Posts Tagged ‘Creative process’

h1

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.

h1

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.

h1

Hard drives’ night

October 17, 2015

Some weeks back, a gentleman contacted me through this website with an unusual request. He had a couple of computer hard drives, circa 1980s, that he wanted made into a lamp.

He had no ideas for the design, and very little in the way of requirements, so I pretty much had free rein—something I tend to struggle with. But I was coming up on one of those birthdays that cause one to stop and tally things up, and admit to one’s shortfalls. So I needed the distraction of a challenge.

Of course, it turned out a bit more than I’d bargained for.

Ordinarily, the object that is the jumping off point for a project largely dictates the rest of the form. But the drives, when disassembled, offered a plethora of choices with no clear direction—cases and circuit boards, mirror-finish metal platters, spindles and read/write heads, along with other assorted bits and pieces—none of which seemed to speak to one another, at least in lamp terms.

After toying for over a week with the notion of a box with a light inside and sides made (somehow) of platters and boards (but never really falling in love with the idea), one evening I fell asleep imagining a tower of platters, floating around a glowing tube. And the next morning I awoke with an idea of how it might be done.

Measurements and much online window shopping followed, until I came up with what seemed like a viable plan. Although I wasn’t sure it would work, I decided to take the chance that I could figure something out if my original scheme failed.

It almost did, too.

The fit of the parts was much more restrictive than I typically deal with, and the materials were ones I had no experience with. Also, most of the time connections in lamps can be undone and redone as needed. But for this, I had only once chance to get it right—and once I started I had to continue. So it was nerve-wracking enough already. Then when the day came to construct the “shade,” the temperature was in the 90s. So there I was, in my kitchen, improvising on the fly when method A didn’t work, swinging a hammer, bleeding from an injury I still don’t know how I got, swearing and sweating like a sailor. Talk about black moods.

In the end though, it came out all right. I got to make something completely different. My customer thinks it’s “awesome.” And the way it plays with light is a magic trick I hadn’t anticipated at all.

Seagate Tower hard drive lamp

Seagate Tower hard drive lamp


Want something custom made? Drop me a line.

h1

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

h1

Deja vu(ish)

July 12, 2015

So far, it’s been a summer of repeats, more or less. I built a new shop for the launch of Upcycle Post’s Marketplace, and I made a new heater light that marries the styles of two previous ones: the compact shape of one with the color changing properties of the other.



And then…well, I guess I got bored. Because one day when I was supposed to be doing something else, I wandered into my workshop and started stacking. I had a couple of small aluminium coffeepots, both of them incomplete, and though they didn’t match in any way other than size and material, I put the smaller atop the larger, and then just kept going, without resorting to anything you might call logic.

After a few discards and addenda, I found something that seemed to work. So I assembled it, then took it apart a couple of times for tweaks, added some finishing touches, and (drumroll, please) attained this:

The Towering Cafferno

The Towering Cafferno

Yeah, I know. It makes no sense. And yet it kind of does, if you don’t think too hard about it.

Details on both these lamps can be found in my Etsy shop or on Upcycle Post, if you’d like to check out the new venue.

h1

Repeat, rinse, spit

June 3, 2015

I had a couple of recurring experiences this week: one bad, one good.

The bad one involved this light that I’d finally found a home for, to my delight, only to find it had met the same fate as another package I mailed a couple of years ago. I’m guessing that, due to the way the objects I work with can look on an x-ray, it was opened at a postal sorting station, dropped (catastrophically), then repackaged and sent on its merry way.

In any case, this is what arrived, and what it looked like before it left.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The buyer was understandably not happy. Nor was I.

The other story is more run of this mill. A year ago I “made” (decoupaged) a shade for a customer, and I liked the way it came out so well I decided to try it again. The fun thing about making these shades is that I never know what I’m going to get until it’s done. The darker parts of the pattern are made up of overlapping shapes, but you can’t really see them until there’s a light inside.

Then I had to construct a lamp to go with it. I’d bought a fireplace tool set (minus most of the tools) awhile back, so I repurposed the holder bracket into a base, and added other pieces to make a form to suit the shade.

Cock your head and squint, and you just might be able to see the tree. Details, etc., in my Etsy shop.

h1

Standing out from the herd

May 21, 2015

I’ve built enough lamps now that inevitably I’m repeating myself. New ideas are getting harder to come by. Case in point: A year or so ago I made a pair of jackstand-and-hubcap lamps I called War of the Worlds.

War of the Worlds jackstand and hubcap table lamps

War of the Worlds jackstand and hubcap table lamps

They sold pretty quickly, so when I found another jackstand recently, I snapped it up. I didn’t want to just recreate the exact same lamp (besides, there’s a bunch of similar ones for sale on Etsy now), so I spent a few days perusing the many flavors of hubcaps available on eBay – a lot of them yummy but too pricey, or too small, or otherwise wrong.

Finally I found a pair of ’60s Mustang hubcaps with nice scalloped cutouts around the edge, for a reasonable price. I knew the shallower shape would fit the S-arm cluster I had salvaged from a lamp my friend Becca gave me, and I could figure the rest out when the package arrived.

So now, a few months later I have. I kept the original black-and-red color scheme of the jackstand, but sanded and repainted it to look sharp – the red is more delicious than the photos can convey. And the lines of the hubcap are a good match for those of the stand. I think it’s a lot of fun, and I’m hoping it will find its way to the desk of someone who likes it as much as I do.

Mid

Available for now in my Etsy shop, or contact me directly.