Insatiable Studios in Seattle does a lot of custom hand made lampshades. Despite having a showroom that is packed to the gills people often need a different color or a bigger size. Residential customers come with their lamps and pictures on their phone of location the lamp will live and we work together to find an appropriate and fabulous solution. Commercial customers come with specs in hand and a vision. I have made pendants for department store dressing rooms, done plenty of restaurants and even a canoe for a casino. Samples can be produced when required.


Jil Smith was born in New Jersey and escaped to New York City, where they keep all the art, as soon as she was able. She earned a fine arts degree in painting from Pratt Institute, and interned at the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill all through college. There she was introduced to high-end finishes and interiors. After graduating, Jil began designing textiles for fashion.

She could create the collections anywhere and mail them to New York, so when she had an art show in Little Rock, Arkansas, she just stayed for a while. The food was big and the living was cheap. She began teaching at the art center and making ceramics. Much art and experimentation was accomplished during this time, while Jil continued to design textiles.

Jil’s next move was to Seattle, where she had very little money and even less of a plan. She moved there because she had heard it was near mountains and water but was not too cold and had a good bus system. She spent the first six months sleeping in an old boyfriend’s closet. Jil still had a textile agent in New York, but began doing scenic painting in Seattle. She did both commercial projects and residential interiors. Scenic painting was engaging work, but often toxic. An interest in lamps and lighting and less noxious substances led to experiments creating lampshades

The first shades used old lampshade frames with a balloon blown up inside, which was then layered with paper mache made from high end paper and non-toxic glue. These shades were curvaceous, modern and a little odd. Eventually she developed simpler construction techniques, which allowed her to focus on the surface patterns.

Jil had been finishing furniture at an antique store in Pioneer Square in Seattle when she lost her nearby loft space. The antique store owner gave her a little room in the basement to work on her lamp project until she got a new studio. In the meantime, the store manager started putting her lampshades for sale on lamps on the floor. People bought them. Then he put them in the shop window and they drew people into the dark, foreboding antique store with their bright colors on fresh looking patterns. Then the owner gave Jil a big space at the store where she set up a workshop. You could watch her work. Magazines came and the lampshades were a thing! Today she does not let people watch her work, but she does enjoy visitors to her studio/workshop.


The lamp shades are made in a wet paper mache process, using a Japanese paper called Kinwashi. The process requires several layers of paper. Each layer is wet, weak and fragile when it is applied but tightens up like a drum when dry. Four layers of the Kinwashi forms a luminous shell. Once the shell is completed, the shade can be tarted up with pattern work.

Inspiration comes from all corners: Islamic tiles, Japanese kites, African houses. After the design is drawn out, the pattern parts are cut from a variety of decorative papers. Every stripe, flower and dot is hand cut and individually placed. Jil often works with clients to answer specific project needs. Jil’s background in textile design gives her an ability to generate patterns, make coordinates and scale the motif up and down quickly to suit the design parameters.


The studio/ showroom is located at the north end of Green Lake, in Seattle Washington, and visitors are welcome (make an appointment)

When shopping for a shade, context photos are helpful, and if you are looking for a shade for a particular lamp, Jil recommends bringing the lamp to your appointment.





Tom Douglas

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