Lighting Bug Ltd. – Makers of Dollhouse Lights and Miniature Lighting
We moved to Hawaii when I was six and my parents bought us a top opening Hawaiian-style ranch house. Although it was 1:12 scale, over the years the five of us made it home to Barbies, G.I. Joes, Lone Rangers, and all their friends. The house was given away long ago but I still have some furniture, lighting, and accessories.
How did you first get started working with miniatures? Where does the interest in miniature lighting design stem from?
When Jim and I were first married, I saw an ad in the back of a magazine for the House of Miniatures kit-of-the-month club. When I had enough furniture kits made, I needed a house for them. So, I took an evening woodworking class at our local college and made a 5-story 15-room bookcase-style dollhouse that I designed. I still love to do miniature woodworking, and to the amazement of my friends, I actually have table saws in three sizes.
When I built my dollhouse, I wasn’t going to light it because of the expense. But when I finished the first floor, it was obvious it needed light to show off all the details in the rooms. Jim helped me come up with a hard-wired system that worked for such a big house. Years later, I made a chandelier in a lighting class taught by Scott Hughes and another in a class by Phyllis Tucker, both fabulous lighting artisans, and was inspired by the results. Now I can’t do a project without lighting it, no matter how small it is.
Lighting Bug Ltd. was started in 1976 by Isabel and Tom Thompson. We bought the business from them in December 2005 and have been delighted to continue the legacy they started. We have two major milestones coming up. In December, we celebrate our 10 year anniversary and in 2016, Lighting Bug Ltd. will celebrate 40 years providing handcrafted lighting to dollhouse miniaturists. It feels pretty special to be a part of this history.
Did either of you previously work in the field of lighting design?
I was a small business accounting consultant and tax accountant which has the same mindset needed for detail work. Jim was an air-traffic controller which means he’s pretty good at details too. We’re both happy that making dollhouse lighting is less stressful than our previous careers.
Who designs Lighting Bug Ltd. miniature lights?
Jim is the techno-guru, web-master, photographer, and customer service for the business. Linda is the lighting artisan and business manager. We handcraft all of our lights and they are either our designs or designs we bought with the business. We were fortunate to buy a popular line of light designs that are still in demand today. We’ve added quite a few new designs since we bought the business and Jim and I have fun collaborating on some of the artsier ones. As small business owners, we wear a lot of hats and our skills blend very nicely.
Our signature light is the bare bulb with the pull chain. There are so many places it can be used in projects and it’s just so cute. What sells best goes in phases. In the last few years anything Moroccan or Tudor sells very quickly. We make the largest selection of handcrafted dollhouse lighting in a variety of styles from Tudor to Contemporary in 1”, ½”, and ¼” scales so we have lights for just about any project.
What inspires you?
I watch HGTV in the background while I’m making lights, and pause the TV when they show the lights in the reveals. I also do a lot of custom work inspired by photos or drawings customers send us. And when I have the time, I like to play around with the hundreds (maybe thousands) of parts we have on hand and see what fun new light I can come up with.
Don’t start as big as I did!
The whole idea of lighting and electricity can be very intimidating and prevent miniaturists from trying to light their projects. The good news is that there are quite a few new techniques for lighting available now that make it so much easier than it used to be. We love to show customers how to wire their projects and we do offer advice by email and at shows. My advice: start with a small project like a roombox to gain confidence; and take a wiring class to learn tips and techniques. Our favorite saying is, “Lighting brings your miniature projects to life.”
What’s to come from Lighting Bug Ltd.?
Our next show is The Miniature Show in Chicago in April 2016. It has an unbelievable list of dealers and should be great fun. We are always working on new lights that we add to our online store and expect to reveal new ones at the show. We’ll start posting teasers on Facebook and other social media as the show gets closer.
I am a miniaturist just like our customers. A fun time for me is working on a mini project in the company of my mini friends. I usually have two or three projects that I’m working on, and at least as many more in the queue. My current obsession is ¼ scale but I still love one inch scale best. Jim thinks our house looks like a miniature museum because of all my projects, but enjoys giving the mini tour when we have visitors.
Linda and Jim Orleff live in the beautiful state of Tennessee, in the lovely town of Fairfield Glade. To learn more about the work they do with Lighting Bug Ltd., head on over to their website, shop their online store, or follow along on Facebook.