In the attic of the 121-year-old house he rents in Pendleton Heights, designer Theodis Sonny Williams has created a striking line of drum lamps.
By ALICE THORSON
The Kansas City Star
A native of Colorado, Williams moved to Kansas City five years ago from California, where he earned a bachelors degree in fashion merchandising from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles. In 2001, he established Beacon Industries, his sustainable modern furnishings business. Williams drum lamps, available in different sizes and patterns, are gaining a growing following among area bars and restaurants, salons and homeowners.
Tell me about the drum lamps.
Theyre all made from wood scraps and remnants that I get from C&C Custom Drums in Gladstone. If an inlay router isnt set right, if a lip isnt cut at the right angle, or if theres an end piece they cant use, they let me have them. Its a father-and-son business, and the son, Jake Cardwell, is a member of the Caves (indie-rock) band.
Whats your process?
The shades are either stained or hand-painted in patterns with stencils from my textile designs. I also use paper and wallpaper. I like woodgrain and houndstooth patterns. The interiors are painted, sometimes with gold or silver leaf. It really throws the light. I use wooden dowels in the center that Ive inserted into an aluminum sleeve so they match the interior. I suspend the lamps from tigertail, a kind of wire used in jewelry. It has a plastic coating and it disappears. The bulbs are silver crown vanity bulbs.
How did you get started?
Ive always had a passion for lighting. Beacon Industries is 12 years old now. I used to make lamps that looked like exclamation points out of rough-spun paper. It looks like compressed cobwebs, and its easy to dye.
Where do you find inspiration?
Anywhere. The reflection in a puddle, whats coming down the catwalks, product design, like the San Pellegrino blood orange, lemon and lime labels. And I like the Mini Cooper palette.
People can see your lamps in a number of places around town.
Missouri Bank bought five in the pattern I call Black Dada. My lamps are also in Lulus Thai Noodle Shop, The Farmhouse and The Brick.
Whats the price range?
They start at $125 for a 10-inch diameter by 6-inch-high drum, and they can go as high as $1,200 for the largest ones.
Youve found other uses for the drum shells?
Ive created an installation in my hall by mounting the rings on the wall and using them to hold found objects a wood dinosaur skeleton, a silver hand, a toy gun, an emu egg.
So lamps arent the only products you design.
I love adding a sense of whimsy to someones home. Ill take an animal skull and apply a base coat of silver paint. Then, working from the center to the edge, I start gluing rhinestones on it. Ive made clothes hooks I call Trophy Wives from trophy figures that I mount on plaques.
Re-use is an important part of your approach.
I love repurposing. When Im walking down the street Ill see something and see a better purpose for it. I use all found objects, including used lamp cord and parts of lamps from thrift stores. I turned the taster spoons from Murrays Ice Cream in Westport into a chandelier. I bored holes in the plastic and put the pieces together with staples. I also take old particle-board speakers and turn them into bins. I cover them with patterned paper and put them on casters.
Im the youngest of six; I grew up with hand-me-downs. I didnt mind. My siblings have great taste.
Im very intrigued by your architectural models. Theyre furnished, but theyre not like any doll houses Ive ever seen. Theyre sculpture.
Ive been making these fantasy modernist structures out of acetate paper, foam core and floral wire for years. I also make the little furnishings for every room out of found materials. I bring an idealist, futurist point of view to my buildings. They represent how I think people deserve to live.