My father’s memories of the lamp
Mum and Dad were married in August 1949, Dad back as structural engineer - having served in the RAF during the war - and Mum a newly qualified teacher. They soon had two young children and set up home in Newport South Wales. In the early 50’s, money, accommodation and decent furniture was in short supply, so Dad and my Uncle Ray went to evening class at the local high school, joining many others keen to furnish their newly mortgaged homes. In the 1950’s DIY had become very popular, magazines such as ‘Woodworker’, and Barry Bucknall on the newly bought Television Set gave many tips and ideas to the never had it so good generation.
Dad came home on the bus with many much admired pieces. First a bookcase, then a TV table, closely followed by a trendy new coffee table. After a request for more light to see her knitting more clearly while watching the newly screened Dixon of Dock Green, a daring new design for a standard lamp was sketched with angles and proportions carefully considered. I can just remember sitting on top of Dads bench while he painted the yellow ball by dipping it into the paint pot and hanging it up to dry.
When money became more plentiful Dad bought a shed and set up his own workshop, continuing to make and adapt much of the furniture and fittings in our house.
My father and the lamp
Eventually after a house move and damage to the lamps’ shade (I think my brother had just been given a new Whammo Ball) it got banished to the loft, where it languished for 20 years or so. While picking my way around the crowded loft-space in the mid 1980’s to install insulation (Dad had died some years earlier) I came across Dad’s handmade lamp, it needed a rub-down, polish and new electrical fittings, as well as a replacement shade. With all works complete it was resurrected to take pride of place behind my Mums chair, to throw light on her knitting again, but this time for her newly born Grandson!
Me and the lamp
I vaguely remember the lamp in the background of hours spent in my grandmothers living room. The part I recall most clearly are the two stabilising legs, jutting out at thirty degrees from each other, perhaps this memory is from knocking against them whilst playing hid and seek with my cousins.
Once my grandmothers Alzheimer’s had gotten very bad she moved in with my uncle and the lamp came with her. It was during the move – removed from behind a wingback chair that I saw it in more detail for the first time; its curious and complex taper as the shaft narrows and the odd, bent copper pipe that leads to the bulb holder. It was in a sorry state then. It wasn’t working, had no shade and the yellow ball had long since disappeared.
Later, when I inherited it I was able to get it working again with a new cable set. I polished up the wood, but did not sand out the marks and scratches. I also turned a new ball, and dipped it in yellow paint, just as my grandfather did. My addition to the lamp is the cork shade, I use cork a lot for the lamps I design and make, partly for its insulative properties, and partly because of the materials odd connection to the Isle of Wight, where three generations of my family now live.
I value being a part of the fabric of the lamp. I love its history, complexity and design flaws.