These Victorian lampshades are a TikTok hit
The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, July 25, 2024

These Victorian lampshades are a TikTok hit
Ivy Karlsgodt pins fabric to a Victorian-style lampshade frame in her home studio in New York, May 6, 2024. Viewers of her videos online find Karlsgodt’s creations beautiful and her process meditative. (Justin J Wee for/The New York Times)

by Sejla Rizvic

NEW YORK, NY.- When Ivy Karlsgodt set out to make her first vintage-inspired lampshade, she took her time: She sketched out a design, gathered her materials and spent hours carefully cutting and stitching pieces of chiffon, silk and velvet onto a metal frame in the shape of a drooping tulip. The end result had gold and red fabrics overlaid with sheer pleating and long black fringe.

“I was very proud of how it turned out, and I’m still really proud of it,” Karlsgodt said.

It was December 2020, and she had recently lost her job as a costume maker when Broadway went dark at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was in search of a creative outlet. Stuck inside an apartment she shared with four roommates, she was looking online for ways to update her bedroom when she stumbled upon images of Victorian lampshades.

“I was like, I have to have one of these. This will complete the space,” Karlsgodt said. “But they’re expensive. So I thought I would try making one.”

After watching a few instructional videos, Karlsgodt picked up the basic techniques quickly, and she soon began her first project: the tulip-shaped lampshade, which still sits on her desk today. “I loved it immediately and felt like I wanted to make them forever,” Karlsgodt said. “I just think this style is so glamorous and romantic and kind of cozy at the same time.”

On a whim, she decided to film that first attempt and post it to TikTok.

The video has since garnered more than 60,000 views, and Karlsgodt quickly began gaining followers online. Today she has nearly 1.5 million across her social media accounts, under the name Ace of Shades.

“Working in the costume industry, I’m behind the stage,” she said. “I’m not very used to that.”

With the attention came requests for commissions. From her new apartment and studio in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, Karlsgodt now runs an online store where she sells her creations, which range in price from a few hundred dollars for a stock lampshade to nearly $1,500 for larger pieces or those that use rare antique materials.

Karlsgodt’s grandmother taught her to sew when she was young and helped her create her first costume, for a high school production of “Pride and Prejudice.” She discovered she liked working behind the scenes and seeing her designs come to life.

She gets the same feeling making lampshades. Karlsgodt says she enjoys both the production side, which draws on her skills in sewing and costume making, and the design side, which allows her to express herself creatively.

“Each lampshade is totally different,” Karlsgodt said. “Sometimes I’m going for a really light, ethereal type of look, sometimes something really warm that you want to read a book next to. And then sometimes I’m going for a kind of Gothic, heavy look.”

All are made of wire frames that she buys from welders who bend the metal into unexpected shapes — crescent moons, octagons — before she covers them in ornate details. “It’s hard to overdo it, in my opinion,” Karlsgodt said.

Though her videos condense the crafting process to just 60 seconds, one lampshade can take 10 to 30 hours to complete.

For each lampshade, Karlsgodt wraps the frame in cotton twill tape and then hand-sews each panel onto it using a looping whipstitch technique. She uses sumptuous pieces of silk charmeuse, chiffon, lace and velvet, and she adds appliqués, pleated accents and other details before finishing it with a long fringe.

She dyes many of her fabrics in her kitchen. Once a week she makes a trip to the garment district in Manhattan to buy supplies, and she sources distinct pieces online.

“We’re living in an era where you can get anything on Amazon for 20 bucks,” she said. “I think, in reaction to that, a lot of people are longing for art and handmade things.”

The slow and detailed construction process, her fans say, has a meditative quality.

“People tell me all the time that my videos calm them down,” Karlsgodt said. “On my last posting, I got multiple comments saying, ‘I had a really rough day today. I saw this tonight and I just feel so much better.’ I love that I can have that effect.”

Her lampshades are purchased not just by her online customers and interior designers but also by clients looking for historically accurate re-creations of specific lampshades: She was recently hired to make dozens of small sconce and chandelier shades for Fair Lane, the estate of Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan. Last year, stage designers for Stevie Nicks asked to license images of Karlsgodt’s lampshades to project behind the singer onstage.

Karlsgodt has also inspired others to try their hand at making similar creations. She receives multiple messages a day from people interested in learning and is considering teaching an online class.

“At one time, this might have been kind of a dying art,” Karlsgodt said, “but I feel like that is not the case anymore.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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