It’s no secret that I love my Silhouette machines and use them in as many ways as I can possibly think of. But I also love getting to know other Silhouette users, especially those who use their machines in a unique way. This is the first post in my “Making the Cut” series featuring some of those people, each of whom are artists in their own right. I hope you enjoy reading about each of them and are as inspired by their work as I am!
Today I’m talking with Peg Caron of Working Pretty. Peg and I first “met” in a Facebook group organized by Christine Schinagl of Cutting for Business. When I saw photos of the beautiful lampshades Peg has created with the help of her Silhouette Cameo, I knew I wanted to learn more about her. I hope you enjoy reading about her as much as I enjoyed getting to interview her!
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from.
My family’s roots run deep where I live in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, which is one of three towns on Aquidneck Island. I am married to a retired Captain of the Portsmouth Fire Department, where my father and grandfather were Fire Chiefs. We have two adult children, a son and a daughter, who live nearby. I have two brothers and a sister who also live nearby.
Have you always been a creative person?
Creativity is in my DNA. My grandmother was a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and was the art teacher for all Aquidneck Island schools. She was an excellent artist and she was crafty. She taught me how to make something from few or recycled items. My mother taught me how to sew and always encouraged my creativity. I have enjoyed creative activities my whole life.
When were you first introduced to the Silhouette?
I started searching online for a digital cutter. I had no idea if there was such a thing at that point but searched anyway. When search results brought up the Silhouette, I read through the features, what kind of materials it could cut, the reviews, and decided to make the investment.
Which machine(s) do you own?
I have one machine, the original Cameo, although I hope to invest in the Cameo 3 later this year or next.
How did you first become interested in making lampshades?
It was my mother’s idea to take an adult learning class on cut-n-pierced lampshade-making and I happily went along. I think her inspiration was a pair of glass lamps she owned that needed shades. She made the first one and, after she passed away, I made a match – I treasure the lamps to this day. I’ve made lots of these cut-n-pierced shades for family and friends over the years as gifts.
What made you decide to try using your Silhouette in conjunction with making lampshades?
The main reason I had to find another way to cut my lampshades was because of my wrist. Cut-n-pierced lampshades are made from paper or vellum that is cut with an X-acto knife. Having chronic tendinitis from decades of stressful computer work at my corporate job made it extremely difficult to cut my designs by hand.
Finding the perfect paper can also be challenging because it needs to be thick enough to support the structure of a lampshade, but pliable enough to sculpt the cuts. I tried cutting 140 lb. paper with the Cameo in the cut-n-pierced style but was frequently frustrated by tearing. Then I tried fabric and, after a ton of trial and error with a multitude of lessons learned, I found a way to create my shades with the Cameo.
Besides the fact that you can cut with your machine rather than by hand, how has the Silhouette made it easier for you in your creative process?
After doing graphic arts on my Mac using many different drawing programs, Silhouette Studio was an easy transition for me and I enjoy using it to design. I import my sketches or reference photographs and the Silhouette Cameo has made it easier to bring my designs to life.
How long does it take to create a lampshade?
The easiest of shades take me an hour or so to design, where the more complex will take me 6-10 hours. I’m a perfectionist so I fuss over every “node” in Silhouette Studio, knowing that a design with fewer points will cut more smoothly. Once the design is finished, each shade takes at least 2 hours to create. I paint the fabric with acrylic paints using layers of color to keep it transparent and achieve a stained-glass look. For my lighthouse shades, I paint in all the details with a fine brush so they show up when the lamp is illuminated. The hand-painting takes anywhere from 4-6 hours, not including drying time.
Did you experience a learning curve with the Silhouette and getting it to work with your projects as envisioned?
Absolutely! I quickly turned to Facebook groups and found the Silhouette America website and others to be a great source of tips and techniques. I think I watched every YouTube video there was on cutting with the Silhouette. I was determined to find a way to create my shades in a way that would be beautiful yet marketable.
What other type of materials do you use?
The look of paper shades is really nice but I decided to stick with fabric for ease of cleaning, durability and longevity. In addition to making lampshades, I have used cardstock to create mobiles and vinyl for t-shirts, car decals, mugs and tumblers, mostly for myself and family.
Where do you get inspiration for your creations?
Coastal New England and nature are my main sources of inspiration so I have many “beachy” and floral themed shades. I also love the look of stained glass and merged that with my love of lighthouses to create a set of Rhode Island Lighthouse designs.
What is the most memorable/enjoyable product you’ve created?
Oh boy, that’s a tough one. I think I most enjoyed creating a shade for my sister where I modified my “four seasons” square shade design and painted it to include each of her kitties on a panel. She was so excited when I gave it to her and she shows it off every chance she gets.
I also had the opportunity to create a custom shade for my cousin who wanted one as a gift for her husband. They stayed at the Castle Hill Inn for their honeymoon so I created a shade with the Castle Hill Lighthouse on two sides. I designed the other two sides using reference photos of their sailboat. I was thrilled to be able to create such a special gift for them.
How do you market your creations?
In my opinion, marketing is one of the hardest parts about being in business. Mostly, I use Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook to get the word out on new designs. I’m fortunate to have family and friends that also support my efforts and refer me.
Are all your shades sold only online or do you offer them in any local shops?
At this time, the only local place I sell my shades is my sister-in-law’s pottery shop here in town. She made several lamps and I created shades specifically for them so they are exclusively available there. I may branch out eventually but, at this point, my online shops are my focus.
Do you accept custom orders?
I’ve been focusing on putting together my product line first. At this point, I offer some customization in size or top fitting. However, I do ask folks to contact me if they would like the shade(s) in a different color or size because I can easily create a listing in accordance with their specifications. I plan to offer more customization in the future.
Do you enjoy any other hobbies?
Painting and sewing are my favorite hobbies, although I dabble in many others like furniture refinishing, for example. Most of all, I enjoy making things that are useful.
When you’re not crafting, how do you like to spend your time?
We enjoy all four seasons here in New England so it depends on the time of year. My family has a rustic cabin in New Hampshire so we frequently go there to relax (although it means some work, too). In the summer, we swim in our pool or at the beach and take our boat out for a cruise around the island. I also enjoy gardening, reading, taking walks, and spending time with my friends and family.
If someone is interested in contacting you, how is the best way to reach you?
The best way to contact me is through email ([email protected]) or Facebook Instant Message and I try to respond within 24 hours.
A big “thank you” to Peg for sharing more about herself and letting us take a peek into her creative process. If I’m ever lucky enough to visit Rhode Island, I hope I can see a few of her creations “up close and personal”. I’m sure her shades are even more stunning in person!
Until next time,
P.S. Do you (or someone you know) use YOUR Silhouette machine in a unique way? I’d love to hear more so leave a comment and let me know!
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Lycia is a lifelong crafter whose goal is to help others find value, confidence, and joy in whatever they create. She geeks out on using technology to supercharge craft projects with Silhouette Studio, Design Space, Glowforge, sublimation, etc.! Lycia teaches these skills and more through online tutorials and videos as well as in-person classes at both the local and national levels.