BY MAGGIE BEAMGUARD
Inspiration can come from the most ordinary things. Before Paul Lear moved to the Sandhills from Vermont, it was a maple syrup bottle that sparked his imagination.
While most people would probably associate a maple syrup bottle with pancakes, a lightbulb went off in Lear’s mind and he thought “lamp!”
A jack of all trades, Lear built houses in Vermont and is handy around a construction site. That’s where he picked up wiring skills and started restoring old lamps as a hobby. He also worked in the maple syrup industry for a dozen years.
It was a natural progression of his vocation and talent that led to his first set of custom lamps made from maple syrup jugs he handled every day.
He migrated to North Caroline to escape the dark, harsh Vermont winters, bringing his resplendent gifts with him. He works part time at Lowe’s Home Improvement. But lamps are his side-gig.
It didn’t take long before he replaced syrup bottles with golf bags.
“When I moved down here, I was trying to think of things related to the golf industry that would work,” Lear said. “I started making some floor lamps out of golf bags.”
He made several golf bag floor lamps for customers who inherited their father’s old equipment. “They have this golf bag that they don’t want to get rid of, but they really didn’t have anything they can do with it.”
Upcycling appeals to Lear.
“I think that’s always been an interest to me,” he said “How can I use something that’s going to get thrown away and make it into something that people can use? That is gratifying.”
Lear gets many requests to make lamps from other inherited items, especially vases. People have objects that they might not have any use for, but it belonged to a loved one. Lear can take that item and transform it into something that can be enjoyed.
What started as a hobby has become an enjoyable side job. “You have to enjoy anything that you do,” Lear said. “If you have a hobby you enjoy and can make a living on it, then it really isn’t work.”
Seeing customers enjoy the finished product is Lear’s favorite part of what he does. It’s the rare piece that he wishes he could keep for himself. “I’ve gotten my happiness by making them.”
And he has made some interesting ones. One of the most unique lamps he made was for a customer who owned a machine shop. Lear wired up the customer’s old drill press and made it incandescent.
He has also made lamps from meat grinders, ceramic roosters, iron pipes and bottles chiseled out of concrete. Customers bring him items, but he also scours estate sales and yard sales.
Anything can become a light in the right hands. Objects don’t even need to be hollow. Lear can drill anything including glass and ceramics.
He does give a disclaimer to customers who bring in special heirloom items that can’t be replaced. He’s never had something crack, but sometimes there isn’t a way to tell if an old antique has cracks or structural weaknesses.
Blue and white chinoiserie ceramics are on trend and by far the most popular style of lamp he currently sells. “They sell as fast as I can make them,” Lear said. He also sells a lot of chinoiserie lamps in varieties of red and white, brown and white and black and white.
Lamps are more than just wires and bulbs. Lear has a storage unit filled with shades he can match to his creations.
He often turns to his 3D printers to create custom finials and other elements. “The latest thing I just made was a candle cover that slides over the shaft of the bulb that makes it look like a candle has dripped down,” he said. “There was a lady that wanted some new ones, and I couldn’t find the right size, so I made three of them for a floor lamp.”
Lear rents a booth at West End Antiques and More in Seven Lakes at 119 Trade St., which is owned by Susan Terrell. He usually drops in a couple of times a week to drop off and pick up items. Customers can drop by during store hours (Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to see his work or can call him at 910-603-0937 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to make a custom order or repair request.
For Lear, most lamp repairs are not very difficult. He has even fixed huge chandeliers. “Even if you’re completely rewiring a lamp, you just take all the wire out of it and put new in so it’s not like rocket science,” he said. But taking something old and making it shine like new, does seem like a little bit of magic.
Lear has developed his creative process over a period of years as he has tried different things and enhanced his skills. One thing is for sure, his special talents make the world a little brighter.
Contact Maggie Beamguard at email@example.com.