Naturally we like to showcase the finished product as a brand, but what about what goes on behind the scenes? Because, if we’re honest… a great amount does! We’ve met several makers on the blog, but think it’s high time we introduce our own. We want to start with our talented Soft Furnishings team who make your Jim Lawrence lampshades in our Suffolk workshop.
All Jim Lawrence lampshades that you see online are individually handmade, including any ready made designs and made to order styles. This means every one that we lovingly send out to you is that bit more personal, which is why we want to introduce you to the lovely people behind them. We catch up with Supervisor Julie to ask a few questions…
I’m Julie, the one who manages the team, checks stock in and out and allocates the production orders as well as helping the others to make whatever soft furnishings are required. We have Shaun, who is based in the workshop, and makes all our wire frames. There’s Tony who cuts out and laminates the card panels we use for our different stocked shade shapes. Emma, June, Charlene, Becca are our shade makers and Gill and Vonny who make our curtains, blinds and cushions as well as shades.
What does a typical work day look like in the soft furnishings department?
I’m generally in at 7.30 with the rest of the team starting at 8.30. I’ll have a daily production meeting where we prioritise the day’s jobs with any urgent orders first and the Made to Order and standard stocked items to follow. The team will come in and pick up their production order sheets and start making their shades straight away.
How many shades do you make a week?
On average I’d say about 300 to 500. When I first started working at Jim Lawrence it was a lot less because we used to have to do every single stage by hand, from measuring out and cutting the wire frame to cutting and laminating the card, whereas now we have machines to help us.
What are the main steps you take when putting together one of our Jim Lawrence lampshades?
• Firstly, we print off the production order so you know what kind of shade you are making, and how many.
• If it is a stocked shade, we collect the pre-cut, self-adhesive and laminated panel that Tony will have prepared and stuck the fabric to. If it is a made to order shade, we cut our own panels according the size and shape required.
• When the panels have been cut to shape and the fabric stuck on, we run them panels through a laminator to bond the fabric to the card and get rid of any pockets of air.
• When ready, we score and peel off the along the right hand side of the panel and fold the fabric over creating a nice, neat seam.
• We do the same to the top and bottom rims and stick some double sided sticky tape along the edges.
• Taking a wire ring, we press it against the sticky tape at the top of the shade panel and neatly fold the fabric over it as we go along making sure there are no folds or creases in the material.
• Using our fingernails, or a blunt instrument, we then push and tuck the folded over fabric behind the plastic ring making sure there are no loose threads and seal it with PVA glue to keep everything in place.
• You then repeat the process along the bottom rim using the shade ring that holds the bulb.
• Finally, we run a small amount of super glue and PVA along the long seam of the shade and stick the sides together using a weight to hold it in place for about 10-15mins until the glue sets.
• The shade is then ready to be labelled, bagged up and sent to our customer.
In an age where many of us are sat behind computer screens, it must be rewarding to be making something creative with your hands. Do you all have a background in sewing and crafting?
Funnily enough, with the exception of Vonny who has worked as a seamstress previously, and Tony who had his own lampshade business, none of us have a background in sewing and crafting, although we all enjoyed doing a bit as a past time. I like crafting things, Gill used to make her children’s clothes, Charlene customises a lot of her clothes and Becca made her own curtains.
Jim was one of Tony’s customers and loved his shades so much that when there was an opportunity Jim bought the business and Tony came with it! I was a self-employed landscape gardener before I came to Jim Lawrence, Gill and Vonny where dinner ladies, June worked in catering and then stone carving while Emma was a playground assistant.
Do you notice certain trends coming through with the soft furnishings orders? What is the most popular style you tend to make?
Candle shades are always the most popular because you generally need a few of them for your wall lights. The run up to Christmas is our busiest time of year for all shades, but particularly for candles. We notice trends in fabric more. Soft furnishing fashions usually follow trends in paint colours so neutrals have been popular for ages, along with grey and plain fabrics. Our tweeds and velvet’s are more popular in winter with lighter linens and cotton coming into their own during the summer. As for prints, our Honey Bees fabric is popular at the moment, along with our other Ratty Golightly country collection.
With over a thousand shade and fabric combinations available, what is your favourite Jim Lawrence material to work with?
I love the Hunstanton velvets as they are a beautiful fabric to work with, not only because they are so nice to handle but because they also cut and glue well. They make amazing shades. I also like our Featherdown because it is basically a neutral but with soft, subtle colours that look particularly good on a shade or cushion.
Other than lampshades, what bespoke soft furnishing orders come through your department?
We don’t make as many bespoke soft furnishings as we used to because of time constraints, but I remember one order we had to make a shade out of horsehair! We also had a request for a shade using antique napkins with initials on and once had a large order for waterproof, canvas shades for a house in Barbados that were shipped over on a private jet. We’ve also made shades for the Dutchy of Cornwall and Clarence House among some of our more famous clients.
Finally, many of our employees have been here long term, including most of you! What’s the best part of working for a family business like Jim Lawrence?
We love the fact that we work in relatively small teams at Jim Lawrence so it is easy to settle in and get to know everyone. Because most of us have worked here a long time – June and I have been here eight years, Tony 10, Gill 15, Vonny 12, Emma and Becca five and Charlene four – we’re good friends as well as colleagues and know what we need to do every day with very little direction which means we work productively in a relaxed, easy atmosphere. Our workspace is also fantastic, really light, bright and airy – even in winter – which makes it a pleasure to come to work. Also, Jim allows us to bring our dogs in, as long as they are well behaved, which is a huge bonus!
We hope you have enjoyed our first ‘Meet The Makers’ from the Jim Lawrence team. You can browse all the gorgeous Jim Lawrence lampshades Julie and the team make, as well as a wealth of sumptuous fabrics for curtains and blinds on our website or in our Suffolk Showroom. Which will you choose?