Friday, January 10, 2014

All About Custom Lampshades!!!

I told you I would tell you.....
now I'm telling!!!!
Here  is a behind the scenes look at Blanche P. Fields, the  custom lampshade workroom I have been using since the  beginning of the 1980's.
Designers from all over the country have their custom shades made here.
I'm just lucky to live near them.

Custom lampshades are to lamps what haute couture is to clothes.

According to Wikipedia...
Haute couture (/ˌt kˈtjʊər/French pronunciation: ​[ot ku'tyʁ]French, for "high sewing" or "high dressmaking" or "high fashion") refers to the creation of exclusive custom-fitted clothingHaute couture is fashion that is constructed by hand (without the use of sewing machines and sergers/overlockers)[citation needed] from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable seamstresses, often using time-consuming, hand-executed techniques.

I will now take you on a journey of discovery, with lots of commentary and tell you guys the history of this wonderful custom lampshade business.

But first.....
let me show you a picture of my favorite lampshade.
It sits in my living room by my sofa.
I will show you one of these being made!!!!
The shape is difficult to sew, so these babies aren't cheap.
This was one of my big splurges.
i love it, i love it, i love it!!!!!!
The trim was from Scalamandre.
I was always adding in trims I found.
While I'm at it,
I will show you some more custom lampshade details from my house.
Across the room from my sofa is another lampshade.
Check out the detail on its top.
These ribbons and cords were from Blanche P. Field.
They have tons to choose from.
In my dining room I designed the shades to work with the color of the chandelier.
The looped trim was from Brunschwig & Fils.
The workroom had twisted cord that matched!!! 
They applied it over a ribbon.

Custom shades just made this chandelier!!!!
Hold on to your hats, 'cuz here we goooooo.......

Blanche P. Field is in the design Center.
(To make this story easier for me to type.....
I am going to leave out the P. when referring to them, O.K?)
As you approach the showroom, this is what it looks like from the hallway.
Come on in!!!!!
The showroom sells light fixtures too.
I've snapped some shots of some of my favorites.

And tons of finials.

before we get to the lampshades,
I want to give you guys a little background about this wonderful company.

In 1905 a woman named Blanche Field sewed custom lampshades.
She worked for the families in Newport RI, sewing the shades right in their homes mansions.
Eventually, her nephew Donald and his wife took over the work.
In the 1950's. Donald's nephew John Downs and his business associate, Warren Gabaree continued the family business, opening a showroom in the Boston Design Center in the Back Bay. 
In the 1960's Warren bought John out, and it became a Gabaree family undertaking,
The shade designer I work with today is Warren Gabree's son, Wayne.
(I call him Dwayne, just to give him a hard time.....)
in the 1970's Wayne brought in his college buddy, Kevin, to help with the work.
In 1982, with the passing of his father, Wayne took up the reins.
He learned lampshade design and production at his Dad's knee, and he has a natural talent when it comes to trims, shapes and colors.
The man is a walking contradiction, as he couldn't be more butch, being in the Coast Guard, and a Cop with lot's of tattoos.
He sold the business in 1998 to Steve Walk and John Schetlin, so he could work part time as my shade guy, and have more time as a cop.
The man's priorities are wack!!!!
Then in 2008 Mitchel Massey bought out John.
There have been lots of changes, 
I've always worked with Wayne.

I contacted Wayne at Blanche Field in the beginning of the 1980's when I was doing my first Junior League Decorator Showhouse.
Wayne quoted me a price, and I was horrified, and told him, in my snarky way, that I thought he was a highway robber.
I bought some ready made shades and hot glued trim to their tops and bottoms.
when I saw the custom shades that the other designers were putting in their rooms.....
and I compared them to my home made arts and crafts projects.....
I realized that my days of cheap do it your self shades were in the past.
I had no idea how much work went into just one shade.
I started using Wayne at Blanche Field, and we became friends.
I used to love coming in to see him with his dog, Gabba.

The dog's gone now.....
It was very sad.....
It's still nice to see Wayne, but I liked Gabba better.
On a happier note, 
I will now show you how lampshades are made!!!!!

First, the designer and client meet with Wayne or Kevin to plan out the shade.
We sit at the table with the fabrics from the room and with the lamp we want the shade made for.
Or I bring  a shade I want to replace, and we use that for size and scale.
(That's Kris working on what she wants for her guest room sconce.)
I brought the chintz and green duvet fabric for color references.
A reminder of the room the shade is going in. 
It's on the sconce between the two beds.
We are reusing the frame of the shade we have on the light, as I like the shape and the wavy bottom.
It's an old junk store find of mine that I gave to Kris. 
Wayne chose this ribbon for the green color, as I wanted to pull more green into the room.
We can use just small edges of ribbons, leaving out the pink color.
First he tried giving me just some gold and cream, as that was what I asked for.
I was wrong.
I requested adding some pink into the mix.
He twists together different ribbons and cords to create the edge and then folds the silk of the lampshade over to show me how it will look.
Then he showed me this, which I liked.
See how adding just a touch more color makes all the difference?????
We have allllll these trims to choose from!!!!!
I like to go behind the desk and pull trims.
It drive Wayne nuts.

