A local artist’s journey from cottage industry to international business is just one example of how hard work and dedication can pay off long term.
In 1995, Lynn Melanson began a journey that changed her life.
“I was in somebody’s home and there was a Victorian-style paper shade and I just saw it at a social event and said ‘wow that’s really cool, it’s kind of plain jane but I think I’m going to try this medium and take it to a different level.’ And that’s what I did,” said Melanson.
“At that point I was kind of ready for a change but that’s why I did it slowly, I just didn’t dive right into it,” said Melanson, who was working in rehab and geriatrics at the time.
Melanson said it took her about five years of practice and learning more skills until her craft became a business for her.
“Through trial and error I just got better and better and modernized my shades into a whole selection of divisions in my medium of rice paper,” she said.
Melanson, who had no background in art before starting her light shade creations, uses strictly rice paper to form her shades. She incorporates elements and shapes from nature to create themes for her work.
“About 75 per cent of my work is nature and wildlife themed,” said Melanson.
“Wildlife and nature has been a big component of my work since day one, without a doubt.”
She grew up in Ontario where her family had a cottage in Algonquin Park.
“I grew up surrounded by wildlife and nature… I really believe that had an affect on me.”
However, what may have had the biggest impact on her ability to create and continue developing her craft was learning how to weld.
“What it did was it took me from (creating) plain shades to going to three or four different other levels. From organic to abstract to modern, it just gave me so much freedom to create some really unique stuff,” said Melanson.
Since then, Melanson’s Shades of Nature have spread internationally making their way to the US, Europe and the Middle East to name a few.
She said a lot of her exposure can be attributed to her website and even Facebook.
“It’s all the networking of Facebook. People find me off Facebook, that’s how the lighting magazine found me,” said Melanson, referring to an October cover shot on the New York lighting magazine Enlightenment.
“You will always need lighting no matter what, wherever you live, wherever you go. It’s a functional art,” added Melanson.
“A lot of people that support and buy it just want something really unique and a piece of nature in their own home… it calms them, it feels really comfortable, it’s not overly bright or dominating their space. It’s just a real calming effect.”
The evolution of Melanson’s craft has brought her to her most recent division of shades that she calls relit lamps. The project, which started in May, uses second-hand lamp bases and recreates them with new shades.
“Reused, plus reinvented, equals relit lamps,” she said, adding that because the lamps didn’t reach a landfill, they’ve been able to have a new life.
“I think over time anything does develop and grow if you’re persistent and believe in yourself. I knew it was going to develop and reach an international level, but it [took] almost a decade to reach there with a functional form.”