March 25, 2005


Wow..... finally, after three months, I got back on the lathe today. This has been such a challenge to be patient and wait for my recovery from the knee injury. And I am stunned by how out-of-shape I have gotten. Of course, in retrospect it does make perfect sense, since I have basically just been sitting around. Even as my knee is ready to go, the rest of my body rebels agains the physical stresses of making a shade. This evening I feel a bit like a rag doll.

So at least I am doing it. For the first two or three weeks, I will focus on smaller shades and pace myself. I can't tell you all how much this means to me. I am well aware that some day I will have to give up making shades as my body just will not hack it. But that time is hopefully far in the future.

March 16, 2005

An Unfortunate Injury

It has always worried me that my work, making lampshades, is so physically intensive. Truly it is also one of the things that I love about my work, being so directly connected to the material, dealing with the combination of brute force and delicate finess. But I am 52 years old, and at some point, the demands on my body will be more than I can handle. Hopefully that issue will not catch up with me for many years... but I think about it a lot.

This winter, I had the opportunity to experience my physical limitations. I injured my knee on January 2nd -- it happened playing indoor soccer. I have played for years without any trouble, but in a League designated as "recreational, low impact." Mostly people between 30 and 60 years old, plus a few of our teenage children. There is a culture there that makes it very unlikely that anyone would get hurt. But on the January 2, my son's team, which I coach, didn't have an opponent, so we invited parents to play in a scrimmage with the kids. And, being the coach, I probably was trying too hard to keep up and show off my remaining skills. So I hyperextended my right knee. Instantly I knew I had a significant problem.

Then next day I saw my doctor, and it appeared to be a stretched ligament. But over the weeks, as the ligament healed, I had some lingering pain that kept me from doing anything but light work in my shop. Finally an MRI revealed that I had damage to my meniscus (the cartilage that lays between the upper and lower leg bones). I had arthoscopic surgery on March 7, and the damage was even worse than was originally thought. As I write this, 9 days later, the recovery is well under way, already less pain than I had before surgery.

It seems likely that in a couple of weeks, I will be back on the lathe making shades. I can't tell you how much I have missed it. This is not only a business for me -- it is a love affair with the wood, the process, and the dramatic final product. It has been a struggle to not let minor depression get the best of me. And to find projects to do (such as catch up on cleaning up the mounds of paperwork in my office!). But now that I have turned the corner and am close to full recovery, I am practically giddy.

From a business point of view, this has not had that much impact. I always keep a huge inventory of shades on hand, so that when a cliient asks for something, there is a relatively good chance I will have it on hand. It takes the pressure out of the day-to-day aspects of my business when I am way ahead. So even as I have been unable to make new shades, I have been selling on a regular basis. This metaphor just popped in to my head: the bear, whose instinct is to think ahead and eat and eat and eat, more than is need for the next 24 hours. Then when the Winter comes, the bear can enter hibernation and still survive quite well, living off the stored energy. In the Spring, the bear awakes, and gets right back to eating eating eating.

Winter is ending, I am ready to eat sawdust and put on new inventory! Can't wait.

Sconces galore at New London Inn

The past fall, the New London Inn was purchased by the dynamic husband and wife team of Bridget LeRoy and Eric Johnson. Over the past few years, the Inn has fallen into a state of minor neglect. Since it is a beautiful and imposing building right in the middle of Main Street, it needed the energy and creativity that the new owners have brought.

One of the first decisions that Bridget and Eric made was that the dining room should be lit almost entirely with my wood lampshades. After 6 weeks of major renovations to the restuarant, it was reopened on Valentines Day with 17 wall sconces and two table lamps. Business has been very brisk at the Inn since the launch, and my shades have gotten a lot of attention. The sconces provide plenty of light to read and eat by, while simultaneously enveloping the whole room with a romantic and relaxing glow that makes a perfect match for the elegant dining experience. Incidentallly, the menu is really wonderful and affordable, so if you get the chance, come visit the Inn for a walk-thru, a meal, or an overnight. The web site is

From my point of view, this whole project has been very exciting. Working with Bridget and Eric has been fun. They are overflowing with energy and creativity and a boundless sense of humor. And the size of this installation is the largest I have been involved with. Being right here in my home town, it has attracted a lot of attention. It is amazing how the reputation I have achieved for my work has reached all over the world, and how many of my neighbors had no idea what I was doing. The display of my lamps in the restaurant has already led to some referals, and in the long run, I expect that the Inn will represent a significant aspect to how people get to know about me.