Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer
A new exhibit opens on Friday, Oct. 4, at the The Bascom: A Center for the Visual Arts, in Highlands, featuring lamp art by William “Bill” Selby, who resides in Franklin. The public is invited to a 4 to 5 p.m. Meet and Greet to view a selection of Selby’s works.
Selby, also known as the “Lamp Man,” began a little less than four years ago making lamps and chandeliers as a hobby. Each is a unique handcrafted, functional work of art as well as an exclusive one-of-a-kind piece. Selby said he continues to refine his craft.
“When I have a piece of wood, I see a 3-D version of how it will look as a lamp or chandelier in my head. Basically, from there, my mind will not rest until the lamp is built. It may look like a rotten piece of wood to anyone else, but in my mind it is already a beautiful lamp or chandelier.”
Selby’s process of achieving his art is tedious. He first searches creeks and riverbeds, and along their banks, looking for unusual pieces of driftwood or dead wood. He does not harvest from live trees because there are always plenty of limbs, roots, and sticks laying around. However, he admitted it can take time to find the right piece that fits his vision for a particular lamp or chandelier.
When the wood is adequately dry, Selby can then begin turning the piece into a table lamp, floor lamp, wall sconce, or chandelier. He cleans and sands each piece to bring out its natural grain and coloring, and then he applies a clear coat to protect and illuminate the wood’s beauty and luster.
The next step includes wiring and making the bases or hanging mounts. He also uses copper tubing to hide wiring or for special effects. Other special touches include river rocks, copper braiding, and screening.
Finally, Selby will complete each piece with complementary sand shades. The shades that Selby uses are all natural and made specifically to fit each piece. He then adds custom dyes to the shades so they will accentuate the wood’s natural colorings. He also adds colored, hand blown glass, stained glass, and copper screening to some of the shades for lighting and visual effects. The final touch is a traditional Edison light bulb to achieve a natural, amber glow.
Selby’s art lamps are in homes in Nashville, Georgia, North Carolina, and as far away as Japan. Currently, his art is available for sale at American Sideshow in Gatlinburg, High Country Art in Blue Ridge, Ga., and will be at The Bascom in Highlands throughout the month of October.