Q: You worked in a lampshade factory?
A: It was more like a shop, but it was essentially a one-woman factory. The owner, Judy, makes all of the lampshades, and each one is unique. It is pretty amazing.
It is located in Vermont, and I don’t know if you know this, but in Vermont there is not a whole heck of a lot to do. In the center of my town there is a general store, a library, and the lampshade shop.
Q: So you learned how to make lampshades?
A: The first time I ever made a lampshade was during a workshop.
Q: The workshop?
A: Judy gave workshops on how to make lampshades.
My mom is an artist, and she was interested in the workshop and brought me along. There were about five women there, each who had paid to learn how to make lampshades.
I grew up crafting from a young age, and I made my lampshade pretty quickly. The other women were struggling a bit more than I was and they started to say things like, “You should work here!” I think they were a little embarrassed that a pre-teen was better than them.
Later I called Judy and asked her if she would like it if I worked there and she said yes.
She dubbed me her apprentice. It was a very “You’re a wizard, Harry” moment for me.
Q: Did she do a lot of business?
A: She did a lot of custom orders over the Internet and the phone. I don’t know any other lampshade makers, but I think that for a while, if you looked up the word “lampshade” online, Judy and her store were the number one hit on Google for it.
People came from far and wide to buy her lampshades, so you knew you were working at a top-quality establishment.
Q: How does she actually make the lampshades? Is it difficult?
A: There is definitely an art to it. It’s a very long process but as you do more you get better. Judy can make them very rapidly.
Material-wise, you use a special type of paper to make the shades. The rest is all decorative items. You have to design them in the right way to make them classy-looking.
Judy makes a lot of different things. She goes antiquing a lot and gets chenille or handkerchiefs, and she’ll make those materials into fun lampshades.
Or she’ll take old postcards, like vintage ones from the Jersey shore or Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and make them into lampshades.
She can’t just sell shades so she sells antique lamp bases too. You can mix and match lampshades with lamp bases for a one-of-a-kind product.
One other cool thing—she knows how to re-wire her own lamps. So she can take anything, like old bottles, or sometimes she takes stacked smooth stones and drills holes in the middle, and runs a wire through them.
I learned how to re-wire a lamp too, which I know is a skill every man wants in a woman.
Q: What other kinds of things did you do at the shop?
A: Besides making lampshades, I would open and close the shop if Judy wasn’t there. I would also take custom orders over the phone.
I learned customer service, wiring and rewiring lamps, creating lampshades… I got to welcome customers when no one was there, got to open and close the shop. I gained a lot of independence as a 13-year-old employee.
Q: What did the store look like from the outside?
A: The shop is like a little country cottage. It is one story, painted light pink with a green door. There are lampshades on the front porch and every wall inside is covered in lamp shades. There are stacks of lampshades everywhere.
There is a full couch outside on the front porch. It was definitely a place of happiness.
Q: Did the place have cats?
A: You are ON it! There was a cat but it was outside on the front porch, never inside the store.
I don’t really like cats so I would not have any of that.
Q: Do you think anyone can make a good lampshade?
A: I definitely think everyone has the capacity to make a lampshade; everyone just might not make a great one. Only a few people have the artistic ability that Judy has.
Having her there, anyone can learn; she’s a fabulous teacher. She also has a book on how to make lampshades, which gives you the option of learning in the privacy of your home.
But if you have no guidance from the lampshade lady, then I don’t know.
Q: Would she be offended that you refer to her as the lampshade lady?
A: Her book is called The Lampshade Lady’s Guide to Lighting up Your Life. So, it’s not just me being a wise-ass.
Q: Would you ever consider taking over her business one day? If she wanted to retire?
A: Who knows what the future holds? I’m not opposed to making lampshades again one day.
Q: I don’t know why this really interests me.
A: I think YOU should make a lampshade!
Q: Anything else you want to tell me about this job?
A: One weird job I am working on right now that isn’t really related—this summer my friend is dressing as a polar bear, and I’m helping guide him around New York City to promote a movie.
Q: So it’s safe to say that working at a lampshade store will not be the strangest job you ever have in your life?
A: I guess you could say that.