For fresh, modern and unique fabrics stop by Contemporary Cloth Inc. - online fabric store.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Meet Judy Lake of Lake's Lampshades

Welcome to our first customer interview: Judy Lake of Lake's Lampshades in Vermont. Check out her website and blog! See how she uses amazing vintage textiles on her lampshades and read about her new book coming out in August. Thank you, Judy, for taking the time to share your life and art with us.

Judy's Shop (Photo by Ryan Benyi)

Tell us about Lake's Lampshades, the location and how it evolved?

Lake's Lampshades is located in Pawlet Village, Vermont, which is a very tiny, rural, farming community. I started making lampshades in 1985 just before my son was born. In the beginning I made shades for friends and family. And then onto craft shows, working my way up the craft show ladder. One day, at our general store, my friend Edie asked if I wanted to rent her little building. The rent was only $100 a month! I jumped at the chance and moved in a few days later. I was able to buy the building a few years ago.

Do you have a blog? What kind of info do you have on there?

My blog is called The Lampshade Lady: I started it in the spring of 2007. I am still tweaking it and trying to figure out all the tricks. I love my blog. It is such an amazing resource. I can put up my latest work in just a matter of minutes or chat about the new ideas and fabrics I run across, like Contemporary Cloth. Sometimes writing comes easily and other times it just doesn't happen. It is also nice to keep a photo record of favorite shades.

Is there a Lake's Lampshades website? Can your lampshades be purchased online also?

I do have a website. It is Selling lampshades online is very tricky. There are so many variables, shapes, sizes and how they sit on a lamp. It would be easier to sell online if I had "A LINE", but I prefer to do one-of-a-kind work. I get lots of online inquiries; sometimes it is a simple couple of questions, but it's much easier to talk it through on the phone. Some orders were zillions of emails back and forth; I have learned to respond to email inquiries - "give me a call at the shop and I'll talk you through the process". I do sell my postcard shades on my website. They are vintage postcards from different areas. I have over 25 different ones at this point. It could be endless. A few I have are Cape Cod, Nantucket, Boston, Jersey Shore, NYC, California, etc. I designed them specifically for my website. I needed something that I could do over and over. They are also an easy size to buy for a table lamp.

Tell us about your workshops! Wish I could come!

My workshops have been a big success, I think. They start at 11 A.M. and run till around 5 P.M. Students bring their own fabric and I supply the rest of the materials. They all leave with a finished lampshade, instructions, and sources to find supplies. We have lots of fun and enjoy each others stories of life's travels, jobs and family. Some folks are really crafty and others are trying to put some creativity into their lives for the first time. We have fun and learn about some lighting tips and tricks for sizing lampshades. Hey, how seriously can you take lampshades! Some people get all uptight and I try to tell them to relax and enjoy the process. And I hope you'll make it out to Vermont! My students come from all over the country.

Judy's new book (photo by Ryan Benyi)

Tell us about your new book, how exciting! Where can we purchase it?

I am very very excited about the release of my new book, "The Lampshade Lady's Guide to Lighting Up Your Life." It is being released August 18th, 2009 with Potter Craft. I think it will be an inspiration to the how-to crafter as well as inspiration for Interior Designers. There are not many lampshade books in the marketplace and I am pretty thrilled with our final product. Decorative lampshades are being shown in Home Design magazines and Design Blogs and are still hard to find in stores or are very expensive. With a little skill they can be made at home without breaking the bank. The book is available on all the online websites as well as an autographed copy from my website. It should be also available in bookstores across the country.

You live in one of my most favorite states....Vermont. How has that influenced your work?

Vermont is a very special place. I came to Vermont to go to college and never left. I love the serenity of the mountains and the kindness of the people. Most of my friends are also entrepreneurs. Living here isn't for everyone, but it feels like home to me. Right now, as I am typing this, I am sitting outside on the couch on my porch at the shop. Sometimes I can bring work outside and enjoy the sunny day. My shop isn't in a particularly busy shopping area, but if customers want to see me they will venture out to find me.

Where do you find inspiration?

I am a fabric lover first and then a lampshade maker!!!!! As a kid, I loved to keep fabric swatch books, make collages, cut out paper dolls. As a teen, I was always into some sort of fiber arts. I used to be a weaver, spinner. I love to knit, sew, and quilt ..... but fabric is where I find inspiration. I use many vintage fabrics and embroideries as well as quilt fabrics and mid-weight upholstery fabric. I look at all fabrics as well as decorative papers as possible sources for lampshade making.

Tell us about your design process?

