Turning on the lights

Craig Doriety explores artistic side in designing lamps

Story and photographs by Laura Brookhart

“If I see a lamp in a found object, I let my imagination just take off on that idea,” says Craig Doriety, by weekday a senior designer with Southern Company who designs controls for high-voltage substations. “I credit my wife, Melinda, who makes pottery for bringing out my own creative side.”

Craig Doriety works on one of his lamps.

Craig Doriety works on one of his lamps.

As he began traveling to art shows with her, Doriety began to want to develop his own interests, he said.

“I have been into electronics since I was 12 years old,” he said. “My dad was a supervisory mechanic for a power company and he taught me hands-on skills. Most Saturdays, you could find me buying parts at Westlake Mall buying parts at Radio Shack.”

Growing up, Doriety was into building model kits and also found himself enjoying science fiction authors such as Frenchman Jules Vern, who wrote books about a variety of innovations and technological advancements years before they were practical realities.

A favorite movie later was the 1999 Wild Wild West, an American steampunk western action comedy film with Will Smith and Kevin Kline which grabbed his attention and perhaps influenced his own evolution toward steampunk style in his lighting creations.

“My work often incorporates older agricultural items as well as those with an industrial flavor, the hallmark of the design movement/aesthetic categorized as Steampunk.”

Doriety’s first show was Montevallo Art in the Park in spring 2016. He followed that with two shows in Mentone, their spring Rhododendron Festival in May and Colorfast in mid-October, then Montevallo ArtStalk and the Chilton County Folk Art Festival in November.

“These all went over better than I expected. I pick up items of interest at yard sales, thrift and antique shops,” he said, showing items he has used in his lighting creations—various pulleys, a block and tackle, a singletree (a crossbar used with horse-drawn wagons or plows), wooden cigar boxes, bicycle gears, kitchen utensils and vacuum tubes.

“And it’s great when I can find antique (from the 30s) glass globes and bridge lamps to further stylize,” he said.

Doriety even has plans for a lamp utilizing an old Vac-U-Tronic Vacuum Tester.

“People have begun to bring me their own collectibles to make into lamps, too,” he notes.

Doriety uses only new electrical wire cloth, which he special orders. It is a convincing older look often used on movie set props.

The special Edison vintage-styled bulbs he chooses for each lamp complement the overall shape of the lamp’s silhouette.

Look for Doriety at his first 2017 show in April at Montevallo’s Art in the Park.