Archive for the ‘What's New’ Category

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When centuries collide

August 19, 2017

Since lamp sales have slowed to a trickle, and I still have lots of inventory, I’ve had to scale back to just the occasional custom order. So to fill the void, I embarked on a new kind of upcycling project – new for me, that is.

My parents had, in their basement, an interesting old contraption that, when I did some research, turned out to be a very early-20th-century drafting table. Or at least its base, married to a not-lovely piece of green plywood.

Drafting table, before I got my hands on it

I liked the piece very much, but since I seem to have a surfeit of tables already, I wanted to find another purpose for it. After a few months of mulling it over, I came up with the notion of turning it into a stand for my television. And then eventually it occurred to me that, because the drafting table was tilt- (as well as height-) adjustable, rather than just sitting the flat screen in its pedestal on top, I could actually hang it. This in turn made it possible to add a shelf for a DVR below the screen.

All very good in theory.

After a road trip to collect the stand, I started to consider the practical details. I’d initially assumed I would paint the entire piece a uniform black, but first I had to strip off a couple of layers of old paint. When I started to uncover the bare metal, though, I began to fall in love with the accidental details of its age and working: tool and mold marks and signs of wear. So in the end, once I’d scraped and scrubbed away the old finish and slight corrosion, I sprayed on a lot of clear coat and left it at that.

Then I turned to the new pieces. I have a love-hate relationship with wood. I love the look of it but I don’t love working with it. Omitting the gory details, let’s just say I learned how to use a miter box, sort of. And as I was working on the back porch, my neighbors got an earful that day. Thankfully, that part of the stand is meant to be inconspicuous, and paint hides a multitude of sins.

Finally, I added casters to the legs so I could move the TV around as needed (the base alone, without the back or TV weighs upward of 40 pounds). Then it was just a matter of assembling all the parts, which as always was a lot harder than it had any right to be, IMO (rrrrr). And then of course changing my mind, taking it all apart to make adjustments, and (rrrrr) reassembling it.

So (drumroll) here’s my new steampunk flat screen stand:

The cords are hidden in the hose-y thing.

All the pretty adjustment thingys.

A little bit closer

This was hidden under a coat of paint. No date, but a definite point of origin.

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Obsessonomics

November 19, 2016

Sometimes an idea gets so firmly ahold of me that it drags me down a pricey rabbit hole, kicking and screaming the whole way.

In the beginning it seems harmless, a modest acquisition that shows promise. But then it starts to make demands. It’s like adopting a rescue dog that’s so cute and friendly you can’t resist, but it’s not young. So there are vet bills and meds, and pretty soon you’re thinking, What was I thinking?

But you love it, so on you go.

This project started with a pair of jackstands from an estate sale. Then I got the idea in my head that they had to have Volkswagen hubcap shades. I found a pair on eBay, for not too much (as hubcaps go), but I could tell they weren’t in the greatest shape. I thought I’d go rustic. But once they arrived I just couldn’t do it. They were less rusty than crusty.

So things sat.

Eventually, I decided to paint both stands and shades, which meant getting the hubcaps sandblasted. And that meant venturing – twice – into the wilds of San Leandro (though the folks at Myers couldn’t have been nicer) and parting with a chunk of change. Then filling the pits and low spots. Then sanding the filler. Then priming and painting.

In the meantime, the shades wanted accessories of their own: high-end acorn nut finials and teeny VW bugs for pull-chain ornaments. And then, when I thought I was finished, I realized I really needed some way to keep the legs from scratching the tabletop. Trying different things took another couple of weeks.

But in the end they got done.

Learn more about the Roboto Ronin in my Etsy shop.

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Generosity & regeneration

October 2, 2016

I’ve been working lately with things people have given me, some of which I’ve had for quite some time. This led me to thinking about the words gratis and gratitude.

