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Bringing lights back to life

Bryan Austin, owner of Miracles Vintage Lamps and Gifts, restores and repairs all types of lighting. He also crafts one-of-a-kind lamps and chandeliers using salvaged and antique materials. James Card Photo

Lamp maker restores, creates

James Card

Not many people repair old lamps anymore but Bryan Austin does.

He also makes them, often out of antiques and salvaged material. Wood, metal, wire and glass are the mediums he works with in a craft that is a combination of electrical skills, woodworking, sculpting and historical record-keeping.

Walking into Miracles Vintage Lamps and Gifts in West Bloomfield is a visual delight. The building is his workshop, office, lounge and retail space. The lighting he has on display is warm and welcoming but not overpowering.

Austin despises the lighting showcase aisle at Menard’s that is so bright he says you need sunglasses to inspect a fixture. He shakes his head at the idea of blinding potential customers and said if he used light bulbs that bright his electric bill would spike.

Instead, his lamps and chandeliers are toned down so visitors can see the details in his creations.

What they will not see are the spider web of wires connecting the bulbs. Austin pointed to a block of timber from an old barn. He split the wood open, carved it out, buried the wires and sealed it up so only the power cord is noticed.

He pointed out a chandelier from a Waupaca home that he refurbished to be re-hung in the owner’s entryway.

“The name Miracles Vintage came about because of the miracles we do for people. Whether it’s an old sconce from grandma’s house or an old lamp that was a 100-years old and putting new cords and sockets in it. It’s the miracle of repurposing it. We do a lot of restoration, heirloom lamp repairs and we’re able to do a lot of awesome off-the-wall pieces for people,” said Austin.

Austin salvages material himself and has a wide network of friends who bring him materials and parts. He records all of the information about the materials so he can show its provenance to customers, such as this timber beam came from a certain barn or a light bulb hood came from a closed factory. He is able to pass along the history of each.

“I’ve got the old Mason jars, the telephone insulators, the old barn hoods, and we do a lot of work with old farm implements,” he said.

He also makes “pipe people,” that could be described as an elf-on-a-shelf but made of metal piping and some have air pressure gauges or light bulbs for heads.

Local roots

Austin grew up in West Bloomfield and served in the U.S. Army from 1994 to 2001. He worked as a land surveyor for McMahon Associates in Neenah before launching Miracles Vintage Lamps and Gifts.

“I always had a fascination with electricity. I always had my hands in it. What got me going was the history of lighting, going back to when electricity emerged in the United States. For me, it was the box stores—all the wrong things they were doing with lighting, like putting in the wrong wire such as using aluminum wire instead of copper wire. I wanted to make things safer in homes rather than having fire hazards all around,” said Austin.

“We don’t produce hundreds of the same thing. We produce one of one. If there is a request to make 10 pieces for a client like a restaurant,” he said, also mentioning a recent job where he did chandelier work and made matching sconces for a veterinary clinic in Green Bay.

Austin pointed out some of the custom creations he has made for client: a weathered wood ladder hanging from the ceiling and illuminated with a track lighting effect.

“It’s an antique. It’s going to go over some guy’s island and he’s going to put pots and pans on it. He came to me with the creation. That’s one of one because you can’t get the same ladder or the same wood. Every piece in here is timeless and timeless means history,” he said.

The style could be described as steampunk, a genre that is futuristic and retro at the same time and inspired by 19th-century machinery but it also has a rustic farmhouse décor look to it. His lamps start at $75 and can go up to $2,000 for complicated chandeliers.

Miracles Vintage Lamps and Gifts is open by appointment.

“It’s so that we can talk with a customer and get the story of the pieces that we are making. We’re kind of tucked in and a lot of people drive by and stop in and didn’t know there was a lamp shop. We’re not in town and we’re near Waupaca and Weyauwega,” he said.

His workshop has Fremont address but he is located a short skip from West Bloomfield at W1511 County Trunk HH. Look for the hand-painted sign on his red barn.

Austin can be reached at 907-313-0611 and at www.miraclesvintagelampsandgifts.com.

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