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ARTISANS: Spotlighting Makers of Handcrafted Goods : Whether She Is Creating a Victorian-Style Lampshade or Restoring an Original . . . : Artist's Heart Is in the Bright Place


LAKE FOREST — Like so many Victorian ladies, the lampshades created by Linda Panek are adorned with silk and lace, chiffon rosettes and colorful glass beads.

Only when the lamps are plugged in, however, do these beauties come to life. The glow of the lamplight shows to best advantage their fanned-out pleats, rosy lace overlays and ornate tapestries.

Under the name Antique Lampshade Co., Panek makes reproductions of Victorian-style lampshades from the early 1900s.

"The Victorian era's hot right now," says Panek, who even with three employees can scarcely keep up with the growing demand for her shades. At a recent trade gift show in Los Angeles, Panek walked away with three times her usual number of orders.

In a spare bedroom of her Lake Forest home are stacks of half-dressed shades that will soon be outfitted in silks and all the trimmings.

Among the styles of shades in her collection: A pink lady with rosettes, fringe and white lace; an elegant half-moon-shaped shade with black chiffon pleats; gold lace and gold beading; a sexy number in black lace with bright-pink flowers and beaded fringe with a pattern of pink roses, and a snow-white tulip shade with rosettes and iridescent white beading.

While these designs belong to her permanent collection, Panek also makes one-of-a-kind custom shades that are signed and dated like works of art.

Panek's closets and shelves are stocked with thrift-store and swap-meet finds that will eventually turn up in a custom shade: vintage chiffon and lace dresses, old Quaker tablecloths, tapestries and embroidered shawls.

"I originally wanted to use only antique fabrics, but it takes so much time to find them," Panek says. "Now I try to mix them with new fabrics that look old."

Panek makes her shades just as they were constructed in the Victorian era.

"I consider myself an artist," she says.

She starts by stretching her fabric on wire frames (made by a supplier in Oregon) that are replicas of shades from the early 1900s. These skeletons come in more than 200 different shapes, including tulips, bonnets, umbrellas and half-moons.

All of her lampshades are sewn by hand, just as they were in the Victorian era. Panek first wraps twill tape around the wire, then stitches pieces of silk lining to the tape, pulling tightly on the material to make a taut canvas.

The real artistry comes when she adorns the lamps with her chiffon rosettes and carefully chosen scraps such as a lace cameo or rose cut from one of the tablecloths.

Beading and fringe are the shades' crowning glory. Panek dyes the silk fringe to match the shade. She orders hand-strung beaded fringe by the yard from Italy. The beaded fringe comes in plastic or more expensive glass, and many styles are copies of antique fringe.

On rare occasions she uses authentic antique beading.

"This is priceless, in my opinion," says Panek, fingering a glass beaded fringe with a rose pattern that she is saving for a special lamp.

Her reproduction shades differ from their predecessors mainly by their colors. In the Victorian era, lampshades usually came in somber tones of brown, gold and black. Today people want designer colors that go with their decor, Panek says.

"Everyone is into the mauves and dusty blues," she says. She dyes the fabrics and fringe to accommodate modern tastes.

Once finished, the shades can be set on reproduction Victorian-style brass stands, some fitted with pieces of polished onyx.

Panek started her lampshade company in 1983, after she spotted some Victorian shades in a pizza parlor in her former home town of Portland, Ore.

"I fell in love with them," she says. "I went back again just to admire them and see how they were made."

Her experience with making lampshades was almost nonexistent, although she'd always been involved in arts and crafts.

"I used to macrame a lot," she said. "I did tons of plant hangers in the '70s, and I did lampshades, but I didn't like the way the light shined through."

She bought books about lampshades in craft stores and visited antique stores to see how the authentic Victorian shades were made.

"I experimented a lot and I tore up a lot," she says.

Her shades are now sold to gift shops and antique stores throughout the country and can be ordered directly from her catalogue. Panek has made more than 1,000 shades for Old Spaghetti Factory Restaurants International, which installed them in its restaurants all over the world.

The lamps vary in price depending on whether one orders the shades with the base and with beaded fringe. The top-of-the-line model with a standing base and large umbrella-shaped shade with pink rosettes and black lace costs about $600, while a small white tulip-shaped table lamp with beads is about $100. Shades without beading or a base range from about $70 to $375.

In addition to more than 200 shade styles and custom orders, Panek restores original Victorian shades to their former beauty.

For the Antique Lampshade Co. brochure, write to 27758 Santa Margarita Parkway, P.O. Box 229, Mission Viejo, Calif. 92691.

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