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How to Turn Pretty Much Anything into a Lamp

Soccer cleats? Boat propellers? An old trumpet? Artist Jeff Snider can transform all of them into unique light fixtures.

A projector lamp
Photo: Martha Williams

Jeff Snider recalls that he was browsing through a book on Alexander Calder 20 years ago when inspiration struck for his own sculptural practice. “We had two hand mixers at the house, and later that afternoon, one was hanging in the living room as a lamp,” he says. What began as a hobby of transforming everyday objects into eccentric light fixtures evolved into a career. The Skokie artist, who has upcycled an array of curios — trumpets, soccer cleats, boat propellers — now accepts commissions ($200) through his business, Jeff’s Shady Lamps. “Basically, anything that can have a hole drilled in it can be used as a lamp,” he says. Here, with an old slide projector, he shows how you can do it yourself.

Supplies needed

  • Lamp kit (includes socket, cord, harp, and hardware), available at Home Depot and Lowe’s
  • Lamp rod, usually sold in 30-inch segments, cut to desired length
Illustration by John Kenzie
Illustrations: John Kenzie

1. Drill two 7/16-inch holes in your object — one at the top and another near the base. These will serve as entrance and exit holes for the cord.

 

Illustration by John Kenzie

2. Secure the washers and nuts from the lamp kit to the ends of the lamp rod, then thread the cord through it. Insert the rod into the entrance hole you’ve drilled in the object.

 

Illustration by John Kenzie

3. Here’s the trickiest part: Follow the directions in the lamp kit to wire the object. This involves adding a harp (to which the shade will be attached) and a socket, then connecting the cord to the socket. For extra guidance, follow an online tutorial. You can find a good one at wikihow.com/Build-a-Lamp.

 

Illustration by John Kenzie

4. Add the shade. Snider embellished this one (which he purchased new at Lowe’s) with filmstrips from a Bollywood movie. Decorate yours to play up the lamp’s origin, or keep it plain for a modern look.

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