Behind the scenes: Making our lamp mannequins
February 26, 2019
Sacha Lancia takes ordinary items and transforms them into extraordinary creations.
Consider, for instance, pottery shards, odd buttons, and forgotten fabrics. Sacha calls them “found objects,” and around our studios, they’re often in abundance. With Sacha’s imagination and her ever-present glue gun, these bits and bobs become part of our unique lamp mannequins.
Sacha, a freelance designer from Fresno, California, is a Central New York native. She grew up in nearby Auburn and started her career with us as a teenager. Her first job was answering our phones, and over the course of 23 years, she moved around the company, taking on everything from decorating pottery to sewing upholstery to acting as our special events and Farmhouse coordinator.
Recently, Sacha, who has made more than a dozen of our lamp mannequins, completed two new ones for our soon-to-open store in SoHo. No two of her mannequins are alike, and Sacha’s goal is for her creations to look runway-ready. “I’m aiming for MacKenzie-Childs couture,” she says.
That process begins by establishing a concept for each mannequin with Rebecca Proctor, our creative director and chief brand officer. For the newest ones, Rebecca and Sacha wanted to incorporate colors and patterns that would mesh with our spring collections and be versatile enough to work in a variety of settings.
“There’s an overall theme with some tinkering,” says Sacha. “You have to see what works with what.”
Each creation begins with a basic mannequin form that’s like those you might see displaying clothing. Then Sacha adds the first of many layers of one-of-a-kind detail, embellishing the form with a variety of materials that can include anything from wrapping paper to gold leaf to vintage maps. Then she makes the fashions, which, she says, involves more sculpting than sewing because these garments are attached to the mannequins.
For her latest creations, one mannequin is decoupaged with pieces of a vintage map and wears a midi-length dress that’s made from a mashup of taffeta, organza, and upholstery-weight fabrics in patterns that include stripes, paisleys, and plaids. The dress’s exaggerated sleeves are trimmed with large teal bows that match the ruffles at the neckline, and the back of the dress is laced with teal ribbon.
The second mannequin form is gold leafed and topped with floral transfers. It wears a knee-length skirt featuring three layers of silk fabrics with a Chinese brocade underskirt, topped with two flounces. The first flounce is an embroidered burgundy dot on gold, and the second is a patchwork of gold and plaid squares. The bodice is striped velvet, topped with ruched organza that has a bit of a metallic sheen to it. The sleeves aren’t fabric at all, but the same blown-glass flowers that you’ll find on our Merrifield Chandelier. Finally, the back is finished with an oversized bow made from the Chinese brocade that’s trimmed with pleated plaid ribbon.
The finishing touches include a bit of jewelry and custom-decorated shoes. Last, but certainly not least, they’re topped with “heads” that are created from our Courtly Check Globe Lamps, which is why we call these lovely ladies our lamp mannequins. “They work really well because they’re the same size as a head and they glue on really well,” says Sacha. Each lamp base is also decorated to complement the mannequin’s clothing, and it’s topped with an Edison-style light bulb and a light and airy lampshade.
How long does it take to create one of these mannequins? Sacha says it can vary, depending on how much embellishing she does. “I take it in bits, and it’s different for each one. You can easily overwork it.” She knows one is done when it reaches what she calls the “wow factor.”
Says Sacha, “I want to make a dramatic piece that will make mouths drop. I want people to say, ‘Holy smokes!’”
By that measure, we think that you’d agree that Sacha has more than accomplished her mission, and, of course, with MacKenzie-Childs style.