It all starts with a simple request. In this case a conversation over coffee with a good friend.
"Rach you work with all kinds of old papers... sewing patterns, music sheets and the like... do you think you could make a lamp shade design with architectural drawings?"
Her father was an architect, now retired, but she had access to some of his beautiful hand-drawn house plans and wanted me to make a feature out of them on a lampshade.
It was an exciting thought... "can I even do this? well can I?" and the answer is always inevitably "Yes!" because once the bubbles of inspiration take over, there is no going back.
It took a bit of experimenting. Initially I thought the semi-translucent paper of the original plans would be perfect, imagining the light shining through when the lamp switches on. However the trial examples of the paper would buckle and generally looked awful once they got slathered with my homemade paste. Back to the drawing board.
I started using photocopies and was relieved to find all the charm of the hand-drawings was captured. After that it was a simple case of nutting out which sections would fit around the sides of the lamp. My friend had chosen a rectangle block shade and had indicated her favourite "bits" so as always, it's a jigsaw puzzle to fit it all together.
I drafted up a mock-view of what her house plans would look like, literally wrapped around the shade. But as it turned out, she didn't want it to be so obvious.
"Can you come up with a design that's just a hint of the house plans?"
"You mean a kind of abstract interpretation of the original?"
"Yes, exactly" No problem.
So I began selecting and curating the bits of the plan that I thought worked, zooming in, printing out and arranging the sections until I had enough coverage. You can see a photo here of my not so high-tech "drafting with pegs" stage!
After that the usual decoupage process began and I finished off the design with a layer of unprinted sewing pattern paper that matched the tone of the other shade. Not only would this ensure the two shades would compliment each other, it also helped to inject some warmth into the black & white house-plan design.
You can see the final design below, and they were thrilled to send me back some pics to show off how the diffuser shades look in their house. Love it!
Next up came a really exciting opportunity to work with an architect and their own designs. If I'm completely honest, I have to admit that it was something I'd been hoping for since I started dabbling with this series!
Timothy Ellis approached me to create some shades after seeing a feature on Oh! Hello Geelong. His idea was not only brilliant but perhaps one of the nicest gestures I think an architect could ever make. Timothy commissioned me to create the lamps for his clients as gifts, featuring their own house plans. Is that is not the coolest house-warming present you've ever heard of? Timothy emailed me some PDF's of his final plans and was very easy-going about how they would evolve into lamp designs. I wanted to stay true to the original plans, but took a little license to resize and alter to fit the shade.
The final pieces showcase the elevations and cross sections of his designs and will be a fabulous talking-point for the home owners for many years to come.
I have some more custom orders featuring house plans already booked in for the near future - they are the "ultimate" bespoke item and add a truly unique and sentimental piece for any home.
Feel free to contact me if you would like a similar bespoke piece made for you or as a gift.
Cue the woozy music and the cheesy screen transition that makes you feel like you're traveling back... way back... to the heady days of yesteryear... to...2012.
Ok so maybe this flashback isn't particularly old, but the papers that feature in this shade series are EXTREMELY old. In fact the earliest ones date back to 1927, which is falling just a little shy of a century by my reckoning. But I digress.
Back in late 2012 I started working on this series and from the moment the first bubbles of inspiration stated to percolate, I was really excited about it. Partly because I'm a history-nut but also because I simply adore ye-oldy-worldy-ness.
In this digital age we rely on our keyboards to communicate the written word so much that the actual art of writing seems to be slowly melting away...?
One day my mum showed me some old recipe books from my grandmother and great-grandmother. To sum it up - I was mesmerised.
It was all handwritten, and in that beautiful cursive script that is practically extinct in the 21st Century.
I was so inspired to use them, but it was out of the question to cut up the pages and use the original paper. So I decided to scan in the pages and experiment.
I started big. Why not!?! Deciding that the perfect test case was a 30x40cm drum. I envisioned a large pendant shade which would hang in a kitchen or over a dining table.
The high-res digital scan captured all the character of the original paper.
I refused to photoshop out any of the blemishes, featuring all the crinkles, oily butter stains, and scorched paper marks.
I took the sample shade to the Big Design Market shortly after, and oh-my, what a talking point it was! Passers by were constantly drawn to the shade and I found myself chatting and answering questions about it. Lots of new custom orders came about because it demonstrated the possibilities and people could easily imagine their own examples of hand written history on a shade.
One lady told me all about her discovery of love letters between her grandparents during the Great War era! Some of them she thought may be a little too saucy to be on display but that there would be enough 'tame' material to feature in a lighting piece.
But back to the creation of the Handwriting Series, there is a little more to the story. Being depression era, nothing was put to waste and every scrap of resource was re-used and re-cycled. It wasn't just trendy, it was necessity. As I thumbed through the pages of my family's recipes I started to find... schoolwork? It was originally an exercise book with handwritten lessons.
Newspaper clippings with recipes would be pasted over the old writing, or new recipe notes would be added in the spare blank pages. Thankfully a good amount of the original schoolwork pages survived to give me enough material for a design that can accommodate many different shade shapes and sizes.
This block shade example features history, spelling and even a little algebra (and a few corrections here and there). All in that beautiful cursive script that draws you in.
In a darkened room the light shines through the writing with a gentle treacle coloured glow.
More examples so browse through are here, or feel free to email me if you have an idea for a custom shade. No doubt we all have precious pages of history that could be dusted off and brought out of the captivity of darkened cupboards. It's time to light them up!
I made a New Years resolution with myself to FINALLY get my act together and start an official blog for Patturn.
In a way I've already been unofficially blogging about my creative journey, but always posting randomly on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.
I feel as though 2014 is as good a year as any to get more organised. So here you'll find a 'one stop shop' blog, and it will become a more comprehensive resource of designs, vintage finds, and the fantastic stories behind the custom orders you'll see posted here.
I'll try and catch things up a bit this month and get the party started with a few flashbacks to some of my favourite pieces over the last few years.
However this post includes a fresh lamp - hot-off-the-press! It was the last piece I created in Dec 2013 and is currently for sale on Etsy.
I was inspired by a customer who asked me if I had any vintage anatomical drawings of the brain in my vast library of goodies. Yes, these are the run-of-the-mill requests I get just about every day! : )
I didn't have that per se, and as it turned out she bought one of my ready-made pieces featuring German Sewing Patterns.
But in the meantime I found some random pages from a vintage "Human Anatomy Made Simple" textbook and decided to get busy and create a shade. It features old-school illustrations of the human skull, hand, foot, heart and when applied to the shade, has a fantastic double layered effect which is my favourite thing about repurposing printed material.
Who will be drawn to this lamp? I'm guessing it would be a great piece for a doctor, medical student, biology nut, or anyone who has a fascination with the inner workings of the human body.
But which home this lamp will eventually live in? That part of the story is to be continued...
Author - Rachel Burke
"Creating decoupaged light shades started a little by accident a few years ago and has grown from there. Join me on this journey of random vintage discoveries, inspiration, and up-cycling with passion..."
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