t felt like I had anything much to say. I’ve been a bit bored, or as John Berryman’s (or Henry’s) mother would have it, lacking in “Inner Resources.”*

Still, I’ve kept up the lamp making, in between and around. But all the new ones are variations to one degree or another on old projects. Which doesn’t mean they haven’t been enjoyable – just not thrilling the way coming up with something really new is.

And that’s a dilemma. As one gets better at a thing, I think, it gets harder to find a challenge; the risks get less risky. So the glow that goes with finishing a piece gets dimmer and shorter lived.

I suppose that’s why people carp about “process” being the important thing. But to me that always sounds like glorifying drudgery. Competence is one thing. Routine is another: inevitable, but deadly. Essentially entropy.

I don’t know where I’m going here. I’d like to think there’s something on the far side of this void, or fog, or wall, but I can’t make anything out from the spot where I’m standing.

So on that cheery note, here’s what I’ve made over the past couple of months.

Not Just a Cigar Box accent lamp with LED bulb

Not Just a Cigar Box accent lamp with LED bulb

*Dream Song 14, one of my all-time favorite poems.


Disappearing act

August 3, 2015

Across the street from my dentist’s office is a thrift shop. It closes at 3:00, when I have my biannual cleaning, so I go a bit early to run through the shop. Once in awhile I even find something.

Case in point: last fall they had a really nice dual-socket vintage floor lamp – crusty-dusty and not working, but all the parts were original. And it was marked down to half its already silly price. So I grabbed it.

Then it stood in my living room for eight months or so while I thought about what to do with it.

OK, not entirely true. Actually, fairly shortly after buying the lamp, I found a cute (not cheap) birdcage (on eBay) that I thought I’d make into a hanging light. But soon after it arrived I realized it was right size to be a shade for the lamp.

Then I thought for several months about how to join them and how much I wanted to modify the pieces. The cage was rectangular (at the bottom), so I was pretty sure I wanted to line it, like earlier lamps I’d made. But I was stumped on the design.

I considered some kind of collage like I’ve done before, or something with sheet music. The last idea I considered was a wavering line of tiny pelicans that would be invisible when the light was off. Then at some point I thought feathers.

I’d figured out how to attach the birdcage, what to replace its too-far-gone finial with, and how to get the height right. So it was downhill from there.

Well, sort of.

Cutting out the feathers was fun, in a tedious, trial-and-error way. Measuring, cutting, dyeing, and laminating the various layers took a half-hour or so a day over the better part of a week. And then I had to figure out how to join the panels and how to attach the lining to the cage – which didn’t so much come to me in a dream as it was just there when I woke up one morning. And in between I finally got to buy the big reeded beads I’d been hankering for awhile back but had forgotten about.

Fast-forward a couple of weeks, and…

The Thing with Feathers

The Thing with Feathers

So she’s a petite thing, but bottom-heavy, a good height for a reading lamp, with a great reveal. With the right light bulbs she’ll even throw a spidery shadow on the ceiling that’s a sort of inverse of the feathers. Let me know if you want more information.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all…

-Emily Dickinson



November 2, 2014

OrigCageCropI’ve made several lamps out of birdcages recently, and people seem to like them, so I’m always on the lookout. A year ago, give or take, I ran across this cage on Etsy that – though I resisted for awhile – I ultimately had to have.

Then it sat around for several months.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. It was more that I couldn’t quite visualize the details. Somehow the thing just wouldn’t come together. And there were problems to be solved, like how to attach the cage to the base in such a way that it could easily be removed and replaced.

I tinkered. Made some decisions, and then unmade them. Walked away and ignored it for another month or two.

Finally though, I solved the attachment problem, and that made the other decisions easier. I painted the pieces that needed it, put the lamp together, and … realized the damned thing was too tall, and a bit off kilter (hazards of reuse).

Back to my favorite parts supplier (TX Lamp Parts) for a new, straight pipe, and a week later, voilà.

This one will probably be going to my new brick-and-mortar venue, SwapShop, here in Oakland, but you can read more about it in my Etsy shop. It can also be purchased from there if you’re willing to pay the freight or pick it up.


In good company

November 8, 2013

Well, the show at Rebooty is up and glowing. It will be there for a several days, maybe longer. Be sure to stop in if you’re in the neighborhood. There’s a ton of upcycled fun inside!


Casa mobile

October 22, 2013

When I was a kid, one year some relative or family friend gave me a subscription to Highlights magazine. It wasn’t very interesting usually, though the puzzles were OK (I was probably too old for it already), but one issue had a version of the Baba Yaga fairy tale, about a witch who lived in a hut with chicken legs that could move the house around the forest at will. I was fascinated by the notion, as I recall, and disappointed when the subscription ran out before the next installment of the story.

So it completes the tale somehow to make a lamp that echoes the memory – and just in time for Halloween. I give you a hybrid of tripod and birdcage I call Baba Yaga’s Hut.

Visit my Etsy shop for details.


Stand by me

September 3, 2013

MedOffI kind of knew when I originally made Tiger, Tiger that it needed something more – a bracket so it could hang from the wall, or a stand to dangle from. Eventually, after Schrödinger’s Parakeet sold, I decided that a floor lamp was the way to go. But it was a struggle to get there.

Some projects just fight you. Each step forward seems to generate another step. One thing doesn’t work, and the solution makes something else look wrong, and when you replace that you have to replace something else, and …

And then you start to doubt yourself, overthink, obsess. Inanimate objects begin to sense your vulnerability and become balky: paint nozzles clog, parts get stuck together, patinas assume weird, unnatural colors. You go around for days feeling itchy and frustrated. The trips to the hardware store pile up. It seems endless.

Eventually, though, one thing comes right, and then the other pieces start to fall into place. You relax a bit, realize you can swap nozzles between spray cans, accept that not everything needs to match. You start to see the ornery, individual parts as completing a whole. You are – almost – there.

This one is going straight to Rebooty, but you can contact me to find out more about it.


Mechanical passions

June 4, 2012

“The mind is made out of used parts, engineered by a blind watchmaker.”
-Jonah Lehrer, How We Decide

I was reading Lehrer’s book (in which he quotes Rene Descartes on emotions, which is where the title of this post comes from) while I was working on the lamp below. So in some sort of loose, off-kilter way, it all seems connected. Plus, I just love that quote. It perfectly describes the way I feel most days these days.

Schrödinger’s Parakeet

I suppose I could spin a line of BS that this thing is a model of the human mind, or make some joke about cartoon ideas (bubble, light bulb). Or I could repeat my usual story about patience: having one piece (thanks Dad!) and waiting around for its perfect mate to appear, but you’ve heard it already.

Mostly I just like how the lamp looks like some goofy Hammer horror movie/mad scientist apparatus. Oh, and then there’s the name I’ve given it – which is of course nonsense, but not much more so than its namesake.