Old Instrument, New Tune: Jamie Cornett’s Instrumental Lighting

According to artist Jamie Cornett, there’s an ongoing joke among musicians; when they get frustrated with practicing or tired of music in general, they say they’re going to turn their instrument into a lamp. Jamie wasn’t frustrated or fed up with music, but he was intrigued by the lamp idea.

“I realized that there are so many instruments, beyond their playing years, that sit in closets and attics,” he says. “They didn’t even get to become lamps! It’s my goal to find them and turn them into displayable pieces of functional art.”

Although he calls his first attempt at lamp-making “a horrible disaster,” he still uses his first lamp in his home today. “I had no idea what I was doing. I created it using the wrong tools, and too much glue! But I love it because it reminds me of the original idea and allows me to reflect on how that idea has become something that I’m really proud of,” he says.

Jamie’s lamps are definitely something to be proud of. He has improved his technique, refined his skill, and perfected his tools since. Now, his creations are not only working lamps, but also beautiful works of art.

Of course, Jamie doesn’t always have an attic full of instruments. In fact, he works from his New York City apartment. So, he scours estate sales, pawn shops, and online auction sites for trumpets, clarinets, and flutes that have played their last notes. “I’m not ashamed to admit that at least one [instrument] has come from the streets of NYC on trash day,” he tells us.

While these woodwind wonders and brass beauties won’t be making melodies in the future, they are making people smile. “These lamps are the perfect gift because you can’t look at one without reacting in some unexpected way,” Jamie explains. “They remind people of their favorite jazz piece or hours spent in a practice room preparing for an audition. Each one has the ability to make you feel like it was made with just you in mind.”

Written by Cassie

Cassie spends most of her time at work writing things. She loves books (including comics), sketch comedy, and sci-fi. She's inspired by art and science. As a former Minnesotan, she longs for an afternoon on a lake, Grain Belt in hand. The New Yorker in her is happy spending that afternoon at the American Museum of Natural History instead.

8 Comments

  1. Sharyl Briggs

    Hi Jamie,

    I loved discovering your lamps made of old instruments in the Uncommon Goods catalog. What a good way to remember our experiences in the school band.

    When I decided to join band in 5th grade in the mid-fifties, my mother located a clarinet for sale in our small Iowa town. I was expecting it to be wood or plastic, but being a product from the 20s or 30s, it was metal. I was the only one in the band with an antique instrument. It has been under the basement steps for around 40 years now. Any chance you could use it for one of your creations?

    The clarinet is in MO right now, and we are wintering in TX until May. Let me know if you are interested in making a lamp for me, and I will contact you about it later.

    Thanks.

    Sharyl Briggs
    301 E Hall Acres Road #563
    Pharr, TX 78577

    sharylsbriggs@yahoo.com

  2. Jamie Cornett

    Sharyl, Thanks for your kind comment. I’ve made a few lamps out of metal clarinets before, they are actually some of my favorites. I love their vintage feel especially paired with a modern lamp shade. I would be happy to make a lamp for you. I will email you so that you will have my contact info. Thanks again for your comment.
    Jamie Cornett
    Instrumental Lighting

  3. Dana

    Aloha Jamie,
    Your lamps are wonderful…
    I’d like to place a custom order for a gift.
    Pls. contact me.
    Mahalo,
    Dana
    Honolulu, Hawaii

  4. sherry

    Jamie – just received a trumpet lamp for my husband’s birthday (in December). I couldn’t wait to let him have this wonderful gift, so we opened it tonight. He is a trumpet player, former music teacher (high school and junior high) and he really was impressed. We put it in his office with his framed instrument posters (Monterey Jazz Festival, Hot Jazz and Jim Shick) and it looks right at home. Great idea and great work. Also love your decopage (?) shade.

    best – sherry

  5. Sandy

    Can you work your magic with an oboe? I have one that I would love to have turned into a lamp. Contact me. Thanks.

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