and I’ve been making handmade lampshades as Botany Bay Designs for one year this June. I’ve always been interested in crafts and have dabbled in a variety of things from soap making, silver stamping and dressmaking. However, it was my love (some might call it an obsession!) of fabric which lead me to lampshade making.
I am a great believer in using the internet for research and when a family member said they wanted a handmade lampshade with puffins on it I set to work, finding out how to make them and then sourcing the equipment and fabric. It was during this research that I came across Needcraft and placed an order. And so it all began… I’m still at the stage where I’m working from my dining room and storage can be a bit tricky but I now have a stall at Petticoat Lane Emporium which means my lampshades have left my bedroom.
I have set up a Facebook page and, alongside the emporium, a shop in Whitstable now stock my lampshades. I am also holding an exhibition at a gallery in Dover which all helps to promote and publicise my business. My dream would be to have a self-contained workshop for my lampshade making so that I didn’t have to pack everything away in order to have dinner! Until then I have drawers full of fabric and equipment. I’m also planning on setting up my own website but this is a work in progress.
Making lampshades has given me the excuse to discover and buy a variety of fabric. I have found a number of different sources around the world, via the internet, and there is nothing more exciting than getting a parcel through the post containing new fabric. I definitely have some popular designs, including a drum lampshade made with Liberty Tresco fabric and one called The Harbour designed by Alexander Henry. These two designs sum up the designs I make – floral and nautical.
Nicky’s favourite online fabric shop: Spoonflower
I think my love of seaside designs is due to living by the coast. Being able to see the sea from your window is something you take for granted, until you move away. Fortunately, I moved back and am back by the sea once again. I’m channelling that seaside vibe through my lampshades!
We asked Nicky to show us her favourite inspiring image:
I have used Needcraft products from the very beginning and I have found they supply everything that I need. They also supply things which I plan on using in the future, including square lampshades and different coloured linings.
At present I make drum lampshades in a variety of sizes but I have made some tailored lampshades and would like to develop this skill further. I am also interested in making lampshades with the design on the interior of the shade.
My advice for new craft entrepreneurs would be research, research, research. This applies to sourcing supplies, finding tutorials, looking for craft fairs and deciding on costs. The information is all out there and there are some brilliant forums and websites where people are great at providing advice and support.
Also on a practical level, invest in some good storage so that equipment is easy to find and can be stored safely. My warnings would be to not spend too much at the beginning. It is very easy to be swept away buying new equipment and supplies but it’s better to test out your crafts on a small-scale to begin with and then purchase accordingly.
Don’t underprice your work!
It’s important to take into account the amount of time it takes to make your craft and include this when working out a cost.
My favourite aspect of being a lampshade maker is when people get as excited about my fabric choices as I do. When they realise that lampshades don’t have to be boring but they can be original, quirky, beautiful and imaginative. I love seeing my lampshades in situ – they really complete a room.