BY WALTER GRIFFIN
FOR THE MIDCOAST BEACON
BELFAST — New lights are shining in the old downtown.
Lincolnville artist Stuart Loten recently opened Loten Art Lighting on Main Street to exhibit his handmade and hand painted lamps.
Loten describes his work as “jewelry for the home.” Styles range from floor and table lamps to nightlights. Each piece is crafted from metal with shades in hand-painted silk.
“Bulb, socket and wire are the only things I don’t make,” he said.
Loten, who has a master’s degree in fine arts and design, has been selling his creations to craft galleries throughout the country for many years. His lamps are in homes in every state of the union. Loten relocated from Massachusetts three years ago, the fulfillment of a dream he had a quarter century ago.
“I’ve been trying to get to Maine for 25 years. I drove up 95 with my father to buy a piece of property but we hit a blizzard in New Hampshire and had to turn back,” Loten recalled. “Soon after that I got married and had a child. I was in a position to finish that trip of 25 years ago. I’ve lived from here to Alaska, the Colorado Rockies and there is nothing like Maine. It’s the best state in the country.”
Loten described the response to his lighting as “very good” and that working on his art and designs kept him busy year round. He said that while he is successful marketing his lamps at galleries as well as designing pieces for major manufacturers of residential lighting, he always dreamed of having his own place to showcase his work.
“Retail was always something I wanted to do, having my own space with just my own work in a retail space in Belfast,” Loten said. “The ultimate goal of everybody in the arts is to have your own gallery. It also gives me the opportunity to show my work.”
Loten said the decision to become an artist came to him while he was in college. He said he was one semester away from receiving a degree in wildlife biology when he decided to take an elective course in art. He said he immediately knew the direction his life would take.
“I wasn’t exposed to art as a child but once I took that art elective, that was where I was going,” he said.
Loten initially worked as potter and began making lamps with bases of clay. He quickly found that metal was a better medium for him and began making his lamps from steel. Unlike most lamps, there are no bolts, nuts or lock washers to hold them together. Instead, each individual piece is welded and made to last. He starts with straight pieces of metal and bends them by hand to the desired shape. The shapes then are given an acid bath to oxidize the metal followed by a clear coat of finish.
“These things are going to be like this 100 years from now,” he said.
The shades are made of the finest satin silk imported from China. The silk is stretched similar to the way an artist stretches canvas and hand painted with special dyes designed to resist ultraviolet light and prevent fading.
Loten also has designed lamps with wooden bases of maple and walnut. The bases are designed by Loten and crafted by a friend from Virginia. Loten said he was looking forward to being in Belfast. He said the gallery would remain open beyond the holidays and that he hoped to develop a following in the area.
“This is my opportunity to let people know that I’m here, that I’m right in their own backyard,” Loten said.