Imaginary Lamp Empire is a business run by filmmaker and visual artist Mark Taylor, who lives and works in Mokelumne Hill, CA, a gold rush town located in the Sierra Foothills. All lamps are unique originals made by hand. Lamp shades are sewn-paper collages; lamp bodies are sculptures pieced together using recycled lamp parts. All lamps include new sockets, plugs, switches and wiring.
Imaginary Lamp Empire began when Taylor casually expressed an interest in learning how to sew. A few weeks later, a neighbor showed up bearing her mother's 1960's-era Singer sewing machine. After a few lessons, Taylor began stitching together the detritus found in his print shop, which consisted mostly of discarded screen prints and other printed materials. These became art pieces, and shortly thereafter lamp shades. Repurposing a couple of lamps he had lying around the house, Taylor created his first "product." The basic formula was in place, and Imaginary Lamp Empire became slightly less imaginary.
The process starts with shopping; Taylor visits thrift stores, flea markets and garage sales in search of lamps that people have forgotten how to love. He takes them back to his lair, disassembles them and begins the process of recombining. Some parts require special treatment: cleaning, stripping and sometimes the application of new patinas. Other objects of interest often find their way into the process, either becoming combined with traditional lamp parts or getting re-purposed. Once the lamp bases are built, Taylor creates plain, white mock-ups to determine the size and shape each shade should be (they usually range between 7" to 12" in diameter with varying heights). Then the quilting begins. From a large vat of colored paper consisting mainly of colorful screen prints and small digital prints on heavy, acid-free paper, Taylor begins composing what he calls "pelts," which are basically flat collages. Once these have been assembled using various colors of thread, a separating zipper is sewn onto either side. When zipped up, the pelt becomes a cylinder that is sewn onto lamp shade rings with linen book-binder thread. Add fresh sockets, new wiring and switches and you've got yourself a brand new, one-of-a-kind lamp!
The lamps fit in nicely with Taylor's visual art, which has found its way into the artist book collections at many U.S. institutions, including: the New York Public Library; the Library of Congress; Stanford University; the University of Southern California; the Palace of the Legion of Honor; the Rhode Island School of Design; the Minneapolis Institute of Art; and the New York Museum of Modern Art, among others.