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A bright idea

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 3:38 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 3:48 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Goldie Currie)
Roxane Ellwanger of Prophetstown has an unusual craft, which involves recreating lamps that have been given or thrown away into pieces of art for the home. Here she displays just a few of the several she's created in the last 5 years.

PROPHETSTOWN – Roxane Ellwanger of Prophetstown has a knack for seeing the beauty in rubbish.

With her talent and flair, she is able to transform what others call trash into works of art suitable for any room in the house.

Her most recent artistry entails pulling discarded lamps apart, reassembling the rods with parts from other lamps or various found items and repainting them to create a final masterpiece.

“I think they’re creative and purposeful and getting to use something that someone else has thrown away and changing it into something someone else wants is fun,” she said.

The idea for this unique craft started with an unusual piece of marble that had been taken from a lamp. It was a piece that Ellwanger’s daughter had once purchased as a gift for her mother.

“It was part of a lamp, but she had bought it somewhere and thought, ‘I could make a vase for mom,’” said Ellwanger. “That piece is where it started, because I ended up fitting it onto another lamp.”

Once Ellwanger figured out she could re-thread new pieces onto a lamp rod to create a new, unique look, it became a favorite hobby.

Over the years, Ellwanger has collected several miscellaneous odds and ends for her lamps. She finds her treasures from widespread places including, co-workers, secondhand shops, online and in the alleys of Chicago, where Ellwanger once resided.

“At my old job, people would say, ‘I don’t want this lamp anymore, do you want it or can you fix it?” she said. “I get my stuff wherever I can find it.”

An Ellwanger lamp comes to life starting with a lamp base and bare rod. From there, the designing happens as she throws on and takes off various pieces until it produces a look worth keeping.

“When I decide what I like, I’ll cut (the rod down) and there’s the lamp,” she said.

Once a design comes together, it takes about two days to complete the painting and reassembling work. Along the process, the lamp receives a name based on its appearance and personality.

Ellwanger’s husband, Jim, who teaches at Malden Grade School, said each lamp has a different feel than the other.

“I like them, because they all came from her and they all came from different places and have their own personality,” he said. “They all come from her mind, as opposed to the store. She sees things I never would see.”

Currently, Ellwanger said she has about 30 to 40 finished lamps, which she is looking to display this summer at local craft shows. She also has future plans to display her work on Facebook and Etsy.com, which is a website to sell handmade crafts.

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