Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Luke and I’m 23 years old. I’m the guy behind Luke Lamp Co., which is a collection of lighting and home decor that I design and build by hand here in the suburbs of New York.
Like most males, I enjoy Bruce Willis movies, grilling and power tools. Unlike most males, I have no idea how fantasy football works, I have cried during more than one romantic comedy, I would never put Tabasco sauce on anything and I happen to think scented candles are awesome.
Most of who I am is thanks to my fantastic and beautiful girlfriend, who loves me even though I store lamp parts in my living room and a tool chest the size of a sleeping cow in my kitchen. She keeps me grounded, organized and creative; she also bakes cookies for me in times of need.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I create, I tend to make quite a mess of things – the kind of mess that leaves broken lightbulbs in my dish rack, sawdust on my dining table and clumps of manila rope shavings on my stovetop – so when I’m not creating, I’m usually cleaning up the disarray caused by my creating.
When I’m not creating or cleaning up after myself, I love going for drives up north with my girlfriend, exploring abandoned places and flea markets, playing guitar and taking photos. In the winter I snowboard and in the summer I spend as much time as I can on the lake. Any activity involving movement, fresh air and my favorite girl is alright with me.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
As anyone who has ever known me, worked with me, or generally spent more than 15 minutes with me can attest, I am like a house plant: I need to be fed and watered frequently and I am pretty much incapable of doing it myself. So, I would title my memoir The Various Folks Who Have Kept Me Fed, because that single theme could connect all of the fantastic people I have known, worked and spent time with. Plus, memoirs really benefit from strong interwoven themes. I learned that last bit from my high school Honors English teacher (shout out to Mrs. Merkel).
Where does your inspiration come from?
My girlfriend often says that I have the attention span of a caffeinated squirrel, and though I’d love to disagree, I couldn’t possibly because she is (as she generally is) completely right. I notice the strangest things and get inspired at the oddest moments. My salvaged wood lamps and iPad stands, for example, were both born from a pile of old decking wood I found on the side of the road when driving home from work.
I have a habit of trying to take in all of my surroundings at once, and I don’t mean this exclusively in a visual sense: I literally take my surroundings into my car, bring them home and furnish my apartment with them. I have a kind of industrial, dumpster chic decor thing going on (I’m ahead of the curve when it comes to interior design trends). I have an old folding ladder as my bookshelf, a collection of vintage ricers (don’t ask) that adorn my kitchen cabinets, a vintage timecard holder that serves as a magnetic photo frame and a seven-foot-tall street lamp pulled from a scrapyard to illuminate my bedroom. You know, all the normal stuff people use to decorate their apartments. My guy friends tell me that once I’m married all this stuff will have to go, but I know they’re wrong. At least I hope they’re wrong. They’re wrong, right?
What does handmade mean to you?
To me, handmade means people. It means being intimately connected to every step of the awesome process that turns a whole bunch of things into a more singular thing. I don’t normally wax philosophical, but I do truly enjoy the personal connections forged while making my various lamps, vases and signs, from the incredible folks at Brewers (my local hardware store), to the absolutely invaluable guys of A.S.A.P. (my fantastic shipping place), to my supportive and encouraging girlfriend. Handmade means all of those people working together in harmony to get a simple lamp design from my head, to my hands, to my customers’ doorstep.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
Back in my competitive Lego construction days (I was not born to be a winner, so those days were few), my amazing mom was always there to wipe away my tears when a Gigundo-Super-Rocket-Cannon spaceship or Supreme-Whitewater-Alien-Armor castle that I had spent 19 hours building was destroyed by an errant foot or gerbil. She would always encourage me to pick up the pieces and start again: she reassured me that “it’s always better the second time around,” and I swear this has stuck with me ever since.
While my mom was always my emotional support, my dad made sure I learned the man lessons of life. He taught me everything I know about tools, organization and cleaning up messes. He taught me how to navigate the aisles of Lowe’s, and he let me comb through dumpsters and old warehouses every time he brought me to work with him. So, my mom and dad – both literally and figuratively – I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
I can vividly remember the last time I tried very hard to be someone I was not. I was 19, and in an attempt to show off my physical prowess to some female friends of mine, I ended up shirtless, electrocuted, momentarily paralyzed and wrapped around the top of a 16-foot-tall street lamp in a local park. This experience taught me two things: it’s much safer to just be myself, and I should stay far away from electricity.
Since then, I have focused more on my creative pursuits and less on displaying my physical prowess. Luke Lamp Co. is the latest endeavor to arise out of these changes, and though I still accidentally electrocute myself every once in a while, I no longer climb streetlamps without a shirt on.
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process tends to run backwards. I’ll find some part or piece somewhere that catches my eye, and I’ll sit down with a cup of coffee and scribble illegible drawings (I’m no artist) in one of my torn-up pocket notebooks until I’ve come up with a design that I think I can run with. Then (usually four or five Band-Aids later) I have something entirely different from my original plan, yet usually pretty cool, nonetheless.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I have dim childhood memories of standing next to my grandfather as he tinkered with steam train models and cuckoo clocks in his small basement workshop. He was a brilliant man and a talented violinist. Unfortunately, I was too young then to truly appreciate those times, so it would be neat to go back to see him with my older eyes and learn a thing or two.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My most cherished possession is actually a collection of possessions. Over the time we’ve been dating, my girlfriend has made me a collection of miniature clay figures and quotes that represent various inside jokes and fun adventures we’ve had. Right now I have them all displayed in an old typographer’s tray in my apartment, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the whole world. She won’t admit it but she is very creative. If she were to open up Taylor Clay Co., it would totally blow my Luke Lamp Co. out of the water. Guaranteed.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
Just as I often fail to recognize when I need food, I often fail to recognize when I’m in a creative rut. Fortunately for me, I’ve got two supportive, encouraging and observant females in my life (my girlfriend and my mom), and they make sure to give me a kick in the behind or a pat on the back, depending on which one I need most. My girlfriend and I also try to spend our days off in the great outdoors. We have a favorite waterfall up north where the pines are an unbelievable shade of green, ,the water is a clear steel blue, and the air has a palpable clarity to it. Being with the girl I love in a place like that fixes everything.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
In ten years, I’d like to be living in a nice little house with a brunette wife (I’ve got someone in mind). I’d like to have a garage so I have a place for my giant tool chest (other than my kitchen) and a dark green pickup truck in the driveway, so my lady doesn’t have to sit amongst lamp parts and salvaged wood everytime we drive somewhere.