Oddly, it seems these have different Latin roots (though I’m no linguist, so I’m not exactly sure how all this works). Gratis comes from gratia, meaning grace or kindness, whereas gratitude comes from gratus: thankful. Interestingly, according to Google both words saw a steady fall in usage from 1800 to 2000, but a slight gain since then. For extra credit, you can speculate about what that says about contemporary society, and if there’s any connection to the rise in popularity of zombies.

Which brains brings me obliquely to the topic of resurrection – that is, upcycling. The first project marries a wine crate donated a few years back by a then-neighbor with radiator screen my brother salvaged from work. The other one uses more of the same screen inside napkin dispensers my friend Ami gave me. These also sat on a shelf for years, waiting for me to figure out how to use them.

So I give you, with gratitude for the kindness of friends and family, a little grace and silliness.

St. Benziger's Relic

St. Benziger’s Relic

Tardisque

Tardisque

Visit 4f Lighting on Etsy for details.

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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.

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Never say never

May 1, 2016

At one time, I swore I’d never make a coffeepot lamp with a conventional shade – because they are always boring. But you know the minute you start making rules, the universe finds a way to trick you into breaking them.

I found a beautiful ornate chrome coffee urn, with red lucite handles and little curvy black feet that made it float just above the tabletop. It was like a 3D version of a Ukiyo-e print. The trouble was none of my usual shade strategies worked with it. All the metal pieces I had were just wrong, and I couldn’t think of anything I’d ever seen that would do any better.

And then, a glimmer. I remembered a lovely fabric shade I’d bought awhile back at the garage sale of a former lamp maker. It was unused, and of a quality you seldom see anymore. And it was a precisely perfect shape and size for the urn.

One emergency harp order later, and it was a fait accompli.

Available in my Etsy shop, or contact me for details.

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Brass band

March 13, 2016

For no particular reason I’m aware of, last year I picked up a lot of brass objects. So, gradually, I’ve been transforming them into lamps of various kinds. Here are the most recent.

As always, they are available in my Etsy shop.

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A tale of two whimsies

November 22, 2015

Back when I was taking writing classes, I had a teacher who would say about a piece he felt wasn’t quite working, “Leave it on the desk.”

It was good advice – not that I always took it. But I find it applies to making lamps at least as much as to poetry. I’ve been working on a couple of lamps for a few weeks now – not because they’re so complicated as just that they’ve been a bit stubborn.

This first one came together fairly easily, except that the piece I’d originally intended to use as a shade – a domed but shallow lid from something or other – just didn’t work with the cocktail pitcher base. So I went looking online for an alternative, found one, bought it, and made a shade of it. And then the lamp squatted on my dining table, making me wince inside every time I looked at it.

Finally, last weekend I found a stainless steel colander at my local Goodwill, and after a bit of dithering, got it, reasoning that I’d eventually use it for something. A few days later I found the time to drill out the center hole, and tried it on the lamp…and OMG the relief. It worked so much better in every way.

The other one was less problematic, but still kind of balky. I’d bought a nice Ford hubcap earlier this year, and when I stumbled on a listing for a space-age Presto percolator, I knew it was just the thing. So I bought it, only to have my payment returned immediately: the seller had already sold it but hadn’t taken the Etsy listing down. So I went to eBay, reasoning that there had to be more of them.

And there were. I chose one, but when it arrived a few days later, one of the plastic feet had been smashed to bits in transit. The coffee pot still stood up though, so I figured I could repair the foot well enough, and that would be easier than hassling with a return.

So, Superglue and tweezers, and a Sharpie for touchups, and it worked. Setting the bubbler in the hubcap took awhile, mostly because my cheap hole-saw attachment was worn to nubs. Wiring the switch was a little trickier than I’d anticipated, due to tight spacing, but not too bad. No, what fought me most was getting the shade to sit straight. Sigh. But in the end all was well.

Ford Presto coffee pot lamp

Ford Presto coffee pot lamp

Both Ford and Mimsie are available for adoption in my Etsy shop. Happy Thanksgiving!