Twenty years of making lamps

Twenty years ago this month I took my freshly designed lamps to my very first trade show. I was TERRIFIED. I had absolutely no idea how they would be received or if anyone would order any. I didn't even know how to take an order! I was an absolute newbie. Luckily for me The British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate was the perfect show and as I was in the newcomers section my inexperience could be forgiven! 

About a year before, I had been holding some of my paper-cut cards up to the light to enjoy their silhouettes and my studio buddy Hilary said "Why don't you make lamps?" At that moment I had a vision of what they might look like. I didn't know it was my future flashing before my very eyes! I applied for some Arts Council funding to research and develop the idea and then set to work to try and make them a reality.

I'm so glad I took photos of these sketchbooks a while back, in anticipation of celebrating my twenty year anniversary, because last year I lost them in the fire. They document all my workings and show pictures of the first experiments. 

I sent off for a sample book of lampshade making materials so I could try and cut some of my designs out of it but because they were backed in plastic it made them really hard to cut out. My knife would slip about all over the place.

I had so many questions. Always good to write them down and then play until you find the answers! A guy in our studio lent me a little desktop laminating machine and I had a go. Even though the first lamp experiment was only made from lining paper with a super shiny glossy finish it had potential! I was happy to discover that they made matt lamination pouches too. I ordered some immediately.


'You can barely tell that the surface is laminated. Great! It still looks like paper but it is protected.'

That was the AHA moment. I realisd Icould cut the designs out of paper and laminate the whole thing myself...and the matt lamination became part of the design. As well the paper being protected it created a beautiful layer of white light that illuminated beautifully with a light inside.

I experimented with lining paper as it was super cheap and played with coloured theatre lighting gels and layering.

my old studio at Northlights
Here's my first ever studio at Northlights when it was still in the old mill. 


All of the cylinders above were fastened together with those metal paper fasteners which could only be only a temporary fix! I had to find some kind of solution to hold the seams together. There was a lot of strength in each cylinder so it had to be somethings strong. I tried allsorts but nothing would keep them together. Adhesives, rivets, slots, buttons, zips, poppers, bows....
 
It says here that adhesive strips worked but I must have had to abandon that idea because in the end I used an off the shelf popper from Skiffy which is the best website for weird tiny fastenings! The poppers worked well for years until they slightly changed the material they were made from and they no longer held the cylinders together for very long. They were popping off all over the place! That was a stressful time! 

The next thing to think about were the inner workings. How was I going to fit a light bulb safely inside? This took a lot of head scratching and long discussions over lunch with other studio members. Shared studios are so valuable for brainstorming!

I enlisted some help from a company called Maclan who make precision moulds. I went to visit them in their amazing enginieering workshop up the road in Keighley and they helped me to come up with fixture that could be used in a variety of shapes and sizes of lamp. Voila! The tripod was born.

So, I had everything I needed to construct a lamp BUT I had run out of funds so I applied the The Arts Council again. I needed to put the tripod into production, get the lamps safety tested with The Lighting Association and I needed the money to book a stand at the trade fair and show my new creations to the world. 

This time they awarded me with with what was then called a 'Making & Showing' grant. They were good to me. I couldn't have done it without them. This article was in their magazine.

So it all came together. I had my lamps and I was ready to take them on their first outing. Me and Cathy CE-Leathergoods made our way up to Harrogate together and set up our stands nextdoor to each other. My other neighbour was Wendy Jung ceramics and we became friends at first sight! 

Catherine Edwards
It was a lovely show and I came back buzzing with a handful of gallery orders and a lot more confidence in what I was making. One of the galleries that ordered first was Leeds Craft Centre and Design Gallery which made me so happy as I am a Leeds lass. I used to visit the gallery during my Jacob Kramer art foundation lunchbreaks and dream of one day having my work in there, whatever my work might turn out to be...

Leeds have stocked my lamps ever since. They are my longest standing stockist bless 'em. For the next couple of months I'm going to be part of their 'Botanical' exhibition. We have made them lots of lamps, including the first ever Rosebay Willowherb floor lamp, and they will be upfront in the gallery. The exhibition runs from May 5th until 15th of July so do pop in if you're in town.

I've sold a lot of lamps in twenty years. I like thinking of all the little pools of cosy light in so many homes around the world, I like to imagine it like a constellation. I'm delighted that people love them so much. They have led me to do many things like opening a shop and writing a book, and they have enabled me to move into other products like my wallpaper and window film. A lot has happened in two decades, the business has been through flood, fire, covid, many an economic crisis and me having some major surgery but we have survived. Thank you for buying my lamps!

It's nice when people say "Oh are you the lady who makes the beautiful lights?" Thanks everyone. I'm glad to share I've been able to share my lights with you. x

5 comments

Thank you for sharing your fascinating journey with us, lovely Hannah. ūüĆľ Your creativity, ingenuity, and sheer hard work has illuminated innumerable spaces around the world and every home needs the warm glow of at least one Hannah lamp! x

Lyn

Congratulations on your 20th Anniversary. I was sold on your lamps and candle holders after visiting your studio with my daughter, Elli, and friend, Peg, 10+ years ago. I have since bought a number for friends for special birthdays and occasions ‚Äď they are always loved and make wonderful gifts. More recently, I bought wallpaper, as did Peg, and Elli bought window film. Your monthly emails keep me in touch with you and your work. I wish you well in your recuperation and a big ‚Äėthank you‚Äô for making such beautiful products. xxx

Sue Whitefoot

20 years, Hannah! Congratulations! And after all the recent setbacks, you are still positive and busy ‚Äėmaking‚Äô!
Love, Pam ‚Äď keep going xx

Pamela

Congratulations on your wonderful crafting!

Linda May Harting

Hi Hannah, Thank-you for taking us through your lamp journey, it‚Äôs fascinating to see your design process. So sad you lost your sketchbooks in the fire but great that you photographed them. Going to look at the lamps now as a present for my Mum. Hope your healing well ‚ėļÔłŹxx

Tabitha

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Hannah Nunn

Welcome to my blog

I'm Hannah Nunn, designer/maker of papercut lamps, wallpaper, window film and laser cut 'treasures' all inspired by the beautiful details of nature. Find out what inspires me and join me for walks in the woods and other adventures...

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