Archives, Artists, Interviews

Catching up with Paul Snagel at the DIY Trunk Show

During the recent DIY Trunk Show I caught up with three very different participants (the other interviews can be found here and here) and asked them a few questions. One such participant was Paul Snagel, a craftsman who breathes new life into vintage objects by transforming them into lamps.

1. How long have you been working in your current style? How did you begin creating these sorts of objects?

I started making things into lamps about fifteen years ago. I started from the cliche “I could turn that into a lamp” (at least it’s a cliche to me) and then proceeded

to actually do it. The first thing I tried was a blowtorch, but it was too tricky for my skills and tools at the time, and I didn’t end up finishing it for several years. I bought three vintage kitchen appliances from George’s Resale shop in Andersonville on the same day, and the rest is history.

2. What is the inspiration behind your work?

The only thing I’d call inspiration is seeing a piece and deciding if it has the inherent design brilliance that many appliances used to have. Also I judge how hard it would be to make it into a lamp. Generally speaking, the older a piece is, the better it will look with a lamp stem sticking out of it. I think people appreciate the artistry behind industrial or product design, especially from the thirties, forties and fifties when appliances had to be held together with screws and surfaces had to be painted or plated. It forced designers to make different kinds of aesthetic decisions that plastics and automation freed them from having to make. I like that fact that 8mm movie projectors were designed to be built with a similar set of processes as a ten ton locomotive, just on a different scale.

3. How long have you been involved in the DIY Trunk show? What got you started?

This year was my 3rd DIY trunk show appearance. A friend of mine is a friend of Amy’s [an organizer of the fair] and he suggested I give her a call.

4. Do you participate in any other fairs in or outside of Chicago?

I used to do the Halsted street fair until it got too silly, and I’ve been doing the Andersonville Midsommarfest for eight or ten years. I used to only be able to do a show every other year because I didn’t have enough time to go to enough yard sales and thrift stores. I discovered this thing called Ebay, and it makes things a bit easier, but I do have to compete with the folks that make jewelry out of the typewriter keys. (I wonder what they do with the rest of it?)

Photographs of Paul’s work can be found here.