Limitless Lamps

The need to make

If you find yourself in Brattleboro, VT, take a drive down to the Fulcrum Arts Center and Gallery and be amazed by the diversity of craft created by local artists, including former Vermont resident Lisa McCoy known for her eclectic and otherworldly lamps.

A self-professed “maker” McCoy writes that her deepest sense of spiritual rightness is “fed assembling objects and lost in projects creating harmonious beauty.” The result in creating and assembling is a varied collection of lamps and lampshades that are pieced together from odds and ends she finds, but also incorporating techniques from painting, building, and graphic design. She says her art lamps are “a natural trajectory born from my early school arts, through 31 years of oil painting on an almost daily basis, 20 years of design and computer graphics, and building a custom timber-frame home from the drawings up in Southern Vermont.”

McCoy spent her childhood at a number of military bases. From the ages of six through ten, she liven in Japan. Her memories range from endless hours of playtime to Japanese horror films to protestors outside the military base. It was also during that time that design entered her world—parks and markets—that fed her spiritual and inner artist.

Later as a teen, she relocated to Washington, DC where she roamed the capital’s parks, viewed monuments and the country’s national art collection where she further developed her reverance for traditional art and craftmanship.

I never fear cannibalizing and reconfiguring. Which is not to say that I don’t respect the integrity of beautiful antiques

By the 1980s, McCoy immersed herself in art. First at SUNY Purchase and later at the National Academy and The Arts Student League in New York City. “Both were studio schools built on the academic European atelier tradition of studying with the same teacher until you got it right. There I could paint the same model for six weeks, and honed my eye/hand/materials chops to a level that eventually allowed me to cross over completely into a boundary world between the overlays of expression and execution. My art training resolved into art making that married, and still does, precision rendition with the process of intuitive expression and mixed materials,” she writes.

The process in creating her lamps involves planning, playing and embracing accidents. She notes, “Construct and deconstruct in turn. Start and end with the basics but interject a load of novelty in between. Put the finished piece away and come back at least once for refinement and revision. Stop there though. It’s a slippery slope this process thing!”

All her lamps start with special find from an auction, flea market, or an estate sale. “I never fear cannibalizing and reconfiguring. Which is not to say that I don’t respect the integrity of beautiful antiques. A really exquisite antique fixture is both beyond the reach of my wallet and my impulse to destroy. There are plenty of existing vintage objects that fall outside of this threshold and that’s where I start.”

For years, MCoy used paint and mixed media to create the surfaces of distressed metal. However, finding corrosion charming she created that look with chemicals, but she continues to create different surface appearances with paint, her preferred medium. Other materials she has incorporated have been polymers because of their versatility and durbaility. “I’m not a big fan of plastic in the regular world of household objects, but I have to say the possibilities for surfacing and complementing metals are endless. One of my approaches is to layer and extrude polymer clay through mesh, using it kind of like a hardware cloth. The mesh adds a strengthening support to the thin layers of clay, and the clay creates a delicious snake skin effect through the mesh openings.”

When she isn’t using creating textures with chemicals, MCCoy has turned to age-old textile technique: Felting. “It’s a wonderful housing for objects and colored thread as well as being compellingly transparent when backlit. It opens like a skin. My lamp shades are going to get more outrageous too. Mesh, metal sheet, photo transfers on parchment and epoxied papers. Just no limit really.”

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