I never went to design school, or ever had a class in furniture design, so the things I make are purely influenced by my surroundings and however my untrained mind chooses to translate raw material into functional form. Since I work in historic preservation in New Orleans, I regularly find myself in edifices that are in an advanced state of decay. Inside these buildings, I often play archeological inspector, following the clues left behind by the former generations of inhabitants and the changes to the structure itself perpetrated by both man and nature. Once a house starts to degrade and the plaster falls down or is “gutted” in order to put up drywall (a far inferior finish by the way), then all that is left is the lath and studs. Laths are the thin wooden strips that cover the walls and ceiling of old houses that were originally installed to hold up the plaster. A house striped down to lath is full of texture and patterns and has a skeletal feel, like being in the belly of a wooden whale. Here are some pictures of one such house that I was in recently on a site inspection after hurricane Isaac, and all the textures and archeological ephemera therein that will be my impetus for furniture and lighting design in the future. I’ve mixed in a few images of things I’ve made from similar materials to show what the detritus can become with a little vision and elbow grease.
Category Archives: lamps
I’m not going to pretend that I had a lot of fun sitting around the house for the days without power as Hurricane Isaac slowly tore its way through New Orleans, but at least I did something productive. I’ve been asked by several people if I intended to make mason jar lights in clusters, and indeed I’ve wanted too but just haven’t gotten around to it. Well, thanks to the time my hurri-cation afforded me, here is a five jar light which is made for direct wire (not plug-in). Normally, all the jars would be lit but I ran out of Edison bulbs, so that is why only three of the jars are lit in the pics. I like to use vintage jars as much as I can since they have more variety and character, so this light has old Atlas, Kerr, and Ball jar brands, two blue and three clear. And in case anyone is thinking it, I am aware of the irony of making light fixtures during a time when i had no electricity!
While the rest of the gulf south frantically filled up their gas tanks and bought emergency supplies, i moved a bunch of my furniture and lighting designs into a new shop in Covington, Louisiana called Clayton House Marketplace. It wasn’t until the owner of the shop said something about a mandatory evacuation in Grand Isle that I realized that something was going down and that Isaac was heading our way. So, when you get back from wherever it is you take your hurrication, stop by the Clayton House at 1600 Collins Blvd in Covington to peruse the myriad of furniture, crafts, and interior decor from many different vendors. Their phone number is 985-892-6368 and they are open M-F, 9-4.
I just bought a neato old light fixture on ebay with a red glass globe that I’ll turn into a table top lamp. It reminds me of a vintage movie house light with its soothing red color, but Leslie says it makes her think of the eye of Sauron (lord of the rings evil overlord) and is slightly afraid of it. Either way, there has to be a market out there for something like that, right? I can see the etsy listing now: “vintage scarlet orb of doom lamp for your desktop…”
So I bought this spool of vintage cloth wire on ebay that i was really excited about. The cloth covering is black with silver stripes, is from the 60s, and reminds me of these friendship bracelets my friends and I used to wear in the late 80s (except not nearly as dorky).
Vintage Cloth Wire is a really popular item on ebay and it i’ve seen prices go up to $250 + for a 150ft reel. Well, I somehow was able to get my 100ft of wire for $18, so you can see why I was like totally stoked dude to receive this awesome wire and use it for my totallly radical lamps. I checked the tracking information every day for a week, watching my package eek its way from New Jersey to New Orleans via the United States Postal Service. Finally, the day came when i checked on the package from work and it said that it had been delivered! When I got home a few hours later, i hurried joyously to the mailbox (we have one of those neighborhood cluster boxes) but it was not there, and then to my front porch where most delivery men leave the packages behind a column; not there either. My fiance must have brought it in, i thought, as i ignored the growing sense of panic in my throat. But Leslie hadn’t been home at all that day, i knew, and the package was nowhere inside. I checked the computer again to make sure i had the right package. I did. I looked all over the porch and checked the mail box again. Nothing. I asked my neighbors on the left and right if they had seen the package and they hadn’t. It was then that the despair set it. Though a very beautiful place, New Orleans is full of awful and dishonorable people and there was no doubt in my mind that someone had nicked the package off my porch in the 2 hours that i sat there between the time it was delivered and the time I got home. I see so many people doing terrible and immoral things on a daily basis that i’ve grown pretty jaded as of late with humanity and the future of this city. All that aside, it is a terrible feeling to wait expectantly for a package to arrive only to realize that it will never come. Something one-of-a-kind and irreplaceable, gone because of some jerk with no morals.
