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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Fiberglass shades

Most of us mid-century lovers seem to have an affinity for lamps, and nothing seems to turn that feeling into a full-fledged love affair like a great fiberglass shade.

During the late 1940s and early 50s, fiberglass was being molded into furniture and pressed paper thin for lampshades. It was generally wrapped around metal frames and held in place with lacing. The fiberglass was most often left white, but it was not unusual to see it in tan, off-white, pink, turquoise and pale green. The surface was often decorated with popular motifs such as leaves, atomic shapes, stars and abstract designs, usually in gold or black.

In the 1950s science was influenceing every facet of life. Household objects began to take on space age characteristics. Thickly molded fiberglass, similar to that used in furniture, was molded into cones and used as shades. Flat shades covered some, echoing the shape of a flying saucer. Metal arms held the shades at odd angles. The fiberglass could be pressed flat or left "furry" for texture.

During the 1960s plastic shades began to replace fiberglass, which was more widely used for insulation. Many of the old shades are still with us, however, because fiberglass does not break down or wear out easily.

This lamp appears to have a fabric shade
 with a fiberglass cone uplight around the bulb.


  1. I wouldn't mind a fibreglass lamp (shade).
    They just don't seem as widespread over here. A lot of rocket lamps crop up on ebay but not lamps like this. I will continue my search though.

  2. Funny, when I was a kid I thought the whip-stitched edges of these lamps looked so western/cowboy/rustic. Had no interest in them back then.

    Same with molded fiberglass chairs. We had them because they were inexpensive, and we kids tore them up ha ha.

    Now lamps are my favorite, and I wish we'd taken better care of those chairs!

  3. @MoonDoggie: It's not difficult to find fiberglass shades here, but when you do, they can often be very expensive. As sellers, we often find great lamps with no shades, and it's been our experience that some buyers are perfectly happy with reproduction fiberglass shades (as evidenced by the booming business done by companies like Moonshine Lamp and Shade), so we're going to try our hand at making our own when we need them. I've found fiberglass by the yard, as well as frames and lacing, and it should be easy. I've relaced quite a few vintage ones, because the lacing often becomes brittle and breaks before the fiberglass wears out. That's an easy fix, so building one from scratch shouldn't be much harder.

  4. @1950sarh: I don't recall that we had any fiberglass chairs, but I DO remember a "pink and black phase" my grandmother went through. She had blonde furniture, a sofa that was a tight-weave fabric with metallic gold thread woven through it, a black panther TV lamp and a pair of pink and black table lamps with gold splatters. Make you wonder what ever happened to all that great old stuff and if you're ever going to run into it again at some mid-century shop.

  5. Ahhh. You know you're an MCM addict when you swoon over fiberglass the way other women swoon over leaded crystal. :) I love fiberglass everythings *except* curatins. Have you ever picked up or had fiberglass drapes? OUCH.

  6. That turquoise lamp in Indy is calling your name :) I agree with you about fiberglass shades. I grew up with black and gold lamps with triple tier fiberglass shades. Unfortunately my mom "can't remember what happened to those lamps". I have an affinity for some of the majestic lamps but not the price.

  7. @stacey: You could tempt me with fiberglass much more easily than with Waterford or Baccarat too! :) And fiberglass itchy! Brings back memories of decorating with angel hair at Christmas when I was a kid.

  8. @Krazy4Mod: I know. That lamp is keeping me up at night...LOL Doesn't it just kill you to know that all that great stuff our parents and grandparents had just vanished? Honestly, though, I saw a camelback trunk at an antique mall yesterday that I believe I owned in the 1970s. It had belonged to my great-grandparents, and when my hippie days were over, I didn't use it to decorate with anymore, so I sold it in a garage sale. The one I saw had a dent in the very same place mine did. How weird would it be to run across something 40, 50, even 60 years later?

  9. Lamp obsession, yes, love for fiberglass, yes. Though you can't find them around here! Big sad face. I like #4 picture from a lot!

  10. @Rhan Vintage: I love the #4 lamp too. Wouldn't it just knock you out to walk into an estate sale or a thrift store and find that?

  11. I have 2 mid century lamps and 3 double tier light blue fiberglass laced shades. In moving the lace was brittle and broke around 2 of the wire frames. How do I fix them?

    1. Replacement lacing is sold in most hobby shops. All you have to do is remove the old lacing, and relace the lamp, starting at the seam in the shade. Here's a tutorial:

  12. Where can you find fiberglass for the shades? thanks, would love to try to make some