Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blame It on the Lamps

For the past twenty years or so, whenever I read decorating magazines, I gaze at rooms and wonder: what would I change here?  And almost always, the answer is: the lamps.  Or possibly the lamp shades.  They tend to jar the room out of perfection.  Such was the case in this corner of our living room.  In fact, I liked the old lamp shade, which was cloth wrapped and tied around the frame.  But it kept going catty-wumpus on the lamp, so it was time for a change.

When we first built our house, I prowled the nearby towns to fill our rooms.  I found this lamp at The Round Barn in Andover.  It was $12, it needed some repair, and it was brownish-rust.  I am not a fan of the color rust (except for actual rust on metal, which I love), so I promptly painted it.

Then I brought it to Mr. Lehn in Anoka.  He operated a light store on Main Street, and he scared me half to death.  He himself was more than halfway to death.  For five years running, he announced his age whenever I encountered him.  First he was ninety-six.  The next time, a few months later, he was ninety-eight.  Eventually he became a spry ninety-four-year-old.  He rode his bike to work every day.

He inspected my lamp.  He glared at me.  "Somebody has painted this lamp."

"Yes,"  I gulped.

"This is a Rembrandt.  It's a valuable lamp.  Hummmppphhh."

He deigned to fix the lamp.  When I returned to pick it up, it was perfect.  But somehow, in the course of our conversation, it appeared that Mr. Lehn was not.  I don't know if I mentioned that my Great-Grandpa Herbold had a ministry to the railroad workers, or that my grandparents had met in the local Baptist church.  Somehow the conversation kind of skirted religion.  He announced, "God can't forgive me."  And he shook his head emphatically.

I was ill-equipped to argue against a deaf sinner.  But the comment gave me pause.  I realized that I myself could, and probably would, be sinning right on into my last decade.  Right on into my last day, in fact.  It was a humbling thought, and I am thankful to Mr. Lehn for the insight. But I wish I could have convinced him that God could forgive anything. I plan on living as a forgiven sinner, all my days.   

And here is the lamp which Mr. Lehn repaired.  I expect to have it, along with the grace by which I'm saved, right up to the end.
I've made many things for my home using a vintage poetry textbook.  In doing so, all my favorite poems are torn out of that book.  So for this project, I used poems from a book published in 1965.  Lit. majors will recognize George Herbert's "Easter Wings" in the center of the lampshade. 

First, I removed the old pleated fabric from the plastic base of the shade.  I recommend everybody in the world get rid of fake-silk pleated lampshades.  Their time is done.  And they always look a bit grimy.

Using Mod Podge (thinned with some water), I applied my favorite poems first, centering each one on the shade.  Then I filled in with narrow strips from the book, mostly from the edges and borders so the poems wouldn't have too much competition for text.  I also used a few short poems for filler. I coated the finished shade with an even application of Mod Podge.

The glow from the shade is soft and mellow, and even though the poems are a little hard to read when the lamp is lit, I know they are near.  So much simpler than hunting for a book.

Easter Wings
by George Herbert (1593-1633)

Lord, who created man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more
Till he became
Most poor.
With thee
O let me rise
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did begin:
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became 
Most thin.
With thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory:
For, if I imp* my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.
(This is an example of "concrete poetry," which depends on the look or shape of the poem for form. This poem takes the shape of larks' wings).
*Imp: a falconer's term.  A wing graft, by which an injured wing is repaired by grafting (imping) a feather onto the wing.    

Update 2014: The mantel decorations are entirely changed, and we are in the process of painting the hickory (which turned orange), white. Once it's all done, I'll write a design post about it. I would have just slapped some paint on the wood and called it done, but my professional carpenter husband insists on painting it the proper way. This apparently takes about six months.      
I still love that little Rembrandt lamp. It's fun to twirl the shade and read new poems.   

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