My Grandpa Fred was a stern man, born of German heritage and stubborn to prove it. I learned quickly that I should never interrupt him or challenge him in anyway, lest I be the unwanted recipient of The Stare. Yes, he could look at you across the dinner table in a way that made you want to disappear underneath the tablecloth and never come out again.
In some ways, I never felt that close to Grandpa Fred. I was always somewhat afraid of him. He always just seemed so angry and so different from who I felt I was. But when he and my grandma made plans to move out of their house and into an apartment, he gave me a box of keys and somehow that changed things.
I realized that maybe he and I did have something in common. We were both packrats. And apparently, the packrat gene stretched farther up the family tree--the keys originally belonged to my great-grandfather, Gustav Adolph Wahl. (Now if that isn't a good German name, I don't know what is!)
The keys sat in their rough wooden box for a few years before I dreamed up a use for them. I decided to create a chunky fringe effect around the base of a lampshade. It was great and my friends always complimented it, but then the cat knocked over the lamp and trashed the shade.
I pulled all the keys off that shade and pondered what else I could do with them that would be more sturdy. Sticking with the lampshade idea, I decided I could run a wire framework around a small lampshade and then wire the keys to the shade.
The end result was pretty striking. I just love how the shade casts interesting shadows on my bedroom wall when I turn it on each night before climbing into bed. And best of all, I think of my Grandpa Fred and say a little thank you to him for passing along his packrat gene to me. My life is so much the richer for it.
If you want a similar shade, here's how to make one:
- Start with a metal lampshade frame. It's best to pick one that's small yet sturdy, since the keys will add considerable weight to the finished project.
- Attach a piece of wire to the base of one of the vertical supports and wind it upwards around the shade. Pass it around each vertical support as you wind, to give the wire something to hold to.
- Dangle keys from the wire coil. Just thread a short section of wire through the top of each key and then twist them in place onto the shade. Keep adding keys to the lampshade until you're pleased with the arrangement. Put the shade on a lamp and watch the shadows dance.