Been firing through the gin? There’s a great way to upcycle your empty bottles, as Gayle discovers.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, workshops where groups of people gathered together in close proximity were a thing.
One-to-one sessions with strangers were also allowed – hands were shaken, objects were touched and sometimes people even hugged and kissed each other on the cheek.
Before lockdown, I attended one such session with LightnShade Tayside, a small company run by Angela Moores which creates lamps out of booze bottles and Harris Tweed.
The lamps are hugely in vogue and a stunning addition to your home, or, if you can bear to part with them, they make great gifts.
Crafting a bottle lamp is also a fantastic excuse to enjoy a few more tipples, plus you won’t have to bin the empties!
Some bottles are more beautiful than others and the ones that work best, in my opinion, tend to boast an unusual quirk.
I’m a fan of ceramic bottles, but the Harris Gin bottle, with its rippled glass, curves and dimples, evoking wind-blown seas and sweeping sands, is a cracker.
Another beauty is the squat, monochrome Glaswegin, and there’s a gorgeous range of snowglobe gins out there, too.
Back in March 2020, I picked out my favourite empty – a ceramic Rock Rose Gin bottle – and headed to Angela’s house in Dundee where, after settling down with coffee and biscuits, we chatted through the plan.
Angela, who spent most of her career working in the third sector, started making bottle lamps as a hobby after attending a workshop in 2016.
Friends and family loved her creations and she realised there was enough demand to start a small business from home.
She works exclusively with genuine Harris Tweed to create the lampshades.
“It’s such an iconic brand and there are so many different colours and weaves available,” she says.
“It’s great knowing you’re supporting other small independent producers – of gin and whisky – and turning their products into something unique.”
Angela loves getting her hands on fancy bottles and spending time sourcing a Harris Tweed that will work well with the colours.
“Sometimes I’ll have a bottle for months before I find the perfect match,” she says.
At workshops, she invites you to choose a tweed panel, complete with authentication label.
My eye was drawn to an earthy green, heathery purple and orange design which I reckoned would complement my Rock Rose bottle with its autumnal shades of red and burnt orange.
It got a bit Blue Peter-ish when Angela dug out double-sided sticky tape and asked me to apply it to the “lamp rings”. This was trickier than it looks.
Setting the rings aside, I applied the tweed to plastic backing in the shade’s liner.
The next job was to remove the second layer from the tape on the rings, and then attach the material to the rings and tuck it under.
Then I pushed an electrical adapter into the bottle and popped on the lampshade. Ta-dah!
There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to bore readers with tedious details.
The main thing is – it took just a few simple steps to create an absolutely stunning lamp.
During lockdown, Angela stopped running workshops but continued making lamps to supply to retailers and sell to customers.
While she waits for the OK to start up again, she makes easy-to-assemble DIY kits, cutting the Harris Tweed to size, applying the authentication label, and supplying all the parts, allowing people to make their own lamp at home, either with a bottle she supplies or one of their own.
Angela considered running online workshops but decided she’d rather wait and do them face-to-face when coronavirus restrictions ease.
“Yes, you can do this from home, but you get people with varying degrees of crafting skills and I really think you have to be there to assist,” she says.
“Ultimately, I want people to walk away with something they are proud of and happy to have in their home, so I very much look forward to being able to run workshops again when it’s safe to do so.”
Most of Angela’s workshops ran at Forbes of Kingennie Country Resort outside Dundee, but she’s happy to hold them elsewhere and says she’s open to suggestions.
“I think people will be keen to get out and do things once we have a level of normality back,” she says. “Hopefully, that won’t be too long now.”
Angela’s top tip is to be patient during the making process, and for her, attention to detail is hugely important.
“People might be buying something handmade, but that shouldn’t mean it isn’t professionally finished,” she says.
“Some of the bespoke lamps I’ve created for customers have used bottles that are special to them for a variety of reasons, and upcycling them into a centrepiece for their homes means they can keep that memory forever.”