You are here

Tastemaker: Louise Gaskill

North Carolina lighting designer Louise Gaskill goes modern with Murano

Written by Krissa Rossbund

Everything started with a trip to the local art store over lunch. That’s where North Carolinian Louise Gaskill, who had built a 20-years-long career in software sales, signed up to learn the craft of gold leafing so she could embellish frames for her collection of original artwork.

North Carolina lighting artist Louise Gaskill in her Raleigh studio, where she dismantles old lighting and assembles the parts into new fixtures. Her frames range from traditional silhouettes to pieces with sleek, contemporary arms. The focus of each newly constructed fixture is always vintage glass. ​

“I had always loved taking things apart, then redoing and refinishing them, especially furniture,” explains Gaskill. “I learned the process of gilding and experimented with different finishes. By the time a year had passed, I had refined my look.”

Originally the top part of a large chandelier, a brass, crystal, and cobalt piece will be disassembled and reborn as a lamp. ​

Gaskill’s art class lunch trips paid off a lot more than a seat for the daily soup-and-salad special would have. Today, she’s the visionary behind a custom lighting company that modernizes vintage art glass by deconstructing it from its original lighting configuration, then reimagining it into new fixtures that prove relevant for current design.

“I committed to only buying vintage glass because new didn’t feel right to me,” Gaskill says. “But just because something is old doesn’t mean that it’s quality or good. I pluck only the best elements of the fixtures I buy for reuse. And the result is one-of-a-kind lighting.”

A collection of chandelier cups secures sockets. ​

Gaskill’s Raleigh workshop does far more than house the vast inventory she’s built over 16 years. It is like a museum for lighting parts. Shelves display vintage art glass in a rainbow of colors from jewel-tone Italian Murano specimens to the elegant white or clear seeded examples from Germany. Drawers are organized and filled with intricately fabricated metal parts including top canopies, prisms, chains, bobeches, and candle cups.

Vintage components, such as decorative caps, were made in standard sizes, so they stack easily on reconfigured fixtures​

While it’s true that no two pieces of Gaskill’s are the same, there is a unifying look to each lamp, sconce, and chandelier. For instance, there’s no “either/or” when it comes to selecting a gold or silver finish for the metal parts. Gaskill incorporates both colors into every fixture she designs to ensure its timelessness.

A once black, midcentury, crown-like ornament was given a regal lift with a new gold-leaf finish. ​

And you won’t find any casino-like crystals dripping by the hundreds from the frames. The art glass is Gaskill’s focus, so any embellishments she adds have to complement that main component. “I don’t like fussy curves with a lot going on,” she says. “I counteract highly ornamented components with a streamlined frame. For me, the more simple the better.

“Lighting adds extraordinary sculpture to a room. And my fixtures have a mysterious story behind them too.” 

Gaskill fashions prisms onto the “Mia” chandelier using two pieces of Murano glass that were initially stacked on a lamp in the opposite direction. Italian and German glass compose Gaskill’s inventory, and are used for the body of each fixture. Gilded rings dangle prisms. Circular metal arms swirl into white Murano glass with blue spots. New and vintage chains provide length to chandeliers. “I buy pieces with parts not meant for lighting,” says Gaskill. “I once bought an old chair and incorporated its brass casters into a piece of lighting. I look at things with a different eye now.” 

Photography: Stacey Van Berkel
Produced by Lisa Mende