Craftsman of the Month
Cover of Rock&Gem V1N1 March-April 1971

Linda Ursillo - September 1999 - Agate Lamp Shade

The Craftsperson of the month for September is Linda Ursillo, of Delray Beach, Florida, for her lovely and unusual lamp shade made with agate slices. She teaches at McMow Art Glass in Lakeworth, Florida. Here is her story:

"Being a stained-glass artisan and a lover of the lapidary arts, I decided to try combining these two hobbies. Seeing the natural glow through 'nature's glass' (agate) made me envision a Tiffany-style lamp shade, which I hoped to display at my local gem club's annual show."

"To start, I collected between 45 and 60 agate slices, not realizing that I would need about 100 more before I was done. Knowing that I would be using the copper-foil stained-glass technique to join them, I quickly discovered that the agates would require lapidary work to prepare the edges before the copper foil could be applied. Thus began countless hours of grinding the edges smooth."

"Next, I searched for a Tiffany-style stained-glass lamp form that fit the picture in my mind. I wanted a sizable shade, and finally settled on a full-form mold by H.L. Worden Co. (No. CF18-10), phone (800) 541-1103. This was a globe shape 18 inches in diameter, with a depth of 10-1/2 inches."

"I tried to determine the design layout by placing the slices on the mold. Since the agates were too heavy for the traditional wax application, I tried pinning the slices to the Styrofoam(TM) form. That didn't work either. So, the approach I came up with was to tack-solder the slices together to hold their place and shape on the form. The challenge with this method was to use my flux sparingly and to clean it off the copper foil immediately after soldering. Leaving flux (which is a mild acid) on the pieces would quickly damage the rest of the copper foil and make completion of the soldering impossible. So, I cleaned the pieces often and thoroughly."

"The form was convex. Since the form was smaller at the base than it was about four inches above the bottom, I realized that if I completed the lamp in one piece, the mold would have to be destroyed to remove the lamp shade from it. Therefore, I completed the project in two halves, joining them after removal from the mold."

"I felt a border was needed to create a pleasing edge for the lamp shade. I found an amber-colored glass that I felt worked well with the agate's natural glow, and used that together with an opaque black row on either side of the amber. This created a wider border and base for the agate slices. These border pieces were cut, foiled and tack-soldered into place."

"As I worked, I learned that my plan for color placement and shape balance for the shade had to be abandoned, as the only important factor was finding the right agate slice shape to fill the form and leave as few gaps as possible. Even so, there were gaps . . . lots of them. Sliding paper behind each one, I traced a template and then cut and fit an opaque black piece to fill each gap. These fillers were foiled and tack-soldered to the form."

"The final soldering was done half of the shade at a time. Then came the joining of the two halves. I inserted a copper wire in those two seams to reinforce and add strength to the finished lamp shade."

"A brass cap was soldered on top, to provide a means of hanging the lamp shade. All soldered lines were cleaned, and a black patina was applied to hide the solder lines. I polished the lamp shade with glass wax."

"Next came a trip to the stained-glass supplier to pick out just the right base. I could not believe my good fortune when I found a tall base with a natural onyx bottom and a decorative onyx sphere in the trunk of the lamp."

"My lamp was displayed at the Gem and Mineral Society of the Palm Beaches show in November of 1998 and was a big success. Since then it has also been in an art glass competition. It probably took 60 to 75 hours to complete, from start to finish. And, yes, it was well worth the effort. The lamp is enjoyed daily in my family's living room."

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