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Seattle artist turns lampshades into functional pieces of art

Among other places, Jil Smith's work is sold in the Seattle Art Museum. #k5evening

SEATTLE — An artist can use almost anything as their canvas. But what Jil Smith choose to display her art on has led her down an illuminating path.

"When you ask a child what they want to be when they grow up they never say lampshade maker," Jil laughed.

For nearly 30 years, Jil has been helping put rooms into a whole new light with her one-of-a-kind lampshades.

"It's like when you go to a dinner party and there's candlelight. These are the candles."

Besides homes, her work can also be seen in local venues and sold in places like the Seattle Art Museum.

Her shades come in all shapes and sizes — turning an ordinary lamp into a functional piece of art.

"This is the showroom. And you can buy anything off the shelf, but I also do a lot of customs. So somebody may say, I love this pattern, I need it a slightly different color to go with my interior."

She makes all of her lampshades from her studio in Seattle’s Green Lake Neighborhood.

"I use paper from all over the world, mostly from Thailand, Indonesia. There's a great line of paper from Tibet," Jil said. "There's a Japanese paper called Kinwashi. And the lampshade gets built up of four layers. When it dries, it becomes tight like a drum. More paper gets put on and you end up with a luminous shell. And then I hand cut all the pattern work and apply it on top."

And those patterns are all cut by hand.

"I do it all with an Exacto knife. I actually have mad Exacto knife skills. I might otherwise be unemployable, but I can wield an Exacto knife-like nobody's business."

But perhaps the best thing Jil Smith adds to her handmade lampshades is the care she puts into making every single one.

"I make them with all my heart. I really believe in them, and I know that a luxury item is not gonna make your life different. But I do believe you can feel this. You can feel that somebody made this with heart and intent, and I think it matters."

KING 5's Evening celebrates the Northwest. Contact us: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Email.

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