Lighting Up A Room : Vermont’s “Lampshade Lady” Turns A Passionate Hobby Into A Unique Business

Romantic Homes

May 2010

we love | artisan

By Bonnie Flamm

(view PDF version for photos, courtesy of Random House) 

Hey, Lampshade Lady!” It’s something Judy Lake hears often, whether she gets bumped into at the grocery store or stopped while walking down the street—and she doesn’t mind it at all. In fact, she has come to embrace the quirky moniker as a token of her success as one of just a few custom lampshade makers still crafting the items the old-fashioned way, selecting each fabric piece herself and making them by hand.

As a child growing up in Maine, Judy was influenced by both of her grandmothers, who were artisans themselves: Grammy Gulian was a world-class knitter and Grandma Sawyer was a master jewelry maker. Judy’s mother was equally inspirational, taking her daughter to hundreds of Arts and Crafts fairs and supporting her creative tendencies. Those early years resulted in Judy’s own love of working with her hands sewing, quilting, spinning wool, making macramé and tapestry weaving.

After majoring in Studio Art in college, Judy worked for a time at an upscale gourmet kitchen store. It was there that she found a mentor who advised her to “work at something unique and do something you love.” That advice convinced Judy she needed to be in business for herself and that whatever “it” was, it had to be handcrafted and one-of-a-kind.

Years later, when Judy and her husband, Carson, moved to tiny Pawlet Village, Vermont, so Carson could pursue a career in the hotel industry, Judy found that she had something entirely foreign to her: time on her hands with nothing to do. She found a local lampshademaking class, but rather than enroll she convinced the teacher that she did not need any formal training, and she was sent home with a few supplies and how to instructions. The genre was an instant fit, and soon Judy’s newest hobby was turning into a real passion; she found herself making lampshades for virtually everyone she knew.

When friends and family began asking for more, Judy did not hesitate to take her obsession one step further. In 1998, she opened Lake’s Lampshades in a quaint pink cottage in the heart of Pawlet. Not only did she have a charming locale in which to offer her wares, she had built a studio where people could find everything necessary to make unique lamps. After her clients became inspired to customize their own lamps, they began requesting formal training, and Lake’s Lampshades began offering seasonal classes and work shops. With her passion for her craft growing, Judy also started a Web site and a blog where she posts how-to projects, details her constant search for new design ideas and lists the schedule for her upcoming events.

“It’s been 11 years since I set up shop, and I’m just as excited today about making lampshades as I was that day I began cutting and piercing almost two decades ago,” she says.

In her recently released book, The Lampshade Lady’s Guide to Lighting Up Your Life, Judy shares her custom lampshade-making experiences with more than 50 how-to projects. The shades range from simple to elaborately embellished shades.

“My goal,” Judy says, “is for readers to realize just how important a well-dressed lamp can be to a decorating scheme.”

Lake’s Lampshades
60 School St.
Pawlet Village, Vermont 05761
(802) 325-6308 •


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