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Lamps, Before and After

From old to fabulous! Look what a little spray paint, thermofax screens and textile paint, linen and ingenuity can do! Yes, those are the SAME fixtures!

The sconces in our house have made me crazy for years. The shades were made to fit on the old rounded incandescent bulbs…the ones you can’t find any more. The wires didn’t fit well on any of the smaller bulbs that suited the size of the shades and the fixtures–they were always tilting and crooked. And the “old West” look was SO not me! It was Candy Glendenning of Candied Fabrics who got me on the right track. Last year, Candy posted some lamps and shades she made using her wonderful indigo shibori fabric and blogged about them here and here. So I plotted and thought about it. I knew I wanted white, green paint mixed to my favorite shade, my own thermofax screens, and NOT black.

Here are the final shades, then I’ll share the process:

Left to right: Queen Anne’s Lace, Birches, Grasses, and Milkweed

First thing I needed to do was see if I could spray paint the fixtures. Before we moved into the house, one had been damaged and removed (but kept in the basement). I bought some Rustoleum in Satin Nickel and it worked! I didn’t even have to sand!

I was delighted at how good the fixtures looked as Not Black. Once they were on the ground, I also realized I could turn the fixtures upside down and that fluted frill on the bottom looked sort of like a Japanese temple roof line. Sort of. But at least better than as a candle holder!

I had planned on using a cotton-linen blend for the shades, but when I went to Fiddlehead Artisan Supply (quilt and art shop to die for and only a half hour away!) they were temporarily out of the blend, so I bought some coarser weave pure linen to try. Then I started searching out stuff to make new shades, starting with Candy’s source, I Like That Lamp website. I ordered the styrene–the rigid stuff to which you adhere the fabric–and glue from that site, but her rings only go down to 8″, and I wanted a 6″ for my sconces in the hallways. I found some 6″ size here, on Etsy.

Next, I needed to see how the linen would print. Using my existing printing board, the prints were blobby–the surface had too much squish in it for the somewhat more open weave of the linen (as compared to quilting cottons). So I made a new printing board with less padding, and learned that using paper towels under the linen did not affect the quality of the print and prevented less of the ink from soaking in to my new board.

Mess-making in process. I used ProChemical and Dye Opaque and Transparent textile paints. I sell some sets in my store (just scroll down) plus you can buy larger quantities and more colors directly from ProChem.
The screen/design for grasses is new and I can tell I will use it often. I cut my linen into lengths from selvage to selvage, then marked how long I needed with a pin. If I goofed, I could keep printing and avoid an oops spot.
The Milkweed thermofax screens used in the upper left piece I had already made, but the others are new. All are drawn, not a manipulated photo (which is another process I use). So far I am only selling the milkweed screens (here), but if anyone is interested in the others let me know.
At least in my universe, printing always involves an oops and some “letting it go”, but I did end up re-doing the grasses because I had printed them too high on the strip–the bottom of the blades of grass needed to be at the bottom edge of the lamp. I also made some real mistakes on the Queen Anne’s lace, so re-did them, too. But I will use the not-bad parts of those for something else!
I Like That Lamp website has some excellent tutorials. Instead of using binder clips, I used Wonder Clips the same way and they worked beautifully. I did have some fuss and bother getting the glue to hold as I wrapped the edges around the wire rings, probably because the glue oozed out between the weave. However, once set, you’d never know. They look well done if I do say so myself.
Because my fixtures are OLD, and I didn’t want to have them as candles with the ring sliding down around the tube to rest on the metal, I needed to get creative with how I would suspend the shades. Wire!
It’s not the prettiest solution, but it works. And it doesn’t show, best of all. Because the wire fitter is recessed down below the top of the shade, the wires that hold the shade to the fixture are hidden (unless you are really, really tall). Those tails were wrapped around the spider-legs of the ring.
The Queen Anne’s Lace is in our bedroom.
The birch trees are in the back part of the hallway, in the “Rogue’s Gallery” (aka family photo wall)
The milkweed is in the front portion of the hallway, with Eli’s middle school art project underneath and a pour painting by my friend Deidre Murphy on the right.
The simplest is perhaps my favorite and is the sconce we see from the living room, the waving grasses. When we first moved into the house there were shrubs that grew up and blocked the view out the windows at the far end–not great. But in the afternoon light they cast lovely shadows on that wall, which inspired me to make this shade.

Some good news: in August 2020 I will be teaching a 3-day surface design workshop at ProChemical and Dye in Fall River, Mass. (about an hour or 90 minutes south of Boston, minutes from Rhode Island) and we will cover the thermofax and paint technique.

The whole thing worked SO WELL that I am thinking I would like to make a set of seasonal shades for the floor lamp in the living room…one for Christmas/Winter, another for Spring, Summer and Autumn. I need to do some patterning as this lamp looks best with an angled shade, not a drum shade, and they are harder to make. I need to learn if I can do it with standard 44″ wide fabric given the flare on the shade. Stay tuned for more house fix-ups! Hope you’ve enjoyed this detour from the usual art quilts and family life.

6 Responses to “Lamps, Before and After”

  1. Franki Lori Kohler Says:

    Simply beautiful and brilliant! Thanks for sharing your ingenuity and success. Lovely designs.

  2. Pat Hale Says:

    I always find anything you post beautiful and interesting and this certainly is both! Thank you for all the photos and descriptions! I really hope to take some of your classes someday! I live up in the Adirondacks and so far they have been a bit to far away.

  3. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks so much, Pat! It isn’t totally official yet, but looks like I will be teaching at the Mancuso’s New England show in Springfield, Mass. next August..mid-month. That *might* be close enough–the other 3-day Exploring Paint workshop is in Fall River, south of Boston on the RI border, may be a bit too far? At least hotels aren’t crazy expensive in Fall River!

  4. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    HI Franki…delightful to hear from you! And thank you…I really enjoyed the process.

  5. Deb Cashatt Says:

    Fabulous idea and execution.

  6. Sarah Ann Smith Says:

    Thanks so much Deb–I really enjoyed the process!

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