Back in the spring I discovered two new crafts: screen-printing and lampshade making. In a moment of inspiration I thought, why not combine the two? And so, my bespoke bee lampshade was born!
In July I made my first prototype, and make these lampshades to order in various sizes, up to 45 cm in diameter, and in the fabric of the customer’s choice. (edit: I closed my shop in early 2016 but I can still make you one if you get in contact)
Here’s an insight into what goes into making the bee lampshades. I like to use ethically made fabrics, so have chosen a lovely lightweight handloom linen made in India and imported by The Organic Cotton Company, who are a fabulous source of ethically made, organic fabrics.
I get a lot of inspiration for my art projects from nature — plants and animals — and the bee design is a sketch I did one afternoon at the end of my screen-printing course at my local art college. The tutor kindly transferred my sketch onto a silk screen I had bought using the photoemulsion technique.
To work out where to place the bee print on the lampshade, I used the discarded backing paper from a plastic lampshade lining to make a template. Now, every time I make a lampshade, I use the template to mark up a bar of wood clamped to my work surface so I can easily and quickly line up the screen when printing.
I also use a pencil to mark the centre of the design at each end and the edges and corners as this makes making up the lampshade afterwards much easier.
I’m still mastering the technique of screen-printing — it’s much harder than it looks! But the basic idea is to drag the ink (I use water-based inks) across the screen using a rubber squeegee held at just the right angle to get a nice crisp, complete print on the fabric underneath. You have to work quite quickly as the ink begins to dry, and you don’t want it to clog up your screen. I always hold my breath when lifting the screen — has it printed ok?
As well as the bee, I put together a fish design using a vintage fish image available from The Graphics Fairy (a great resource for copyright-free images for all sorts of projects). I used it a lot while experimenting during my screen-printing classes. But would it work for a lampshade? Find out in Part 2!