Snag One-of-a-Kind Lamps from Past Into Light

A Rochester duo turns antique parts into cutting-edge lamps

“Baby Boomer” table lamp using a 1960s Kodak Duaflex camera, black iron pipe and fittings, #3 oiler from a steam-driven engine, sewing machine flywheel and agricultural seed planter for a base. $375

Courtesy photo

Three years ago Michael Case said to her husband Reggie, “Hey, Honey, can you make a lamp like this one?” Thus started their new avocation/business, Past Into Light. Reggie is a plumber by trade and works the three-dimensional angle and actual lamp assembly, while Michael oversees the linear design elements. She says, “A woman is not going to let her husband buy something for the home unless she likes it.” It’s helpful that they both love to go to flea markets and antique stores looking for turn-of-the-century agricultural tools, boiler parts, surveyors’ transits and gauges —  interesting metal items from the mid-century that are essential components of their lights.

Michael recognizes they didn’t invent the aesthetic, but she feels this isn’t just taking an old item, adding a cord and a shade, and saying, “And now we have a lamp.” Past Into Light lamps are a carefully balanced composition of black iron pipe and items that have lost their usefulness but remain functional or at least beautiful. Their work embodies the message, “Yesterday’s technology is today’s art.” Plus, many of the appended items —  cameras or calculators — have moveable parts. The castoffs look happy to be once again admired and even touched.

The challenge is to also make the lamp stable and safe. Reggie uses grounded wire and ensures the base is broad enough to balance the array of antiques arranged above. Wire cages as shades are outfitted with Edison bulbs for warm light, while shades designed for down light can use any modern bulb. If new parts are used, they often are given an aged patina to look compatible with their antique counterparts.

The couple started showing their work at the Rochester Fairgrounds in the fall of 2015, but usually have work on display at The Barn at Todd Farm in Rowley, Mass. The onsite Sunday flea market is one of the couple’s favorite hunting grounds for forgotten technology. Their work will also, again, be displayed at the Rochester Fairgrounds Autumn Spectacular on October 7-9.

Since all of the lamps are one-of-a-kind, the Cases are venturing into custom work using family heirlooms that have meaning and memories for a new generation. The conflated pieces are turning a flattering light onto the past.

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