This local artist lights up rooms with his reclaimed lamps.
What it is A line of lamps, made out of found, reclaimed and repurposed items, by local artist Ted Harris
Who he is Harris has always been an artist (he has a bachelor’s of fine arts in illustration from Northern Illinois University), but making lamps and furniture started as a hobby. “I was doing commercial advertising art for about eight years in downtown Chicago,” he says. “But I also had a home in Michigan and, just for fun, I started making lamps for the space. Guests would come over and see them and want one.” When Harris started taking custom orders, the hobby became more of a part-time job. “Then, around 1998, I started making more lamps and doing less illustration, and here I am,” he says.
What he makes One of Harris’s visitors was Beverly Hammel, who offered to show his lamps (made of items such as globes, bowling balls and chair legs) in the windows of her Lincoln Park showroom, Beverly Hammel Kitchen & Bath (1216 W Webster Ave, 773-529-8630). He started to get even more orders, but things really took off when a friendship blossomed with Larry Vodak, owner of Scout in Andersonville, shortly after the store opened. “I walked into the store and we started talking about lighting,” Harris says, “And before I knew it, I was making lamps for him.” His first solo show at the store this past August resulted in selling 23 lamps on opening night. Of course, it didn’t hurt that The New York Times ran a preview piece, and a customer flew in from New York just to make a purchase after reading the article. Popular pieces include his lamps made of globes (“They started out as hanging lamps and then someone asked if it could be a table lamp, and I thought, Why not?”), large coils from cars and other items he finds. “I Dumpster dive, and I’m a thrift-store junkie,” Harris says, citing Unique (locations around the city, uniquethriftstore.com) as one of his favorite thrift shops. Sometimes friends will give him objects because they know he’ll be able to make something out of them. For instance, after receiving a bag of Lucite ice cubes, Harris decided to make a lamp out of a vintage ice bucket, filling it with a bulb and the cubes. “It had a really nice glow,” he says.
Why we like them Harris gets bonus points because these lamps are ecofriendly, but they’re also really cool pieces of art and conversation pieces. He showed us a lamp made out of a hanging light fixture that’s now a glass box on wheels filled with glass balls and a light bulb, called “Bubbles.” “This is my favorite one,” he says. “And I wasn’t going to sell it, but I wanted to show it [at a recent open studio], and it sold.”