Wayne County Business Lights A New Way
Tammy Schmidt turns pipes into light.
Pinterest spurred her interest, and Etsy turns her creativity into cash.
With her husband, George, Schmidt operates Stonecold Designz, cutting, etching, threading and twisting pipes, bottles and other things that catch her eye into table lamps, pendant lighting, sconces, even tables.
“An idea will kind of come to me, it will pop into my head, and I will see if I can make the pipe work the way I want it to,” she said.
Schmidt, 54, started the business about 2½ years ago out of the basement of their Preston Twp., Wayne County, home. Scrolling through Pinterest, the social networking site, one day, she saw someone turned pipes into lamps. That “caught my eye,“ she said.
“And I thought, well, I could make that easy enough,” said Schmidt, who manages the office of W.C. Welding in Lakewood. “I was thinking that I could do it as a sideline.”
She’s handy with tools. She learned her handiness at the side of her father, Roger Hess, who owned a body shop where she regularly joined him and tinkered.
She fashioned her first lamp out of pipes and four old telegraph insulators, the glass encasements for wires on telegraphs. Insulators encase electrical wires on utility poles, but before telephones, messages crossed the United States through telegraphs, which used electricity to send codes symbolizing letters through wires that criss-crossed the country.
Schmidt buys the pipes and electrical parts from various distributors, but finds some elements at flea markets.
She listed her first creation on Etsy, the online commerce website that focuses on handmade and vintage items.
She doesn’t remember the sale price, but remembered earning a 50 percent profit.
“The bug bit me and we started branching out and creating different designs,” Schmidt said.
She feels like she can fashion a lamp or light out of almost anything and likes to use anything that catches her eye. Right now, she’s working on a pendant light with a top that comes from a pressure plate in a vehicle transmission. Whiskey and other bottles are a favorite of customers who request speciality designs.
“A lot of people have their man caves and basements with bars,” she said.
She made a lamp out of an old fire alarm pull station she found at a flea market.
“It definitely was a one-of-a-kind light. When it sold, I took it off the website,” she said.
Her website is stonecolddesignz.com.
There you’ll find lamps called a steampunk twin insulator, a tequila hangman and nothing but taillights.
She cooked up that last one from the housing on taillights from an antique truck. What looks like valves on her lamps actually serve as light switches once she’s done rejiggering them. She needs about four to five hours to complete a lamp, polishing glass and spray-painting the pipes or brushing on paint that adds an antique look. Her lamps range in price from $65 to $250, pendant lights, $55 to $475, and sconces, $75 or $175. She has sold about 50 so far, mostly on Etsy, where she was one of 1.9 million active sellers connected to 33.4 million active buyers at the end of last year.
“I do a lot of custom orders, too,” she said. “There’s so many different variations that you can do based on the size of the pipe.”
To publicize her business, she visits local arts and crafts festivals and maintains the website.
Someday, she thinks, she can devote her entire workday to this.
“It’s really starting to pick up,” she said.
For now, she mostly works on her creations after her day job and on weekends.
She relishes the time alone in her basement, threading pipes, fastening them into a shape, pushing wires through them, spraying paint and attaching sockets and plugs.
“My workshop is down in my basement and I will go down there and everybody else is upstairs and it’s just me and my parts,” she said.
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