News story run in the Minnesota Business Magazine Dec issue!
The Lakeville-based company illuminates the charm of random old parts
Shawn Carling has seen the light. It all started around Christmas two years ago, when he sought out old tractor parts and used them to build a lamp that would remind his father of his childhood farm days. His father loved the gift, as did others who requested similar light fixtures. Since then, Carling has made and sold hundreds of such lamps in his Lakeville garage under the Machine Age Lamps brand.
“It’s been a crazy journey,” says Carling, who left a 25-year career at Best Buy to build the lamps full-time. The steampunk creations incorporate farm machinery, reclaimed wood, and airplane dashboards. They retail on the company’s website (machineagelamps.com) and at Southern Lights in Burnsville for $399 to $3,999. Carling fills five to seven new orders a week, shipping the lamps all over the country, and even as far as Hong Kong to furnish Gordon Ramsay’s new restaurant.
“Everything is unique and different,” Carling says of his creations. “It’s all antique. Nothing’s reproductions.”
While lamp #130 reigns as the most requested, Carling now has several lines, including floor lamps, farm lamps, and aviation lamps. He’s particularly fond of the steam gauge lamps. “They’re real and they’re old and they’re hard to find,” he says of the lamps’ hundred-year-old gauges, which still bear hand engravings. “That’s what makes them so cool.”
Carling searches salvage yards and eBay for the lamp components, and fans have begun to email him photos of tractor parts for sale. He’s currently looking for a workshop that can accommodate his treasures.
“It’s weird how you don’t plan for anything and you just fall into it,” he says.