An Artist Recycles the Past: THE JOY OF LIGHTING
“I’d like to change the world one lampshade at a time,”
Susan Schneider says with the characteristic dimpled smile that lights her entire face. “I have so much fun doing it… creating, repairing, rewiring, restoring, and showing customers how lighting can make a room.”
Schneider is speaking from her new “home,” a charming studio right in the middle of Chester village, a town Susan appropriately characterizes as “an artist village.” It has only been days since she moved her studio from Ivoryton to Chester, but in that time the curious, and those who appreciate unique and unusual talent, have found the “lamp lady” and her work.
This is The Joy of Lighting; and although it is new to Chester, it is not new to those who know and appreciate the total depth and breadth of what Schneider offers. For years her studio was called Shandell’s, but the opportunity to move to a brand new venue was also the opportunity to give what she does a brand new name. “Although ‘Shandell’ (shaindel) is my Hebrew name and means ‘beautiful,’ it didn’t really tell people what I did. ‘The Joy of Lighting’ tells people without any question what I do, how I feel about it, and how much fun and joy there is sharing my art with others.”
Schneider’s talent, and this one-of-a-kind studio, really began in the brain of the artist years ago when she was a small child. Young Susan was always fascinated by anything old and vintage, with beautiful gems, agates, and stones that seemed to change color in different lighting; and by her own admission, “I hounded the owner of the local store” that sold these semi-precious stones in her native New Jersey. “I would literally go there every day and look at all the stones. I rarely bought anything; I just wanted to see them and touch them. I know I drove the owner of the store crazy.”
As Schneider grew she found yet another love in horses, so “all I did was ride until 1991.” But when she finally dismounted and looked to her future, the now young woman headed right back into the past and her love of all things vintage and wonderful. Susan, who had always enjoyed going to thrift stores and looking for “treasures,” began her early career in antiques. “I just was drawn to all things old,” she says. “Like with those stones from my childhood I needed to look and touch, but I never needed to learn the art of what I’m doing now. God gave me this. It’s my talent, my art. This is just something within me.”
And what “this” is, quite simply, is the joy of lighting. Schneider takes old lamps, broken parts, stained, dirty shades, worn out finials, and magically, beautifully makes them into works of art…brand new again, ready to complement a room or just bring the art of lighting into a home. “Every lamp has a meaning, so bring in what’s vintage, and I’ll figure out how we can restore it to your liking and take it into the 20th century beautifully. People shouldn’t hate their grandmother’s old lamp because it’s not their style nor to their liking. They should bring it to me; and I’ll make it into something that reflects their taste and their furnishings. Buying new high end lamps costs more than redoing them. I can rewire, restore, rebuild, and renew; and I have literally thousands of rolls of vintage wallpaper, handmade papers, and materials with which to do it.”
Bragging? Perhaps, but Susan Schneider long ago earned those bragging rights because she is not just first rate at what she does, she is virtually the only artist around who does what she does… and does it so well, giving her the right to shine right along with her lamps and chandeliers.
In addition to restoring lamps and shades that may be more than 60 years old, Schneider creates beautiful matchboxes, “a piece of art that can be made to order.” From the exquisite, to those with naughty messages, Susan delights in fashioning matchboxes that are instant heirlooms, gifts, and reasons for organizations to have fundraisers. Except for the ink used in the design, everything, she stresses, “absolutely everything, is made right here in the USA, which is important to me.” And everything you see at The Joy of Lighting is made by Schneider. That includes not just the lamps, shades, and matchboxes, but also custom designed tissue boxes, wastebaskets, and memory boxes… work she has perfected over the last 20 years.
Plans for the new studio in Chester include having L.A.R.R.Y. classes, an acronym Schneider created that stands for Light All Rare Relics Youthfully, and will be an arena for teaching people to enjoy lighting by teaching them how to use it. “I break all the traditional rules. I want people to enjoy and have fun. My philosophy is if YOU like it and it works for YOU, then it’s right.”
In the small village of Chester, as in many of the small towns that dot the map in New England, there are a number of shops, all offering gift items, collectibles, and whimsical fancies. But at number five West Main Street there is no one called a “shopkeeper.” There is no job title bestowed upon a clerk at the register who rings up the gift items. No part time employee who stands mindlessly behind a counter. Not at all, for at number five West Main Street you will find a craftsman, an artisan, and an artist all in one smiling package. She does not spend her time behind the counter waiting for customers; she is an artist actively at work in her studio, creating all the while she is there, bringing vintage to the 20th century. And just waiting for you to come in and watch her hone her art and share the sheer joy of the experience right along with you.
This is, indeed, Susan Schneider’s own personal art… The Joy of Lighting.
Find The Joy of Lighting at 5 West Main Street, Chester at The Shops at the Millhouse.
(860) 510-3167 www.joyoflighting.com