By Carolyn Meyer
Lake’s Lampshades occupies a small old cape at the heart of town. “When this space became available,” says lampshade artist and owner, Judy Lake, it took me about three seconds to say Yes. I love having my shop in Pawlet Village. Working at home is enjoyable but isolating. I think that being in this location is great. I know the inns in Dorset love to send people out here to the country rather than to the outlets, to see the real Vermont.”
The building, with nasturtiums cascading from the porch and trimmed with blue, is as colorful, compact and appealing as the merchandise inside. “When I first came the trim was cranberry! It needed a little uplifting, change, something different,” Lake said. “Periwinkle is a cheerful color, has a lot of light in it.
In the Shop, it doesn’t take long to see past the well-crafted shades, delightfully wed to antique lamp bases, to the sunny person who put them together. Lake says the Shop, with other local artists, galleries and craftspeople, attracts an increasing number of visitors to downtown Pawlet, the village itself a gem along the famous meandering beauty of the Mettowee River, and worth the journey. The artist, a Maine native, lives in Pawlet with her son and husband, a culinary entrepreneur, who ships from their home Flaming Red’s Pizza Wood Fired Crust to health food stores and gourmet restaurants all over New England.
After fifteen years on the craft show circuit and invitations to many juried shows, Lake decided to open her shop. “Doing craft shows is a good way to test market products. Surely, the public tells you what they think,” she says, but she now enjoys more time to stay focused in Pawlet and do what she loves best – create.
With a great stock of fabrics at hand and some really choice old bases, she’s ready to assist her clients whether they arrive with a lamp base to match, a specific need or an idea.
“I listen to what people like, then I add my suggestions. People want more than what’s in the catalogues or standard fare. They want something they’re not going to see everywhere, which fits in exactly with the appreciation I have for uniqueness, the strength of the individual. Color and texture are really important. Cotton works the best. Chenille and barkcloth are good fabrics to use but other fabrics work. It’s neat to be open to new things, to evolve artistically.”
Lake also uses hand-embroidered fabrics, vintage curtains and fabrics from vintage textile shows, antique shows, as well as flea markets and occasionally e-bay. She says half the fun is the search for the great fabrics. Each finished shade becomes an integrated composition of color, texture and form. The antique lamp base has been scouted out and carefully chosen and the wiring and brass cover inspected and refitted if necessary. Lake uses a combination of frame shapes such as the hexagonal clip, the square candelabra, or the hex bell candelabra, to achieve balance and complement the base and fabric selection.
Her designs may be whimsical, delicate or bold, but each finished shade expresses the craftsmanship and art of the maker. One of Lake’s grandmothers was a top-quality jeweler in the 20’s. “I have a few pieces of her jewelry. They are really special. My other grandmother always had knitting projects going or other needlework. As a child I always had a pair of scissors in my hand. I would embroider and do detailed projects at a young age. I started weaving and spinning in high school, and I used to sew, quilt, knit and many different fiber arts. In college I studied art, with emphasis in textiles and decorative arts. I also did a lot of collage work (whose success depended, like her shades now, upon the well-executed joining of parts, on humor, delight and intuition), and I loved paper making.”
Lake likes to “blend,” she says, juxtaposing her choice of fabrics above vintage lamp bases to create a unified and harmonious effect, as she achieved with the collages. While the artist’s present works occupy a pleasing three-dimensional space, they are four-dimensional collages, reflecting as they do the past and future timeframe of her continuing process. A force that invigorates Judy Lake’s shades, apart from good design elements, is this; when the lamp bases were new, the fabrics that hover above them now, were once on beds, windows, towel racks or good tables. Each finished lamp and shade combination adds a bit of cultural history, as well as color, warmth, individual expression and enjoyment, to home lighting.
Lake’s Lampshades is easy to find, and when you visit Pawlet, enjoy the other delights of this quintessential Vermont town whose hard-working traditions are perpetuated not eclipsed by a changing population. There are popular dining establishments, antiquing opportunities, outdoors activities, museums and art galleries alongside the family farms and slate hills that shaped the region. For more information on Lake’s Lampshades, call (802) 325-6308, or contact via e-mail.