I still had a tiny hope that it was all a mistake and my package was still on a truck out there somewhere, so i called the US Postal Service 800 number. After spending half an hour on the phone with the USPS computer voice, I finally tricked the system into letting me talk to a human and she said i would have to talk to the local post office and my area code supervisor. I talked to him later and he confirmed that the package had, in fact, been left on my front porch right in front of my door., according to the delivery man. “Why didn’t he hide it somewhere like everyone else does?” i asked him. He responded, “Why? Is it a bad area?” I didn’t know how to respond. The man was obviously from New Orleans judging by his accent, so how did he not know that this city is All bad neighborhoods, with only a few islands of good ones? Infuriatingly, he went on to tell me that this theft was pretty much my fault for not leaving a note on my door asking the delivery man to hide the package.
But I still would not give up. I figured that is someone stole my package they would be on foot, and would open the package in a block or two to see what treasure they had procured. After discovering that the contents were something that is of no value to anyone (except a lighting dork like me) they would have dropped the package on the ground or dumped it in the nearest trash can. So, the next morning, i took a walk around the ‘hood. I went four blocks in each direction, peaking in trash cans as I went, searching for my precious. I also looked on the porches of other abodes that had my same number address or even just close to my numbers. I saw the neighborhood post man and asked him about my package, and he said that he wasn’t on my route on the day it was delivered, and that it was another guy. He knew to hide the package, but the other guy didn’t have as much sense. He was understanding, but there was nothing he could do. Finally, I gave up the search. It was gone.
But wait! This blog post is not called the Prodigal spool of wire for nothing! This depressing story does have a happy ending, one that restores the lost faith in humanity and fixes all that is wrong with the world! Well, sort of anyway. The doorbell rang this afternoon, and it was my neighbor from three doors down with a package in her hand. Could it be? “The post man left this on my porch a few days ago,” she said, “and i’ve been waiting to see you to give it to you but I haven’t so here it is.”
Her address is nothing like mine, by the way, so the post man just got it way wrong. Still, my heart soared to have in my hands what I had given up for lost. I mentioned before the awfulness of loss, but there is also a truly amazing feeling that can only be experienced when that thing that you thought was gone forever comes back to you. I can only think of one other time in my life that I’ve felt such elation (long-lost cat coming home) and it was awesome – i did a stupid happy dance, ask leslie.
So, the moral of the story is this: The world is a bad place (mostly) and people do dumb things (often), and this leads us to expect the worst in people because the worst is usually what you get. But sometimes, every once in a while, it isn’t as bad as you think, and you get a little pleasant surprise that makes you do a little dance.
So, without further ado, here is my precious, the comeback wire, the monowatt surprise, the spool that wouldn’t quit, etcetera etcetera. Keep your eyes peeled for this magical wire in future lamps!
These are the three lamps that will be at Design Within Reach this Thursday for the party and throughout the weekend. I use old-school braided cloth-covered wire in my lamps, and here is also a photo of a reel of cloth wire i bought recently at a junk sale. It would be awesome to be able to go to Lowe’s and pull a roll like this off the shelf. Actually, cloth wire is available on the internet new, check out Sundial Wire if you are interested. Not cheap, but it is a good product with lots of colors to choose from and really lends that vintage look to lamps and fans and what not.
I just found out that I made it to the top ten list of designers for the Green Project Salvations Competition, and that I (along with the other top 10) will be allowed to show some smaller items this Thursday thru Sunday at the super-cool Design Within Reach store on Magazine. If you’ve never heard of it, DWR is the place to go for high end modern interior design. It’ll be interesting to see how the re-purposed stuff we make gels with the slick high-end designs in the store, which is at 3138 Magazine Street at Harmony, btw.
Sadly, I won’t personally be there, as i’ll be on a plane headed for Austin, but my girlfriend Leslie will be there acting as my proxy. If you are out and about on Magazine this Thursday, stop in and get some free Sailor Jerry rum cocktails, Frey Wine, and tapas and check out the newly made lamps i’ll have on display. Here is more info:
The Green Project Salvations Top Ten 2011
Thursday, May 5, 6:30-8:30pm
DWR New Orleans invites you to a reception honoring the top 10 artists from Salvations 2011, The Green Project’s signature fundraiser (www.thegreenproject.org). Salvations is a juried furniture exhibition and auction that showcases the best in sustainable style and salvaged design. The Green Project will recognize Salvations 2011 winners on April 16th, and the top 10 artists will show alternate works at our studio for viewing on May 5th.
Come celebrate Jazz Fest Thursday, Cinco de Mayo and Magazine Street Shop Fest with The Green Project’s best and brightest in reclaimed materials furniture design. Enjoy tapas and sip on libations made with Sailor Jerry Rum (www.sailorjerry.com) or organic wine from Frey Vineyards (www.freywine.com).
Please RSVP to email@example.com.