FARMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — A lot of us have old things just laying around. Things that are a piece of Americana, but that you just don’t know what to do with.
Well, one couple has a solution: Take those old pop machines and pump jacks and turn them into lamps and tables.
In this week’s Finding Minnesota, John Lauritsen takes us to Machine Age Lamps in Farmington, where iconic things from the past are now lighting up the future.
In the very back of Shawn and Lori Carling’s shop you’ll find a world of random things: Tractor gears, boat motors, old airplane parts and Jeep grills.
And there-in lies the beauty of what happens here. A place where one man’s trash truly becomes another man’s treasure.
“I remember people telling me you can’t make a living selling lamps. And I was like, ‘watch me,’” said Shawn.
After 25 years in the corporate world, Shawn left with the hope of breathing new life into forgotten things.
The first lamp he built was for his dad. He used a dash panel from an old Farmall tractor and it took forever. But it paid off.
“Built it into a lamp and gave it to him for Christmas. And it was a hit. Everybody loved it,” said Shawn.
He made two more and sold them right away. Then, word spread. Not just around the area, but across the country and even overseas.
“He was working in the garage at our house and he was there all hours. Early morning. Late night. In his pajamas welding things. He couldn’t keep up with the stuff he was selling,” said Lori.
The stuff he was selling amounted to old Harley Davidson gas tanks, radiators from Ford Model T’s, and Johnson Outboard motors — all turned into lamps with a little brighter future.
“It’s so much fun. It’s so much fun. And I love it because we are taking old pieces and making them new again,” said Lori.
In a way they’ve become American pickers, but instead of flipping what they find they transform it. Shawn has become an expert on random pieces of Americana.
He gets an idea for a lamp, and together the Carlings will search the country for parts, visiting county fairs, swap meets and even tractor pulls.
Then, they work together. Shawn designs and builds and then Lori takes over.
“It’s kind of like an assembly line. He puts them together. I’ll wire them to this part,” said Lori.
They weld, wire, ship and sell to all corners of the world. And they’ve done more than 30,000 pieces.
A little shop that now makes things for Disney and other major companies. But despite the demand, it doesn’t feel like work.
“We’ve done lighting for bars and restaurants and casinos in Vegas. We’ve done Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant in Hong Kong. It’s been crazy. Super busy,” said Shawn. “Every day is a Saturday for us now.”
Shawn said a piece he’s looking forward to working with is a 1916 Harley-Davidson gas tank.