Light Preserver
April 14, 2009 - 12:00pm

Our company, Vintage Hardware, sells more than 2,500 items of antique restoration hardware and 250 authentic reproductions of lighting. We even sold some early gas Neo-Rococo fixtures to the White House when they did their restoration a few years back. One chandelier can require

as many as 50 different molds, so it’s a labor of love, rather than for profit.

    So many people are buying Art Deco pieces, but it’s getting absorbed into the community without any knowledge being passed on. We who are collectors and educators [needed to] make a preservation effort.

    There are Art Deco museums, Art Deco houses and magnificent collections, but no one has taken on the specific topic of Deco lighting so that it becomes documented. This fact really surprised me, and that’s what got the ball rolling. So, I took a year off from the business to do lighting research.


    I was really concerned about getting this museum right. While a matter of conjecture and discussion, the Art Deco design movement really had one main source: The discovery of King Tut’s tomb and the designs therein excited the entire world for a plethora of different, new and varied designs. An exposition thereafter in Paris in 1925 borrowed heavily from the tomb’s design with some French elaborations going through every aspect of design.

    Art Deco flourished through the ’20s and ’30s, impelled by the Paris exhibition, and worked its way right through Britain and America, which took and continued to change and add design motifs both from the tomb and the French interpretation.


A sampling of the fixtures on display at the Kelly Art Deco Light Museum.

    One of the first American moves into Art Deco lighting was by Lincoln Manufacturing. They patented a design in 1928 that in color and motif borrowed heavily from the Egyptian influence. Being a new endeavor, they spent very little on the shades. They simply took flat glass and slumped it over a mandrel in a furnace to create an inexpensive shade. Later, hundreds of dollars would be spent on glass shade dies, which resulted in some of the most sophisticated glass ever pressed in America.


    The Kelly Art Deco Light Museum is the culmination of 30 years of collecting. But this is only the beginning. We have more than 2,000 fixtures in various states of completeness and repair and are still finding new ones that need restoration and completion. This challenges us to keep learning and preserving. Having only about 300 fixtures on display in the museum, we are definitely looking forward to more growth.

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