With sites like Etsy and Not On The High Street, independent designers have more opportunity to sell and publicise their creations than ever before. In an ever-changing industry, the demand for homemade furniture, lighting and décor means that small time designers are coming into their own and showcasing their talents.
We interviewed four of these up-and-coming lighting designers about their inspirations and what passions fire their creations.
1. Julia's Driftwood
Julia Horberry is a self-taught artist with a background in creative den building. She was born and raised in East Yorkshire before moving to Cornwall in 1994. Her online store, Julia's Driftwood has gone from strength to strength since it began and has been featured on 60 Minute Makeover. You can also follow Julia on Twitter and Facebook.
What inspired you to start creating lighting out of driftwood?
I started out just by making table lamps, then floor standing lamps. I then had this massive urge to create a chandelier from driftwood which worked really well and have since become very popular, which really was a green light to create lighting out of whatever I wanted.
My passion for driftwood was born when I discovered and fell in love with Cornwall. Walking along the beautiful beaches provide me with what I can only describe as 'treasure'.
The moment that I pick up that piece of wood I know exactly what it's going to be. Then, the climb back up the cliff with a heavy backpack full of wood just adds to the fun. Having an outlet for my creations is more of a relief than a job as I have so many ideas constantly filling my head.
I see each piece that I create as a character, usually a comical one at that. Although I decide what part each piece is going to play, the end result is always a surprise. The beauty of driftwood is that you don't mould or control it, the wood decides what it's going to be, you just have to respect and guide it a little.
Do you have a specific design in mind when you start creating a piece, or do you improvise around the driftwood you find?
Most of the time, I know instantly what a piece of wood will be as soon as I pick it up, so wood for lamps and lighting are put in a separate pile. Sometimes if I have bespoke order, like a restaurant with a certain theme, I see the picture in my head and then go and find the materials that I need to make it a reality.
Use three words to describe your business?
Fun, quirky and inspiring.
What advice do you have for other independent designers?
Start with something solid and simple, build up your range slowly, use social networking for feedback, and take good quality images. If an idea excites you, follow it through!
Have you sold your creations to anyone famous?
Lots of lighting for the hospitality industry, and well-known names such as Paul O'Grady, The Four Seasons Hotel, and sculptor Amman Jordan. I've had my lamps and chandeliers on 60 Minute Makeover a few times too and even a Hollywood film Ruby Sparks!
The Driftwood Chandelier
2. Lamplight Design
Lamplight Design are husband and wife team James and Samantha Brighouse. Lamplight is based out of their home in the green town of Uttoxeter, England.
See what they have to offer on their Etsy store or drop them an email at [email protected]. You can also follow them on Facebook,, Twitter and Instagram.
About our business
We share a passion for nostalgia and aim to bring this to life within our work. Modern life is cluttered with commercial produce, we adore homespun artefacts with true unique style and perfect imperfections. We view Lamplight as our opportunity to marry the romance of an era long gone with the effort and passion of modern craftsmanship.
What made you start creating vintage-style lighting?
As far back as I can recall I'd always been drawn to iconic images of mid-century culture. In part, I'd put this down to a childhood spent absorbing nostalgia through film, television & music. Fortunately, my wife and I share this passion. We've taken entire vacations centred around visiting nostalgic 'hotspots' just to grab photographs and stare transfixed as though they offer some window to another place, another time.
We really didn't start out with any grand business plan or even the hope of seizing some passing trend, we started doing what we do out of a true love for the creative process involved and the end result. With each new build I find myself driven; excited by the end goal and the journey involved. I think you really do need some 'commonality' with what you build in order for it to look and feel sincere. There are a small handful of companies out there (ourselves included) that give you a real sense of passion for the product.
Will we have seen your designs anywhere before?
Surprisingly our audience is very diverse. We've produced bespoke product for both commercial use and private customers all over the globe. In this respect the internet has been a huge benefit; helping us reach a global market.
We've produced items for ITV: a number of which can be seen in 'Nick's Bistro' on the nation's favourite soap, Coronation Street. We've produced items for Channel Four fashion shows and have even produced items for show homes and caterers in Beverley Hills and Burbank California.
What is your creative process?
Though a lot of design based companies may have some form of 'creative process', ours is extremely informal. That's not to say we don't brainstorm or develop our initial ideas. We do. However our typical creative process is very 'personal' in that we'll start out designing something we'd love to see in our own home, on our own wall. For this very reason, we hold dearly many of our 'prototype' builds, almost all of which grace the walls and sideboards around our home.
