By Lisa Shrewsberry
These aren’t your grandma’s dresses. They’re your grandma’s dresses, or her dishtowels, aprons or napkins, transformed into home décor.
Elle Daniel, the business, came into being when Linda Daniel, an elementary school teacher by education, a fierce political fundraiser by profession and now full-time lampshade designer, sat down to Google “reinvention at 50.”
She felt such peace at the online comments she read from various women on their journeys toward reinvention, and such familiarity at the signs and symptoms of needing a professional makeover, that she shut her laptop and put the kibosh on an impressive political career. Her efforts at fundraising in the Washington, D.C., area had her working with figures as prominent as former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.
“I quit politics cold turkey,” she explained. “I didn’t have a passion for it anymore. It was no longer about the money. I wanted to do what I loved.”
First, there was the minor matter of figuring out just what it was she loved. She turned inward, toward her genetic tendency to create, for answers. Her sibling sisters had succumbed to the right halves of their brains, one in interior design and another with a knack for to-die-for biscotti and baked goods.
Daniel’s own creativity had been stifled in the land of high rhetoric.
Exit lampooning. Enter lampshades.
Following her soul and Internet searching, on a visit with her longtime boyfriend to retailer Anthropologie, Daniel saw lampshades and became inspired.
“I thought ‘I can do this — I can do it prettier and less expensive.”
Needing to overcome the fact that lampshades are mostly sewn and mass produced, Daniel found an artist in Vermont willing to train her in a handcrafting method, one that would free her to choose her own funky fabrics, turning her shades into vehicles of preservation for all manner of modern or retro textiles.
Through Elle Daniel, Daniel would be reinventing for resale, much as she had abruptly up-purposed her own life.
Beckley-raised daughter of respected doctor-turned-vintner C. Richard Daniel of Daniel Vineyards and artist Barbara Daniel, the original shade maker’s products are at times whimsical, at others elegant or bold, yet always conversation pieces. She has shed new light on the potential of ’50s cherry-embossed tea towels, ’60s floral print sheets, and, yes, mom and grandma’s ’70s ensembles.
They’re not mass-produced — they’re born by her hands and in the manner of all things delivered, each bears her signature and a name. There’s Mama’s Church Blouse (made from mama’s church blouse,) Hanky Panky (made from handkerchiefs) and Dahlia Love Me? (from a pair of old floral print capris — a thrift shop find), evincing Daniel’s clever style.
She has now turned her expertise in promoting others toward promoting her business, selling face-to-face to boutiques in Florida (where she now resides), in Virginia and other sites along the East Coast. As in politics before, word of mouth has proved to be her best advertising.
“Very few people are doing custom lampshades. What I love about it is it’s a very
inexpensive way to make a room pop — take a shade, throw in a few different pillows that coordinate and you’ve picked a great way to transform a room, especially in the economy we’re in now.”
Prices of Elle Daniel lampshades range from nightlights at $39, $85 to $95 for most standard-sized shades and up to $325 for specialty shades.
“For me, pricing is all in the labor. It takes four to eight hours to make each shade,” she related.
“I want each to be personalized — one of a kind.”
So, if you’re wondering what the reinvented Linda Daniel is up to right now, it’s probably, “listening to classical music and making my lampshades. It’s a wonderful life.”
For more information on Elle Daniel shades, visit her page at: www.facebook.com/elledanielinc
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