When Diane Graves was in elementary school she had a vision of the Holy Spirit. She kept it to herself, never telling anyone for fear of being ridiculed. But her spiritual predication would not be denied. Calling herself a �kitchen table artist� because her artistic beginnings took root while sitting at her kitchen table �just trying make things,� Diane has carved a unique place for herself by blending spirituality, artistry and lighting. At first blush it would seem a quirky coincidence that a person so drawn to spiritual en(light)enment designs and create lamps. Diane is quick to point out that her lamps are not to read by, rather to provoke moods and illuminate thought. Born in Idaho and a resident of Seattle for the past 23 years, Diane�s path from visionary child to kitchen table artist to proprietor of a delightful studio off an alley in lower Fremont, has not been one of coincidence, but of following a calling.
Diane began by making jewelry, then expanded into mobiles. She continues to do so, although the mainstay of her art these days is the lamps. They range from simple classic designs to off the wall to fun and kitschy, such as the three she made from posters obtained from Archie McPhee Novelty Shop. Much of the raw material for Diane�s lamps are found by way of what she calls �junkin in flea shops.� It is a gift of unusual radar to discern beauty and purpose in what others have deemed worthless discards cluttering up the garage. It is a distinct way of engaging the world, akin to perceiving potential harmony where others hear dissonance. Intent also plays a role. Several years ago when Diane was out with her son Bret she spotted a lamp that had been left on a parking strip. She stopped to retrieve the parts--exactly what she had been looking for. Her son (astounded) said, �How do you always find free lamps wherever you go?� Diane�s response: �Because I�m looking for them. And whatever you�re looking for you�ll find.
These �found objects� are adopted, brought back to her studio, loved anew, and become partners in her vision, her signature. Her signature is in everything, from the unique way she binds the lamps--lacing them in a sexy corset-like manner--to her eclectic eye in combining disparate parts. For instance, her collage series of lamps she calls Dreamscapes. Found images, words and symbols are made into a collage and bonded onto the lampshade creating a transparent decal. They are an uncommon visual experience. But don�t stop there. �Read the words,� she says. It�s a poem. Or it tells a story. Or it holds a special message�a brilliant blending of the visual and the literary. Often she finds that the message or the poem wasn�t conscious�that only after viewing the finished work does she herself get the meaning. �When I�m working I don�t overthink. I like to feel my way through, which leads to a kind of hypnotic state. I want it to be intuitive, so the left-brained gets damped down and the right-brain takes over.� Phrases, birds, eyes, hands, clouds, form modern-day hieroglyphics that are more often than not spiritual in nature. I stand for quite awhile looking at one particularly intriguing layered image�A woman�s head, an apple stem ascending from the very top of it and the words bright lucidity written across her forehead.
Spiritual elevation is also reflected in her work with local artist David Farnsworth. The two paired up to create the David Farnsworth series, consisting of images drawn by David that are made into bright, hanging metal charms. The way in which the charms are situated on the lamp create poetry and other original messages�messages designed to uplift.
One of Diane�s latest brainstorms is the Family Album series. A very personal lamp from this series highlights photographs of Diane�s mother and her aunts. The photos are touching: two women joking in a horse stable; another woman posed in a fur, looking demure yet capable; a coquettish young girl frolicking in a field of grass. This is a tribute to her family, but I experience it as a tribute to an era. The hairstyles, the clothing, the black and white photos, all speak of a time gone by. The family picture book seems altogether dusty in comparison. �This is different from a photograph,� Diane says. �Something about the illumination gives a different kind of energy, almost as if the lighting brings the essence of that time and those people into the space. The photos are not limited to people, but could include animals, places, houses, summer cabins, etc.
Diane embellishes lamps as well, such as the chandelier that one patron brought in with a box full of sea glass retrieved from the beach. Each piece of the small jeweled glass had been wrapped in gold wire. The patron was going through a major transition in her life, and saw the remodeling of the chandelier as an expression of this new person she was becoming. She wanted the sea glass somehow incorporated, but left it completely up to Diane as to how it would be done. �It�s strange,� Diane said. �I felt as if I knew exactly what was needed, what her new-self wanted. It was almost as if I channeled it.
Biography written by Amontaine Aurore