What advice would you give to other designers starting out in the lighting and furniture industry?
If I had any advice to impart it would be that (as trite as it sounds) you really should follow your heart. Design something that you would love to see in your own home. Chances are your tastes are not as unique as you might think. Provided it's good and has passion, others will see value in your work and want a piece for themselves.
What is your best-selling piece?
Several of our items battle it out to be our 'most popular' item, however we are busiest producing our Vintage Marquee Letters at the moment. These have been popular wedding items over the summer and sought after home decor this Autumn.
Jane Lenahan runs Love4Lemons from her home. You can find her designs on Etsy, and follow her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
Tell us about yourself
I'm 32 and work part time as a typist, part time crafter and full time mummy to a 3 year old girl. I'm also the fiancée of my very understanding partner Rich, I honestly don't know how he puts up with all my half-finished projects lying around the house!
I have always loved getting creative but I never in a million years imagined I would ever have the confidence to do something like this - it's scary, but exciting, and I really do hope this is the start of something amazing.
What inspired you to start creating your quirky designs?
I love things that are a little different, things that stand out. I just wanted to try something new out that I'd not really come across before. The first idea I had for a light box was to do a tree because I have a big love of trees, they're beautiful and moody, and magical looking.
I love bright colours and crazy patterns, and I know I'd get quite bored doing the same thing over and over, so I'm just enjoying thinking up new ways to incorporate these into something that makes your room feel all cosy.
How do you come up with ideas for your creations?
Sometimes an idea will come from the strangest of places, like when I'm out in Asda and see a pattern on a label and then I'll have to go home and see if it would look good on the glass. But I always aim to make something that I would happily have in my home, so there's been a lot of trial and error involved.
Some ideas haven't looked right at all, and I very quickly got rid of all evidence! It will start from what I'd like to see on the glass and then go from there, what colours or patterns would look right with it, and a lot of tweaking to get it looking just right. Once the glass has been designed and finished it's just then a case of fitting the lights, and finding the right backing for the design to stand out.
What is your most popular lighting piece?
The Let It Snow light.
4. The Faraway Tree
Louise Wardle is a mother of two and creates childhood inspired gifts on her Etsy shop, The Faraway Tree. She loves to create personalised products for customers and you can also follow her on Facebook.
You range of lampshades are perfect for children. What made you start this business?
I am a mother of two young daughters and delight in designing and dressing their bedrooms with beautiful things. I found that there were few options for really fun, unique and quirky lighting for children on the market.
Lighting plays an integral role in setting mood and atmosphere in a room. A little glow at night is essential for some children and as mine are avid bedtime readers, they need something soft and gentle for their bed time tales.
I was bored by the usual faux vintage florals and plain or polka pinks and so I set about making my own lighting to suit what I wanted I find. I then set about adding them to my Etsy shop.
Who buys your products?
I sell to anyone and everyone. I make shades to order, accommodating special requests and can make them in a variety of sizes to suit the chosen room.
What motions do you go through to make your products?
My process is: if I love it, I'll make a shade from it. I'm not bound by fashions or styles although I tend to veer towards 70s and 80s retro for my designs.
I adore fabric and textiles and took great delight in sourcing fabrics from around the world, designed by some amazingly talented artists whose designs I then have printed directly onto cotton and shipped to me here in the UK.
I've also found some true retro textile gems upon my travels, from 70s children's wallpaper to vintage maps and classic rock and roll sheet music.
I've made shades from cherished baby blankets, wedding dresses, newspapers and have recently sourced some old blues sheet music to create a handmade shade for a couples wedding gift that incorporated their 'first dance' song. When I can create something so personal for someone, it's a real pleasure.
Any advice for designers out there wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Make what you love. You are your own best customer and if you love something then others will too, even if it's really niche.
If you love what you do, you will enjoy every moment of the creative process. There is nothing worse than churning out products that you resent taking the time to make in order to meet demand.
Enjoy what you do and the rest will come naturally. Your customers will sense your passion and your works will be of a higher quality.
What is your best-selling/most popular lighting piece?
My most popular light shades are those with a fairy tale theme, trimmed with pom-poms. My Castle On A Cloud design was inspired by my daughter Daisy who loves the song by the same name from Les Misérables, and I wanted to make a shade for her room that would fit any scheme and would mean something specifically to her. The fabric is designed and printed to order in America, and I just fell in love with the tiny castles and mini rainbows. It's soft, relaxing, beautiful and timeless.
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