Kelly Lindsey has been an elementary school art educator for 20 years and teaches at the Snowden School by day. By night, she is the owner of Switch901, where she makes handmade lamps and adorable nightlights. She creates the lampshades, which are made of cyanotype prints, and the base, which is made of concrete and driftwood, collected by Kelly. “I started collaborating with a friend in the early 2000’s making lamps. I made the bases from cast concrete, and the shades were made from handmade paper by my friend Colleen Smith. We did this together for several years, circulating local markets and events.” You can check out some of her creations below!
Kelly received her BFA in Art Education in 2000. Her love has always been sculpture, so it makes sense that she has evolved into making lamps. When she was still in school, she had a sculpture professor that used to get on to her because she would make all of her sculptures functional instead of doing abstract pieces. “I guess I’ve always loved creating functional sculpture!” She went on to talk about how her experimentation has led her to where she is now. Her art is focused on nature and she loves incorporating it in any way she can, like driftwood and leaves.
Speaking of nature, I asked Kelly about where she gets her driftwood. She said, “The majority of the wood I use is from the Mississippi river right from our banks downtown. Sometimes I’ll collect pieces on camping trips.” Her friends and family also bring her pieces whenever they find something interesting enough. Kelly loves to find driftwood that stands out, especially when it creates an unusual shape or form. The weirder the better!
I also asked Kelly about what inspires her the most when it comes to creating her pieces. “I love seeing patterns and forms in nature. It’s always fascinating to me. When hiking with my family, I am always stopping to take photos or to point out foliage.” Kelly uses a lot of different leaf and flower shapes for her lampshades, which are done with a unique process invented in the mid 1800s called cyanotype printing. The process includes using a mixture of iron compounds exposed to UV light and washed in water oxidize. This is why the lampshades are always a nice vibrant blue. She also loves the adventures that her lamps have already had because of the driftwood she uses. It has been on a journey to her and it continues once she sells that piece to someone else.
I thought it was so unique how Kelly made everything for her lamps, from top to bottom. So I asked her how long it takes to finish one lamp. But she actually doesn’t make them one at a time. She said, “I group my work together in batches. I’ll cast about 20 concrete bases one day which takes several days to cure, then sand, seal, and add feet. I collect driftwood…It takes several days to do the woodwork, sealing, drilling, and arranging the pieces together. I’ll paint several pieces of paper at one time and then another day to cut and form the shades. I wait for the sunniest days to make my cyanotype prints. Once all the shades are formed I’ll coat them with resin, and use any leftover resin for casting my finials and creating nightlights.” But her favorite part isn’t preparing all the components, it’s putting them together to finally make a whole lamp. Sometimes, she has to fiddle with which base goes with which shade to get the right combination, but once it’s right, it’s so satisfying. All the work has led to a beautifully crafted piece of art.
Kelly has been making her lamps for a while now, so I asked her what she thought was in store for her and Switch901. She said, “I’m always open to change. I get bored easily and always trying new things and experimenting with processes. Who knows what I’ll be doing next!” I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to her Instagram to know what she’ll be making in the future.
Lastly, I asked Kelly what she loved most about being a small business in the Memphis area. “I love our community. Memphis is a big, small town. I’ve lived here all of my life and love my connections with our city.” I want to thank Kelly for taking time out of her day to talk with me about Switch901. Her business is so unique and like nothing else we have covered on our blog! You can find her on Instagram (@switch901) and at local markets around the city.
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