A vintage art nouveau lamp – from dumpster-diving (literally) Laura

lauras-lamp.jpgLaura’s entry in our Found Objects Found Art contest…oh, and be sure to read on, how she ends upside down in a dumpster!

She writes:

Hi Pam,

One day, David & I were on our way “thrift-storing” when we drove by our locally owned hardware store and saw people with lamps lined up AROUND the building. Considering my obsession with lamps – I rebuild, reburbish, make and collect lamps, we doubled-back and HAD to see what was going on.

Turns out the hardware store & our public electric company had a promotion going, bring in your old lamp and they would trade you for a new one. (The new one was so bland and generic that no one with any taste would’ve wanted it.)

So Dave and I go ’round back where the people are handing off there old lamps and the electric company guys were THROWING them into a giant crate. CraSH, BaNG, cRAck… You get the picture.

I asked the men what they were going to do with the lamps in the crate and was told they were to be dumped. I then asked if I could have some of them. “Sure, help yourself.”

To the right and in the back, laying on the ground, I see this lamp on its side and squealed (quietly) . I am wondering why it’s not in the crate. “What about this one?, I asked. One of the men, (mind you- he certainly didn’t look like a man that would appreciate such a thing) takes a look at me and then the lamp. He says, “I was saving that aside for myself.”

Heart sinking, it must have been visible on my face. He smiles and says, “No, I just couldn’t see it broken. You can have it.”

“THANK YOU!!” My free Art Nouveau lamp is one of my favorites.

We actually ended up loading the van with many barrel-shaped lampshades and a few other cool lamps. Hey – just made their work a little less, saved a few precious lamps from landfills and made Dave and I REALLY happy!!

(Dave’s note: at one point Laura was upended in said crate. At 5’1″ all I could see were her feet! lol)


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  1. RetroRuth says

    This is a totally wicked lamp, Laura! I am on the lookout for vintage pink lamps right now, and I am sooooo jealous!

  2. astrosonical says

    That lamp story is wonderful, but it makes me sick to think about these people chucking obviously great old lamps for this new junk. I inherited a festive ’50s job from a friend’s house after he passed on. The mate was dumpstered! The friend’s sister thought they were ugly anyhow. I can submit a halfway decent picture of it, I’d love to find more of the same. Laura’s new lamp is really spiffy!

  3. Tikimama says

    This sure says a lot about our out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new society. What a waste. I bet a lot of us reading your story wish we were with you that day. Can you imagine the people in line with their jaws dropped watching all of us excitedly picking up their throw-aways?! I would love to see a pic of Laura’s feet sticking out of the dumpster!! And it’s a BEAUTIFUL lamp!

  4. says

    Great story & great find! (It makes me miss all the opportunity to dumpster dive in nyc!). Amazing people are so quick to jump on “store bought style” rather than just find the interesting stuff that already exists!

  5. atomicbowler says

    I wish I had gotten a pic! For that matter, I wish I had gotten a pic of the fellow who had saved the lamp out, you’d be very surprised!

    There was this huge pattern-printed frosted glass lamp sorta pin-shaped with a 10″ harp…way atomic, you know? That was the lamp that caught my eye in someone’s hands as we drove by in the first place. They were still in line but ever-closer to the handoff point…I had Laurs pitch me a POS already-exchanged ugly Walmart junker from the crate and hustled back up the line, made a little trade with the lady. She didn’t care long as she had a lamp to trade in! With a barrel shade on it, sucker’s almost 3 feet talll! Think I sent Pam a pic of it once. I had a SHOPPING CART and L had me running back and forth from crate to van with shades, lamps. I was sure she was going to lacerate crap out of herself down in that crate with all those broken lamps any minute and it actually took some coaxing to get her to quit and get up out of there!;)
    PS–You really CAN fit an amazing amount of junk in the new Honda Odyssey, and it can watch DVD’s and have its’ own temp setting, too! Keeps the lamps from getting restless…

    • Pam Kueber says

      lololol atomic bowler, imagining this scene has has made my day for sure. can you re-send me a pic of the big lamp you’re talking about? pam

  6. anita says

    Love the stories here. I too share the lamp addiction, though Nathan doesn’t understand it he tolerates it well. II’ve had my eye on one similar to this on ebay but didn’t bid b/c I was thinking “one more lamp? do I really need it?” but after this inspirational story I’m heading back to ebay…. 🙂

  7. Lisa c says

    I like it!! The lamp looks in good condition and i assume it still works. I am impressed with everything about it and wish it was mine. I want to dumpster dive.

  8. Barb Scott says

    I was hoodwinked into giving away an original Barbie that way long years ago. It was probably in the early to mid-1960s when the NEW Barbie doll came out. I originally had one with the black and white striped bathing suit. A department store in town was running a promotion to “bring in your old Barbie doll” for a newer one…..aaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh. Of course, I was only a youngster at the time and didn’t know any better! : )

  9. Darla says

    I love this story!! It reminds me of the recurring dream I have of just stumbling upon all sorts of vintage treasures. For free! 🙂

  10. atomicbowler says

    retropink57 – I collect doilies (along with many other things (hankies, crocheted blankets, Barbies, depression glass, aprons, etc.) Funny you like my curtain. I make lots of curtains out of vintage sheets. I lucked out and found 2 twin flat sheets with the same pattern – one pink, one yellow., the blue stripe was actually a very expensive new cut of fabric I just HAD to have. I cut my twin sheets into two to make narrow panels. I have 6 different (sheet) panels in my shabby chic bedroom. You should see the savaged window topper with antique door knobs that the panel you see is attached to. One of my pride and joys…’cuz I made it…

  11. retropink57 says

    atomicbowler – Ooooooh, I am nuts about vintage linens and doilies, especially sheets! Most of mine are tucked away in the closet but you have inspired me to turn them into curtains!!! I have snatched up so many for next to nothing yet they stay hidden away and the whole reason I got them was for their pretty prints. I would really need to line them with something to make them heavier since my windows are so terribly drafty. Maybe I should sew two sheets together? I bet your window topper is to die for!

  12. atomicbowler says

    Wow, thanks for all the wonderful comments. The best thing about the lamp is the finial at the top.

    Yes, the lamp works great. It’s next to my side of the bed, so it better! and not a chip on the lamp anywhere. It truly is nearly pristine.

    If Dave and I ever get our pics up on flickr, I’ll post a picture of the topper over my bed. BTW- The dozens of hankies… I could never bring myself to cut them, so I just hung them diagonally over a rod as a valance. Best thing, I could take them down, mix ’em up, etc. And my apron collection. I made a valance our of those for the dining room window. It turned out really cool. just used the old fashtion squeeze curtain clips on a rod and tied the apron ties to each other. Ya gotta see it.

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