Interview with Oscuro NZ Lamps

This month I sat down with Claire from Oscuro to chat about the amazing lampshades that she creates. As you may well know, I actually collaborated with Claire on a lampshade project earlier in the year, so I was fascinated to hear all about her business.

Check out how she breathes life back into vintage or retro pieces, or simply just creates brand new beautiful lampshades...

Tell us a bit about yourself and your business

I am originally from the UK but I have lived in NZ for almost 19 years now. Life has been varied for me, with rewarding jobs, travel & motherhood - I am a Mum to 2 teenage lads. We have settled in Belmont, Auckland after living in the Bay of Plenty, as well as a short 'ping-pong'  period back in Derbyshire, UK to decide if we might return. That trip cemented our desire to be back here in New Zealand

It was actually upon this return that I discovered Oscuro's then owner, was wanting to step back and sell on. It seemed like the right time for me. I'd helped my husband over the years in his business and it had always been in my mind that I would like to take control of my own challenges. I knew I wanted to be hands on with something creative. The draw of learning something new, meeting interesting people and creating something of beauty, colour with a very practical use seemed a perfect fit for me. It was time to become my own boss. 

For many years Oscuro has been based in and around Devonport village. It has been going for around 22 years with different owners. The business continues the craft of hand making bespoke lampshades, creating contemporary or classical designs to order, for both commercial and residential customers nationwide and recovering of existing shades. We use all raw materials (apart from some fabrics/papers) that are made in NZ. This is something I remain loyal and passionate about.

When I took on the business 4 years ago, there was no website and minimal social media presence. However, there were historical repeat customers.  I have brought it up to date and continue to explore new ideas to go forward. Classes, kits and bespoke products are to be launched in 2019.

I now have accounts with all the big fabric house names but I am equally happy for individuals to bring in their own. I have also been very excited to be approached by NZ designers such as Maggie Lam with ideas to put their mark on lampshades. It's great to get involved and be part of other small business projects as well as supporting NZ handmade products and services.

What do you love about your work? 

I love what I do. Each day is different. There is always a new lampshade that appears, needing to be remade or to be created from scratch. Some customers know exactly what they are looking for in terms of size, shape, fabrics. Others come with a more open mind and we work together to decipher their current interior, their style and their budget.

Updating lampshades is a really easy way of spring cleaning an interior, and giving it a new look without a full renovation. Cushions have the same kind of impac. Often if I have fabrics left over, I make beautiful cushion covers, so that no fabric is wasted.

I enjoy the people aspect of my business, connecting to such an array of individuals. I enjoy variation, and no two days are the same. I work with members of the public as well as commercial businesses/interior designers, as far afield as Nelson & Queenstown. Occasionally, I also receive an order from Australia.

I am a do-er, I always have been. I like being hands-on and making something tangible, something with beauty that is useful. Coming originally from an art and design background, I feel like I have finally found my niche. But I still like to dabble with fine art. 

What is the most challenging thing or moment about your work?

There aren't many people around nowadays that can or are prepared to remake the older, elegant vintage lampshades. But you can be sure that there are plenty of these lampshades around and many people would love to bring them back to their former glory. They are often inherited from an older generation, and they may want to make them more contemporary with choice of fabric and trimmings.

I have the know how and a love of making these. They take a great deal of time and effort, lots of stretching of fabric to get the tautness, it can be very hard on the fingers!  But the results are always worth it and the longevity of these shades is something I am also passionate about.

Living in a male household,  it's somewhat of a delight to be escaping to my lampshade studio haven where I can quietly create - usually accompanied by my fur baby Fern, golden labrador. I open by appointment only but i am generally available in the studio based in Belmont each day. 

I understand that your lampshades are custom-made to the preference or requirements of your customers.  If you were making ready-made lampshades to sell, is there any particular colour or texture of fabric that you go for? Does trend play a big part in your design? Can you please tell us more on why you do or do not follow a trend, and how do you find your customers respond to it?

There has been a resurgence of feminine floral fabrics which are just mouthwatering. I would love to buy all the fabrics I see around and have to stop myself!  I just love it when someone comes in with a request for one...colour and texture. 

There is always an interest in the retro style lampshades, the 60's or 70's retro rocket lamps...I do produce some already made up lamps using sourced retro fabrics that are colourful and vibrant.  I don't particularly like to follow a specific trend as such. There has been a few years of very minimalist/masculine lamp structures which have 'shunned' the use of fabrics. I am pleased to see a resurgence of the fabric shades.

What would be the questions that you would ask me if I wanted you to custom-make a lampshade for me?  What information that you would need from me to help me to custom-make one that I really want.

Sometimes people buy a new complete lamp and find that the lampshade that comes with it is plain when they prefer pattern, or it doesn't do the base justice with its shape...Oscuro is often recommended to them for a visit to recover the shade. I'm happy to source fabrics or alternatively for customers to bring in their own.

It's always a good idea to bring in a lampbase to ensure correct measurements are taken to have the custom shade 'sit' correctly as well as to decipher correct shade fitting. Also, if a client is supplying their own fabric, it sensible to ask how much is needed and what thickness/type of fabric would suit. It is generally more than what is expected/perceived and some fabrics can be too bulky or too sheer.

Do you love Claire’s creative talent as much as we do? Then you can visit her website, or contact her directly if you have any questions. Claire is always happy to help.


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