A love of the simple lamp and how its warmth can transform and elevate a space seamlessly drew Vanessa Radford to start creating custom-made lampshades right from her dining room table. Vanessa believes by flicking a switch, a space can become warm and charming, or a little more playful. And she loves nothing more than the feeling of making something out of nothing and gifting others joy.
Tell us a little bit Lighten Up Handmade.
LightenUp Handmade is a bespoke lampshade business operating in the backyard of our farm near Rowena in northwestern NSW.
We offer a variety of ready-to-shop, custom-made lampshades, and timber lamp bases. We produce gorgeous, unique shades which add delight with texture and colour spreading joy across Australia.
How did the idea for Lighten Up Handmade come about?
A love of the simple lamp and how its warmth can transform and elevate a space seamlessly drew me to begin crafting bespoke shades in 2017, all from my dining room table on our family farm west of Rowena NSW. Armed with rolls of fabric in sumptuous colour and prints and wreathed with lampshade rings, the finished products quickly caught the eye of many, and Lighten Up Handmade started to spread by word of mouth.
A lamp can completely transform the ambiance of a room. By literally flicking a switch, a space can become warm and charming, or a little more playful. It’s a wonderful feeling to make something out of nothing and to gift others joy.
In 2019 LightenUp Handmade outgrew the dining table and a new HQ was in order. My husband Chris, who I have crowned “Mr. LightenUp” found a dilapidated shearer’s quarters on the neighbouring farm and with the help of their son Jack and a few mates, moved it to our backyard and gave it a new lease of life.
What do you enjoy most about owning/running your own business?
I’m able to keep my own hours. I can be helping with stockwork or tractor driving in the morning and sitting down to craft a lampshade in the afternoon - my life is certainly not boring, each day is very different. The relationships I have developed with both suppliers and customers has been a lovely experience. Whilst I have not met most of them in person I feel like I know them already.
Have you always had a love for homewares and interiors?
Yes definitely. I’ve always loved second-hand shops. I still remember making my Mum pull up on the side of the road to grab a bargain in my very early teens much to her annoyance!
Most of our home is filled with furniture and knick-knacks I have collected over the years. I love how there is a story behind each piece. I’ve always been drawn to the ambiance of a lamp, much preferring it to an overhead light. Doing some upholstery classes definitely made me realise how much I love colour and fabrics.
Do you have a woman leader as a mentor or are there specific women who inspired you and why?
I don’t have a mentor as such. Possibly my Mum without realising it until now?
I’ve always been inspired by the tenacity and resilience of rural women - and their never-ending ability to adapt. My Mum was definitely the epitome of a rural ‘bush’ woman - through every hardship she faced whether it was environmental or physical her grace and strength was boundless. I often think of her (sadly she passed away 14 years ago) as we have shared a ‘life on the land’ and I have drawn strength from her ability to ‘keep on keeping on’.
How do you balance work & life responsibilities?
Mmmmm not very well which is why LU has taken a much-needed pause over the past 5 months so I could help on the farm during the floods and then our 2022 harvest.
I’m lucky our children are now older and forging lives of their own so I’m not juggling little ones and a small business like so many, although they do still like frequent visits!
Since the drought broke in early 2020 LU has had to take a backseat at times due to farm staff shortages so it's been hard to grow a business, particularly when our farm peak times often coincide with peak times in our industry - planting our winters crop clashes with Mothers Day and long harvests definitely don’t work in the lead up to Christmas. Whilst LU is important to me I have to remember our farm business is important to our family and so it must come first.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female business owners?
Go for it! If you want it badly enough you can overcome most obstacles. Just remember to be kind to yourself. Take that break if it's needed. Remember your happiness and family always comes first.
What’s on the horizon for Lighten Up Handmade in 2023?
Rebranding and a beautiful new website by Emily Fleming Creative. We will also be offering DIY lampshade kits and taking our Custom lampshades to the next level by offering one on one consultations if required. We are also hoping to hold more workshops in the northwest area.
Location: Rowena, NSW