Launching my research about where to find mid century modern style fiberglass lamp shades, readers quickly pointed out that I needed to put a big spotlight on Meteor Lights — the San Francisco-based company that has been making fiberglass lamp shades fulltime since 1996. I believe this makes Meteor Lights the longest-running maker of fiberglass lamp shades for the retail market today! I immediately dialed up Meteor Lights owner Rob to find out more about his shades. Indeed, he is an experienced artisan who stains the color and paints the design onto each shade by hand. They are glowing gorgeous!
Fiberglass lamp shades in virtually any mid century design
Being in the business for so long, Rob obviously was quite knowledgeable about fiberglass lamp shade styles and designs from back in the day. He told me that in the 1950s, when these lamp shades first became popular, there were (1) a lot of different types of fiberglass laminate parchments available and (2) different manufacturers applied the colors and designs different ways.
Rob says his method — coloring the parchment and then applying its graphic design — both steps, by hand — was one of the methods used historically. Screen-printing was another method. But, he prefers the control and results he gets from hand-painting.
The fiberglass parchment he starts with today is available only in a bright white. So, he has developed a “secret sauce” recipe of pigment in a medium that (1) ensures that the colored light shade remains translucent and glowy — which is critical in the appeal of these shades — and (2) means he can custom-color any shade for any project, for example, matching any Pantone chip.
He also has developed techniques to make a shade look faded, if the buyer prefers the vintage look. Yes, as if you’ve had the shade for 60 or 70 years — I love this idea!
After coloring the parchment, Rob then hand paints one of 20+ possible designs onto the shade. See the pattern choices for his fiberglass lamp shades above, but I’m assuming the choices really are unlimited.
Rob told me that he has background in industrial design, acrylic fabrication and light manufacturing. He demurred when I called him an artist, saying instead that what his customers appreciate most is his attention to detail. Wait times are currently around eight weeks, given this personalized service.
Designs inspired by Abstract Expressionist painters
Above: What gorgeous shade! Note the use of two colors — gold and black — in the design, for added dimension. I found Rob’s explanation of the genesis for this style interesting. From the Meteor Lights website:
The free-form web design inspired by the American Abstract Expressionist painters (especially Jackson Pollock) was characteristic of 1950s modern lighting design. Black and white webs are shown here on all tiers of an XL (18″ diameter) three-tier lampshade (which can also be configured as a pendant lamp or ceiling light fixture). We can make this shade in any color combination (or in one color for all three tiers); Very interesting lighting effects can be achieved incorporating non-1950s colors into otherwise period-authentic lighting. Combining design elements from different eras is a great way create fresh, unique, and inspiring design….
I love me my Jackson Pollock: “… Deny the accident!”
Another sign of quality that Rob said to look for: His fiberglass lamp shades are bound with lacing 1″ apart. It would be quicker and cheaper to do the lacing at wider intervals — but he chooses the narrower lacing for authenticity and a more finished look. I have three sets of vintage fiberglass shades. I went around with a ruler and measured the lacing. Indeed, the lacing intervals were 1″ to 1-3/8″, depending on the size of the shade.
Thank you, Rob, for talking to me, and for permitting me to show some of your work on the blog! Beautiful!
Where to buy these beautiful lamp shades: