A Paper Powering Business: Papershades
Paper is quickly becoming a sustainable alternative in our homes. From paper flowers and cardboard plant pots, we are slowly changing for a more renewable, long lasting and eye-catching material source as part of our home décor.
We recently spoke with Rosalind of Papershades, a fast-growing paper lamp shade business owner, who showed us just how far paper can go in creating these original and beautiful home accessories.
How did you first come up with the concept of Papershades?
I’m a paper collage artist and love creating works on paper and on canvas. I use a huge variety of paper in my work – tissue, wrapping, wallpaper, torn magazines and packaging. A few years ago I had a successful show of big colourful floral collages. I was asked whether I would make them into cards or posters. I thought, no, I’d like to make ‘thing’ from them. I looked around my house and saw that my lamp shades were very dull, tattered, lifeless things. I thought, ‘why can’t lamp shades be art – my art?’ And then I thought, ‘why can’t they be made of paper?’ I’m a paper collage artist, surely I could find a way to present my work in a different way?
Why did you start this business venture?
Having the ‘lightbulb’ moment about lamp shades was the easy bit. It took a good year of messing around with paper in my studio to work out just how I could use paper to create a lamp shade. Paper is wonderfully strong when it’s folded or curved – just think about how tough a rolled up magazine or newspaper can be. I wanted to find a way to exploit this strength.
Eventually I realized that good cartridge paper, when it’s curved, is self-supporting. I just need something to hold it in place. That’s when I reinvented the wheel – twice! I created two wheel-shaped armatures which grip the paper panels and keep them in place. There’s a large ‘wheel’ at the bottom and a smaller one at the top to create that familiar skirt shape which makes a lamp shade so attractive.
Once I’d cracked the formula, I realized that I could create any number of designs on a single piece of A4 card and then print it onto five panels of paper which would be held together with my wheels. I finally had my product and something I could sell.
How did you get started with your business?
Starting a business for a product which the world has never seen before was quite a challenge. I’m not a designer, I’m an artist, so it was quite a challenge to work out the packaging, create the website and source all the materials. The wonderful people at G.F Smith, a paper manufacturer based in Hull, were very patient with me. I knew I had to get the right paper. We worked on so many types – some were too thin, too thick, unsuitable for print on or not translucent – and then we found a fabulous cartridge paper which was just right.
I started my business with a range of floral designs, based on the artwork which had been so popular at my art show and have never looked back. I now create designs using all kinds of paper and the ranges include themes such as Nostalgia, Culinary, Literary and the most popular of all is the Places range. I create impressions of counties, cities, regions and towns. People love having a lamp shade which reflects the place where they live or is of somewhere which has special meaning.
Are paper lamp shades a popular alternative?
I think paper lamp shades are a brilliant alternative to the traditional fabric ones. They are so versatile and, with a Papershade, if you want to change the décor in your room you can dismantle your paper lamp shade (it fits into an A4 envelope) pop it in a drawer and assemble a different one.
During the summer I love having bright, colourful lamp shades which bring the garden into a room and in the winter, I’ll change them to a warmer, more cosy design, and at Christmas I’ll put on my festive Papershades.
In your opinion, what makes paper lamp shade a better alternative to other materials?
If you want to create a different atmosphere in a room or brighten up a dark corner, then a Papershade is great choice. They look so pretty whether the lights are on or off. And, as I mentioned, the versatility is great. They’re also very affordable – just £25 (including postage and packing).
During lockdown I loved hearing from people who had ordered a Papershade and asked me to send it to a member of their family or special friend, as a present. I would pop in a friendly note with the gift and that cheered everyone up.
From your website I noticed that you also offer Papershades workshops. What usually happens in these workshops?
One of the best aspects of creating Papershades is that I realized that anyone can use paper collage to create a design for a lamp shade. I started off by inviting friends to sit round the kitchen table. I discovered that EVERYONE could do it and the results were fabulous.
Now I hold workshops in my studio in north London. Everyone sits round the table with the most terrifying thing on the planet in front of them – a blank piece of paper! But, after a very small amount of introduction from me everyone starts riffling through piles of tissue paper, wallpaper, wrapping paper, packaging, magazines, old books, maps and all the bits of paper I collect all the time. They make a great pile of the paper they are drawn to and gradually whittle down the fragments to create a design on an A4 piece of card. You don’t need any artistic skill just an open mind and enthusiasm for trying something new.
Once the designs are finished, I print them on the spot onto five panels of Papershades paper and everyone assembles their lamp shade. The expression of beaming delight on faces reflects the beauty of the finished Papershades when they are placed on lamp stands and switched on.
No two Papershades are ever the same. I always provide lots of tea and coffee and bake a cake so these workshops become a kind of safe space where complete strangers can get to know each other and share their stories. I’m so looking forward to having the workshops start up again now lockdown is over.
End of Interview.