It’s a lamp. No, it’s an old… radio? No, it’s a sculpture. No, it’s some kind of 19th century contraption.
Well… maybe it’s all of those things.
Doug Holder is pointing out the features of a lamp that he designed. It, along with eight or nine others in his shop, is made up almost entirely of recycled material picked up in junkyards, yard sales, and scrap sales. The lamps are made out of an assortment of unexpected items, including old wooden boxes, galvanized pipes, light switches, radiators, pressure gauges, old clock parts, copper piping, Edison or other specialty light bulbs, and antique household items.
The first one he ever made, about a year and a half ago, was made of a small iron machine that used to do who-knows-what and looks like a child’s oddly shaped woodstove. Built onto that little machine was copper piping, an antique bread toaster (which looks to me like a cheese grater), and an Edison light bulb.
It is beautiful—something that any boutique in any nearby city would snap up in a minute. But it’s not sitting in a boutique in Nashville. It’s sitting in Holder’s own shop—Indigo Blues, on Lafayette square.
Holder has kept shop on Lafayette square for over 31 years. He picked up this hobby of lamp making rather recently.
“I saw something like this online. So I decided to try one, and it just kind of snowballed after that. And it’s nice on days like today—a slow day—it gives me something to do. It helps me not to eat, too. I used to just stand back here and eat all the time.”
One of the distinct things about these pieces is the way they are balanced—almost all of them have a box-shaped item acting as a sort of base, with a network of other things sprouting out of them. There don’t seem to be any ‘holes’ in their appearance—Holder has made sure that if there is a bulb on one side, there is another item—a water meter, for instance, balancing it out. They are symmetrical, but not predictable.
They are also very utilitarian. One has the feeling that they could be picked up and dropped on the floor, and that only the floor would be the worse for it. This may be because of their materials, and the fact that some of them are actually welded together. Holder can weld himself, but he has found it cheaper to have a friend of his do any welding that he needs.
A lot of the lamps feature the same kind of specialty light bulb: the Edison bulb. An Edison bulb looks rather like the light bulbs first produced by its namesake, Thomas Edison. They can purchased online fairly easily. These bulbs feature a larger glass casing, extra filaments inside, and they give out a duller light than your average 100 watt. They are perfect for lamps that have no lampshade, and they have a nice old-timey feel.
Holder was among those winners who made Macon County proud at the 92nd Annual Tennessee Association of Fairs Convention (see this issue for full story). After winning a first place ribbon at the Macon County Fair, he entered a lamp into the Recycled Materials category and won second place at the statewide competition.
He says that he has sold five or six of the lamps since he started making them, and continues to keep a stock of pieces at Indigo Blues. For pricing information or to see the lamps, stop by Indigo Blues or call (615) 666-6299.
Or, we suppose, readers could follow Holder’s lead and try a few contraptions of their own. We’re reminded of an old quote, attributed to Thomas Edison himself: “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”