Generosity & regeneration

October 2, 2016

I’ve been working lately with things people have given me, some of which I’ve had for quite some time. This led me to thinking about the words gratis and gratitude.

Oddly, it seems these have different Latin roots (though I’m no linguist, so I’m not exactly sure how all this works). Gratis comes from gratia, meaning grace or kindness, whereas gratitude comes from gratus: thankful. Interestingly, according to Google both words saw a steady fall in usage from 1800 to 2000, but a slight gain since then. For extra credit, you can speculate about what that says about contemporary society, and if there’s any connection to the rise in popularity of zombies.

Which brains brings me obliquely to the topic of resurrection – that is, upcycling. The first project marries a wine crate donated a few years back by a then-neighbor with radiator screen my brother salvaged from work. The other one uses more of the same screen inside napkin dispensers my friend Ami gave me. These also sat on a shelf for years, waiting for me to figure out how to use them.

So I give you, with gratitude for the kindness of friends and family, a little grace and silliness.

St. Benziger's Relic

St. Benziger’s Relic



Visit 4f Lighting on Etsy for details.


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.


Never say never

May 1, 2016

At one time, I swore I’d never make a coffeepot lamp with a conventional shade – because they are always boring. But you know the minute you start making rules, the universe finds a way to trick you into breaking them.

I found a beautiful ornate chrome coffee urn, with red lucite handles and little curvy black feet that made it float just above the tabletop. It was like a 3D version of a Ukiyo-e print. The trouble was none of my usual shade strategies worked with it. All the metal pieces I had were just wrong, and I couldn’t think of anything I’d ever seen that would do any better.

And then, a glimmer. I remembered a lovely fabric shade I’d bought awhile back at the garage sale of a former lamp maker. It was unused, and of a quality you seldom see anymore. And it was a precisely perfect shape and size for the urn.

One emergency harp order later, and it was a fait accompli.

Available in my Etsy shop, or contact me for details.


Brass band

March 13, 2016

For no particular reason I’m aware of, last year I picked up a lot of brass objects. So, gradually, I’ve been transforming them into lamps of various kinds. Here are the most recent.

As always, they are available in my Etsy shop.


A tale of two whimsies

November 22, 2015

Back when I was taking writing classes, I had a teacher who would say about a piece he felt wasn’t quite working, “Leave it on the desk.”

It was good advice – not that I always took it. But I find it applies to making lamps at least as much as to poetry. I’ve been working on a couple of lamps for a few weeks now – not because they’re so complicated as just that they’ve been a bit stubborn.

This first one came together fairly easily, except that the piece I’d originally intended to use as a shade – a domed but shallow lid from something or other – just didn’t work with the cocktail pitcher base. So I went looking online for an alternative, found one, bought it, and made a shade of it. And then the lamp squatted on my dining table, making me wince inside every time I looked at it.

Finally, last weekend I found a stainless steel colander at my local Goodwill, and after a bit of dithering, got it, reasoning that I’d eventually use it for something. A few days later I found the time to drill out the center hole, and tried it on the lamp…and OMG the relief. It worked so much better in every way.

The other one was less problematic, but still kind of balky. I’d bought a nice Ford hubcap earlier this year, and when I stumbled on a listing for a space-age Presto percolator, I knew it was just the thing. So I bought it, only to have my payment returned immediately: the seller had already sold it but hadn’t taken the Etsy listing down. So I went to eBay, reasoning that there had to be more of them.

And there were. I chose one, but when it arrived a few days later, one of the plastic feet had been smashed to bits in transit. The coffee pot still stood up though, so I figured I could repair the foot well enough, and that would be easier than hassling with a return.

So, Superglue and tweezers, and a Sharpie for touchups, and it worked. Setting the bubbler in the hubcap took awhile, mostly because my cheap hole-saw attachment was worn to nubs. Wiring the switch was a little trickier than I’d anticipated, due to tight spacing, but not too bad. No, what fought me most was getting the shade to sit straight. Sigh. But in the end all was well.

Ford Presto coffee pot lamp

Ford Presto coffee pot lamp

Both Ford and Mimsie are available for adoption in my Etsy shop. Happy Thanksgiving!


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.


Shaken and stirred

September 30, 2015

Not long ago, as the mad Dr. Evo was shaking up Friday night martinis for himself, his lab assistant, Marta, and Neek, his factotum, an idea hit him. Later that night, fueled by the doctor’s imagination – and gin – the three set to work. The sounds of tortured metal resonated through Kastel Evo and out across the countryside, where peasants burrowed deeper in their beds, muttering, “What’s that nutjob up to now?”

By morning, the task was complete: Inspiro was born.



Soon, however, the creature escaped, and is now roaming the Internet in search of shelter. All it asks for is a bit of tabletop to call its own. In return it will haunt your dreams – or just light up a room, if that’s more your speed. Respond here to adopt.