In 2002 owner and founder Brian Faherty discovered a collection of original cast-iron glass shade molds in an upstate New York warehouse, all but forgotten for more than a half century.
“We were literally searching through this huge old warehouse with flashlights, running our hands around the inside of these massive cast-iron molds to feel the shape they made...These are the old original molds that make our shades today.” Once covered with layers of rust and dirt, these molds have been restored and returned to production. This collection represents some of the best examples of true American lighting design and is the inspiration behind Schoolhouse Electric Co.
Between 1900 and 1950 schoolhouse-style shades and light fixtures were widely used in private residences and institutional settings, including schools, galleries, and libraries. Originally produced in hundreds of designs and sizes, these shades and fixtures were a popular choice for architects and homeowners alike. But by the 1960s only a handful of designs remained in production. Schoolhouse is proud to have reintroduced many of the original shade designs for use today.
All of our exclusive shades are American-made, produced on the banks of the Monongahela River in West Virginia. They are hand-blown, one by one, in antique cast-iron molds, using the same methods that have been in effect for over 150 years.
In addition to bringing exclusive authentic shade designs back into production, we were the first company to bring back hand-painted and decorated shades when we opened in 2003. Our hand-painted shades are painted by brush and fired twice, using traditional methods so they look just like the originals. As with any hand-crafted product, minor imperfections are inherent-and actually desirable in the art form as indicators of the old-world craft and authenticity of our production methods. Brushstrokes on each shade and slight line weight variations authenticate their handcrafted production process.
Our lighting products and their hand-crafted production process preserve the heritage and integrity of authentic American lighting design. The heritage of our products is as important to us as it is to you. Every product and component part in our line is carefully designed in-house to ensure authenticity and quality of detail.
Once inspired by a vintage light fixture or shade, we spend months if not years developing drawings, working with craftspeople and perfecting our techniques in order to produce the best possible quality products. Our proprietary parts have finer detailing and are made of better quality and heavier weight brass than our competitors’ off-shore mass-produced parts. Our commitment to using American vendors enables us to match or exceed the craftsmanship of original antique fixtures. Using American vendors keeps jobs and dying craft production techniques alive in the in the US. Using American craftspeople and vendors also reduces our carbon footprint by minimizing transportation emissions.
We refuse to cut corners when it comes to detailing or quality. Our quality and craftsmanship drives our passion, set us apart in the marketplace and makes our products truly sustainable—timeless in design and built to last a lifetime.
Our fixtures and shades are hand-crafted to not only resemble the quality and durability of original American-made classics but to match them. Once we design a part, a chuck or pattern is created and stored at our metal spinner in Los Angeles. When the part is ordered, sheets of brass are cut into flat circles in preparation for production. These circles of brass are placed by hand on to a spinning lathe where extremely skilled craftspeople use their upper body strength and the heat generated by friction to slowly push the brass into shape.
Long tools with rollers on the end are used like oars in a rhythmic rowing motion by the craftspeople to form each part one at a time. The thick gauge brass we use is difficult to shape making our parts very laborious to produce. Once a part is shaped the part edge is either rolled or cut and sanded.
Some parts, like the one pictured here for our Marian 6” fixture, have to be annealed (heated a high temperature in an oven) halfway through the process in order to create enough strength and hardness in the metal for the brass to hold the part design without breaking. This makes part creation a very time-consuming multi-step process.
Each part is buffed to either a matte, satin or polished finish in preparation for the patina line or plating. Buffing is difficult and time-consuming, taking anywhere from 2-20 minutes per piece. Our fixtures are available in six metal finishes. We create four of these finishes in our state-of-the-art patina line in Portland, Oregon. Our two nickel metal finishes also crafted in Portland, Oregon at a specialized plating vendor.
Our factory is a Non-Discharge facility. We operate a water recycling "closed loop" ion exchange system similar to that of microchip processing for our patina line. There is absolutely no process discharge into the local sewer system. All heavy metals and other toxins are removed from the water which is recycled back into the line for use again. All hazardous wastes generated are shipped to an EPA approved facility for disposal.
Once parts are finished, our craftspeople in Portland, Oregon, build each fixture to your specifications.