Antiques & Collectibles: With this hobby, you'll have it made it in the shade

Diane's coffeepot lamp with her coffee lampshade found at Pieces of the Past, Winona.

Lampshades can be seen in small shops, big box stores, or in catalogs, where customers can purchase machine-made lampshades or have a shade custom-made.

Some lampshades can be found in antique malls, where vendors have found lampshades that are romantic with attractive brocade cloth and decorated with beads, lace and fringe. They are from companies such as Miller and Sherwood, that sold fabric lampshades during the 1800s, along with decorative glass lampshades. The cloth shades, though, were the real charmers.

We can also find, not only in antique malls but in consignment shops, those from the 1920s and 1930s, the Art Nouveau and Art Deco shades that shifted back to glass, such as Tiffany glass shades. After World War II, lampshades were being made from scraps of cut-up silk and other fabric, sometimes from lingerie factories and even discarded parachute silk. An upscale shade could sell for around $6 or more.

Soon paper became popular in the 1940s to 1960s, along with plastic, replacing fabric and glass only because it was easier to clean and cheaper to purchase at your local F. W. Woolworth Company. The lampshades from the 1950s were found to feature glamour girls, playing card motifs and polka dots. Kids' shades would have elephants, bears and more to match the ceramic elephant or bear lamp.

'Lampshade lady'


Lampshades have always intrigued me and I love to find folks that have become creative in the making of a shade. At Pieces of the Past, Winona, owner Cheri Peterson said, "I have just that creative individual who has made shades to top antique sewing machines to coffeepots, grinders and more selling several in the store over the years in a price range from $19.95 to $150."

That creative individual, or "lampshade lady," is Diane Kerkenbush. "My interest started when a basket maker approached me about 20 years ago regarding custom shades for her basket lamps," she said. "She wanted to have custom colors and a specific fabric. That sounded like a perfect challenge for my creative side. Finding a supplier, two weeks later I produced my first shade and have been making various shape and size shades ever since."

Finding vintage and antique shades

Most items for lamps can be found as well in the antique and thrift shops, and even auctions, and at last we can't forget our grandparents' attics and basements.

"My husband Jim and I also like to go to flea markets, rummage and estate sales," Kerkenbush said. "Our minds start turning into re-purposing found items into lamps, and then I make a custom shade to match the re- purposed item. Each lamp and lampshade that is made is a one of a kind, and no two are the same."

In Kerkenbush's workshop you will see all of her well-crafted shades, made to match the antique or re-purposed vintage finds such as "the minnow bucket lamps," she said. "I like to use a fishing theme fabric for the shade, and for the sewing machine lamps, I use sewing or a quilting theme fabric. That I find at quilt shops and sometimes at garage or flea market sales using some vintage fabric from scrap quilt tops and old buttons."

Basic lampshade-making technique

This hobby was self-taught, with an instructional lampshade book, although Kerkenbush says, "Books, websites, seasonal classes and workshops are available in most areas. My husband produces the wired lamp end of the lamp and I make the shades to compliment the look.


"There are many different styles of shades out there," she said. "One can make rectangular, square, hexagonal, ovals, etc. I like to choose a style that compliments the lamp."

Also, Kerkenbush needs to consider certain guidelines to follow, such as the lampshade's purpose, so the shade needs to be long enough on the sides to cover the socket. Measurements are very important. Color and texture as well.

"Cotton is the best fabric to use," she said, "though chenille and bark cloth are good fabrics to use, but other fabrics work just as well. Some of my lampshades have a holiday theme and I do like to trade off one lamp with seasonal shades as it changes the look in a room instantly without a lot of money invested. I do special orders on lampshades and will custom-wire bases supplied by the customer. My email contact: ."

So much satisfaction can be obtained from this hobby, even if it is a one-time try since, like Kerkenbush, you may never know where it may take you.

My favorite book on the subject, that I have used a few times, is "The Lampshade Lady's Guide to Lighting Up Your Life: 50 Custom Lampshades and Lamps," written by Judy Lake with Kathleen Hackett.

Supplies can be purchased at most larger hobby or fabric stores. Kerkenbush has found total satisfaction in the making of her lamps and unique shades.

"The satisfaction I get and the goal I am trying to reach is to make a well-dressed lamp that is different, unique and outside of the box, since it's neat to be open to new things and be creative."

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