Light fantastic: designer uses old milk churns and driftwood for unique lamps Eoin Shanley has maste

As featured in the Irish Independent, April 15th 2018.

Old milk churns and Victorian hair restoration kits are not the type of things you'd expect lights to be made out of - yet this is exactly the kind of material which suits lampmaker Eoin Shanley down to the ground.

Eoin Shanley, Copper Fish Studio, Irish Indepedent

Shanley, who set up Copper Fish Studio in 2016, makes handmade lights and lamps from all kinds of material - including driftwood, wood from storm-fallen trees and old boats, fence posts, and old railway sleepers. He cites Victorian medical kits and old milk churns as some of the most unusual material he has used to make lights.

"I've made a lovely light from a Victorian hair restoration kit," says Shanley. "This kit was a metal comb which the Victorians plugged in and put on their head - they thought the electric shock would make their hair grow. I'm working on a pub in Mayo at the moment, and I'm in the middle of converting a few old milk churns into ceiling lights. I will remove the bases, hang them on a chain, and I have just organised to have a 10-inch wide bulb made to fit into it."

Shanley has also made lights out of books. "I'm often asked to make a lamp out of books of sentimental value - such as a book which belonged to a father who passed away," says Shanley.

The seeds for Copper Fish Studio were sown when Shanley and his wife restored a 200-year-old thatched cottage in Leitrim which they owned a few years ago. The cottage had its traditional oak beams and was built in cob - a material used to build cottages before cement was introduced. "We tried to do everything with local materials when restoring the cottage," says Shanley. "I salvaged old oak and used copper pipes to make lights for the cottage. People saw what I did and were interested in getting something similar for their own home."

Shanley created some lights and lamps on the back of those requests. "I then got phone calls from people saying they had seen one of my lights in someone else's home and were interested in getting the light themselves," says Shanley.

Shanley and his wife have since sold the old Leitrim cottage - as they found the commute to Dublin too long when they had young children. They are now living in Delgany, Co Wicklow with their two children. Shanley's business is based in Delgany - and he often tries out some of his lights and lamps at home before putting the finishing touches to them.

"I put pieces I've made up in my house and if I think they're not quite right, I'll look at it for a while and decide what needs to be done," says Shanley. "I'll find big lumps of timber and leave them to stand in my house for a while - and I'll look at the timber and then decide what to do with it."

He often gets inspiration for his pieces from the Connemara landscape. "I walk for endless miles around the lakes and rivers in Connemara," says Shanley. "It's so remote, and I have stumbled across some really old man-made timber, that has been hammered by the ravages of the weather of the west. I generally work with man-made timber, as opposed to bog oak, or natural timber. I love the idea of reclaiming old wood, and the story behind it."

Shanley's lights are stocked in about 20 shops around Ireland including the Kilkenny group, Meadows and Byrne, and Industry and Co in Dublin. His lights are also on sale in a shop in Belgium - as well as a shop in Switzerland.

"I've done lights for a lot of the staff in RTE," says Shanley. "I've done some bespoke pieces. I do styles of lamp but I've never made two the same."