Lots of ribbons.
Lots of tapes and trims.....
And for when we make vases and objects into lamps, they can make up any size wooden base, and paint it any finish.
They create fanciful shapes for floor lamps, and trim them up in style.
Check out the little rosette!!!!!
It's been knocking around in the showroom for eons, so it's a little worse for wear.....but it's purdy!


So now, 
let me show you behind the scenes, back in the workroom.
You guys are special.
Not everyone is allowed to go back here to see the little man behind the curtain!!!!!

First up,
The frames are made to the exact size needed for each lamp.
There is this metal pyramid gizmo that is used to size the form of each shade. 
The wire is wrapped around it.
 Then the frame is soldered. 
If a custom color is needed on any tape used on the top and bottom of a paper shade, this back area in the workroom is where it is painted.
The designer submits a color sample and the paint is mixed to match.
Then the tape is added to the edges of the lampshade, like this paper one below.
Giving it a finished contrast edge.
There are many different papers that can be used in lampshades as well as oiled parchment.
They can have holes punched in them, like the  one above, be woven like a's up to the imagination of the designer.
In Connie's Vermont kitchen I used woven paper basket shades.
Blanche Field made the ceiling fixtures.
I had them make the dining room one too.
I found the trim at Brunschwig & Fils, and gave it to Wayne to work with.

let's get to the hand sewn part.
Every part of the lampshade is hand sewn.
These are true dress maker details.
Hand gathered.....
Hand pleated....
Hand smocked....
Little pieces of perfection!!!!!
Are you getting to see why Kris is obsessed with custom lampshades?????
Once you do custom, you can't go back,
The shades can be pleated, pleated with spaces.....
Ceiling fixtures can be made into all sorts of fun shapes.....
Luckily, we have Wayne and Kevin to help us design these babies!!!!!
(although I can be pretty opinionated, and Wayne and I will go head to head.....)
Designer Lighting: One-of-a-kind, Blanche P. Field Custom Lampshade
back in the workroom.....
I took a bunch of pictures of the women sewing.
Here's a classic bell shape shade.
First the frame is wrapped in white fabric.
Before they put the cover on they've already done a ton of work.
Then they have to fit the fabric to all the curves of the shade.
Remember when I was upholstering the inside back of Kris's "princess" chair????
Remember how much trouble I had with the curve?????
Well I'm sure this is easier???!!!
(right????? I mean, it had to be, otherwise I'm just in too much awe.)
The fabric is clipped so it will ease into the curve.
Then it's stitched to the frame with teeny tiny stitches.
Then the top is stitched.
Can you imagine how much this would be if it were a dress?????
Here's a shade in progress that's like the one I love in my living room.
The full treatment is given even to little chandelier shades.
Each frame has to be built, and then the fabric sewn on.
That's the behind the scenes tour.
I will just show a little snippet of Kris's new guest room shade for the lamp going on the chest of drawers.
The full reveal will be my next post.

OK Kampers,
that's it for today.....

Latah, Gatah


20 North Ora said...

Very interesting and so intricate and delicate! Thanks for the tour!


it"s me said...

Those are all so pretty and so beautifully detailed. Loved seeing the process. Thanks for sharing that.
Betsy, your blog is always so fun and funny to read. Thanks for the inspiration.

Unknown said...

What an awesome tour...takes me back to days when I sold high end furniture, did design work and was lucky enough to get a tour of some of the manufacturers factories. The workmanship on their shades is impeccable and I would have to say it's a true luxury to be able to own one. I always look forward to learning something from you and again you didn't disappoint. Thanks Betsy!

Anonymous said...

Truly beautiful, Betsy! I am salivating...
Now how am I expected to live with my plain and boring shades after having seen such dainty jewels??? Sigh...
Thank you:-)

Karin said...

All those trims make me twitch. I could spend all week in that shop. Fabulous. What a great post. I'd love to have some custom shades made one day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Betsy ... So informative... I enjoyed the behind the scenes tour of the lamp shades....and the creative talents of all their workroom.... Teresa

Anonymous said...

This was a wonderful post! I can see the need to have custom-made shades even if you only see one. Thanks. Ann

sweet violets said...

Now, that was a grand tour!!! Very interesting and informative!! Thanks for that!! I really appreciate beautiful workmanship and glad to see so much hand work still very much alive!!! cleo

fixitfaerie said...

I love to hand sew silk. Hard to believe, but I make silk Renaissance clothing by hand. That store is lampshade nirvana! I love all of your lampshades. It sure is in the details. Paula

laney said...

...making beautiful lampshades is rather like making beautiful hats...blessings laney

Maureen said...

Oh my! I now understand why custom shades are so expensive. This post was one of your best!

Anonymous said...

So fascinating, LOVED it!! I am a lamp and lampshade snob that is also poor and cheap but I adore beautiful shades. These people are indeed skilled artists and the work makes me think of makes hats in their heyday. I guess there are sorta hats...for lamps. Amazing resource. Suzi

Anonymous said...

By the way, Betsy, i used your silver polish technique recently when we inherited hubby's 1930/40s grandmother's sterling silver flatware. We hosted a luncheon following his mom's memorial service and I wanted to honor her by using the silver she had purchased for her own mother...but goodness! Service for 15 + serving pieces and had not been polished in decades. It worked great and I got a call from one of the aunts asking me what i used! Thanks. Suzi

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