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Fun, funky and functional

Designer

Allison West

Background

Unusual and artistically styled furniture and accessories have intrigued Allison West since she was a teen-ager decorating her room. The now 28-year-old especially was drawn to unique lighting; she has a collection of lamps she's made and purchased over the years. Just for fun, West started making her own lamps and when she ran out of room she started selling them to local stores and designers and at Junior League and home parties.

"The lamps were well received in the local retail arena, (Little Rock, Ark.)," West said. "So I decided to take it to the next level."

West's first market was almost three years ago in Atlanta when she debuted Thumprints in High Design. She also shows in High Point and Las Vegas.

Thumprints, "lamps as distinctive as your thumbprint," are handcrafted and designed by West, which means no two are exactly alike. She doesn't focus on trends or color forecasts, but sees her product as a way to express her inner self, design innovation and creativity. Her designs truly are functional art.

The medium to high-end line, which includes lamps, wall sconces, floor lamps and uplights, is sold in stores ranging from boutiques and art galleries to high-end furniture and lighting stores to designers and hospitality and commercial clients.

Several of the sconces and hanging lights, like Hot Tamale, Sunny Side Up and Joker look like upside down table lamps. Thumprints collections include glitz and glam, classic contemporary, natural appeal and whimsical charm, offering a look for everyone and every room in the house.

Design process, inspiration and influence

"Each lamp has a different design process, which is constant and ongoing," West said. "Once the process is initiated, the piece begins to dictate its own evolution. I may start off with an idea, but, by the time the product is complete, it has taken a whole new direction."

Ideas come out of nowhere or are inspired by a found object or piece of art. West takes the shape of something, like a simple vase, and puts her own spin on it. Lamps can end up upside down or on their side, she doesn't let the norm dictate her creations.

"I focus on blending textures, shapes, colors and materials to form the unusual," she said.

West says art, something she's always been interested in, is the major influence in her work. Her love of abstract art and sculpture is obvious in Thumprints as the vibrant colors and flowing shapes blend to create art that illuminates a room.

"My experiences with drawing and painting have taught me to be detail-oriented and to mix colors and textures, a prominent part of my design work," West said. "I am also intrigued by the art of glass blowing, thus use a lot of art glass in the line."

Artistic challenges

Like most creative people who produce and sell their work, West's biggest challenge is reigning herself in. While her artistic side comes up with great ideas, the business side has to ask if it's marketable.

"It is important for me as a designer to know what I like and incorporate it into my designs," West said. "While keeping an open mind and maintaining focus on the likes, desires and limits of the marketplace at the same time."

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