My love for the world of color and sewing and creativity was sparked by my grandmother when I was a very young child growing up in Michigan. Eventually, that love fueled my passion for textiles. In Santa Barbara, California in 1977, I took an extended leave of absence from my position as a special education teacher due to an injury. During my leave, I got involved with spinning and dyeing wool for weaving. I bought a loom and began weaving rugs, and fabrics for pillows. I became completely immersed in the world of textiles and fascinated by the rich heritage of the industry.
I was hooked — so hooked that my husband Bob and I relocated to Northern California in 1977, where I intended to pursue a master’s degree in textile arts. In the meantime, I had begun restoring lampshades for an antique shop. I became intrigued with the idea of becoming a custom lampshade maker. I saw that it would allow me to indulge my passions in a direct and marketable way, and I decided to change course. Instead of returning to school I began teaching myself how to make lampshades.
In 1978 we returned to Santa Barbara where I rented a tiny space and opened my first custom lampshade shop, and I’ve been making custom lampshades ever since. I’ve had a few shops over the years, including a showroom in the Seattle Design Center for a number of years in the 1990’s, followed by an atelier in Montecito, California for 15 years. It’s been a wonderful process of discovery, growth, and creating many cherished relationships.
My husband Bob has been intimately involved in the businesses in various ways since the very beginning. In 2015 he retired from his position at the Santa Barbara County Education Office, and in 2016 we relocated to the Nevada City/Grass Valley area of the Sierra foothills in California. In July of 2017 we opened a shop in historic downtown Nevada City. These days I run the shop, Bob handles the various support services, and we both make the lampshades.
There are very few lampshade makers in the country who offer custom sewn lampshades created in the traditional manner like ours: completely hand sewn, with true silk linings and meticulous attention to detail.
I have had the privilege of designing and making custom lampshades for many celebrities and high-profile clients, as well as for a number of prestigious projects, including The Plaza Hotel in New York and The Getty Center in Los Angeles.
It is my belief that no matter how beautifully designed and furnished a room may otherwise be, complimentary lighting is essential: without it, the entire effect is undermined; with it, everything comes to life.
I find great joy in knowing that my creations are in the homes of so many of the lovely people I’ve met over the years, and that they add a little beauty and delight to the rhythms of their lives.
~ Mahna Freeborn