I usually start with a client's lamp. They might bring it into the shop or discuss it on the phone or email. I will usually figure out the shape and size of the shade and then discuss with the client the style of their home or what they were thinking might work for their room. Sometimes they will bring in swatches of fabrics, paint chips or pillows to match their decor. There are times when we can hit the right fabric easily and others that it is a process to try lots of different fabrics and trims to make it work. I often will clip the fabric onto the shade frame and turn the light on to see what how the fabric will show up with light. Other times I start with the fabric. I might get a new fabric from you and visualize what shape would suit it best. Sometimes a fabric or textile obviously fits a certain style or shape. If I have been out flea marketing and find a small embroidery, then I will ask what shape shade will fit the textile the best. Often with vintage finds they can be small pieces of fabric, scraps or small dresser scarves. And then there is the trim, which can make or break it. Finding the perfect trim is a skill that I am always getting better at. There are times when I have finished a shade in the afternoon and come back to my shop the next day and rip it off and start again. I also make trims from the same fabric as the shade or a contrasting fabric.

Do you have any favorite materials (fabrics), colors or styles? Where do>you find your vintage fabrics?

I have many favorites; where do I start! French knot embroideries are one of my favorite finds. But on the other extreme I also like contemporary designs. The key for me is finding textiles that I never get tired of. Colors and styles change so often that finding those special fabrics that I love to see year after year is the trick. I look everywhere for fabrics. I always check your site for new treasures as well as some of the other fabric websites. I'll check on EBay as well as a few of my vintage textile friends' websites to see what goodies they have found. Sometimes I will email them in search of a certain fabric. I go to flea markets, antique shops and shows. I rarely get to tag sales because I am working on Saturdays. Sometimes customers bring me fabrics when they are cleaning out their attics or closets. I try to attend the Vintage Textile Show in Sturbridge, Mass. It is an education in itself. The prices can be pretty steep, but with some searching I usually am pleased with my finds. The show is 3 times a year; it is on the Monday of Brimfield Flea Market.

What do you enjoy making the most? How do you feel after you have created something?

One of my favorite jobs in my shop is designing shades for inventory for my shop. Sometimes I save it for a Saturday morning when it's slow. I'll have a few projects in mind that I have been wanting to work on. I'll iron the fabric and cut out the styrene panels in the morning and put the shades together in the afternoon when it is apt to be busier in the shop. I make lots of shades and every once in a while I'll do one that is a true standout, one that I am really pleased with. Of course, those sell fast because it is so easy to sell what you LOVE. Sometimes I feel like it is nice to live with my favorites a few days in the shop before selling them! Recently I HAD to take home a rectangle shade I had just made. I had it here in the shop for a few days and it was To-Die For!!! And it looks fantastic in my living room.

Who are your favorite designers, authors, Etsy shops, websites and blogs?

I love looking at design blogs, fabric blogs, business blogs, and interior design blogs. I have gotten into the habit of hitting the NEXT BLOG button on Blogger to randomly find blogs. Sometimes you find really cool stuff from all over the world. My favorite blog has to be DECOR 8. Holly Becker has a fantastic eye and a keen wit. She's got a very sharp design sensibility and contemporary edge. I also love some of the Scandinavian sites. It is important for me to keep an eye out for trends, not necessarily copy them, but find my own way. Color trend is what I keep an eye on the most. A favorite website: is a great resource for vintage fabrics. I also spend time on lampshade supply sites such as and Lampshade supplies are very hard to find at brick and mortar stores at this point. Maybe we'll start a new trend :). I love your site; it's easy to use and has great photos. Ribbon and trim sites are handy, such as or Web site sourcing is very helpful living up here in the boonies!

Do you do other arts and crafts or have interests in other areas?

I have tried almost every craft known. My friends used to call me Martha of the North!!! And my mother-in-law thought I was Martha Washington with my spinning wheel. After college I worked in retail for a bit, just enough to know that was pretty dull and wanted to start my own business. I figured I would never make a living as a tapestry weaver, so my next ideas were knitting and lampshades. Lampshades won out and the rest is history.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

The best advice a friend gave me years ago was to focus on one thing and do it well. Pretty good advice I'd say.

What are your goals for the future?

This is your hardest question! It is one that someone asked me when I started my book. She said to me, "When your book comes out you have only a short time to do what it is with what will come from publishing a book." ......... Yikes! To be honest, I am happy with what I am doing. I don't want my business to change. Doing one-of-a-kind shades is what makes it special. Who knows what will come?

Well, Judy, your work is unique and we are so glad that you shared this with us!

Contact information for Judy Lake and her book:

Lake's Lampshades
P.O. Box 295
Pawlet, Vermont 05761

New Book: The Lampshade Lady's Guide to Lighting up Your Life - By Judy Lake with Kathleen Hackett (Potter Craft, a division of Crown Publishing).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Travel Bag

Ever in need of a bag to keep your keys, phone and some money when shopping or stopping for a walk at the park? Then this is it! The pattern is reviewed here and the fabric used is a combination of Modern Flora and some stash fabric.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Urban Green

Another bag! This one is made out of the fabulous Urban Green.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Hippie Chicks - Hippie Chic!

Get your hippie on with the fun, lively, retro Hippie Chicks fabric.

These are Bandana Bands - a cross between a bandana and a headband. See my Etsy shop for more details.

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