Melinda Frank – Copy Editor
In the hipster world of do-it-yourself projects, senior Alec Barnhart is transforming the lowly Mason jar into a coveted work of art.
A creative entrepreneur, Barnhart sells customizable Mason jar lamps to buyers all over the world through his Etsy shop.
Barnhart, a senior business management and political science major, originally created his Etsy shop, OakandElmBoards, to sell his handmade pedal boards. While the shop is named for the pedal boards, his most popular item is now the Edison bulb lamps.
Each lamp is made out of a Mason jar, Edison bulb and industrial rope and is customizable.
The lamps can be wall-mounted, hung from a ceiling or simply set on a flat surface.
Barnhart made his first lamp last Christmas after seeing similar designs on Instagram.
“I had no idea what to get my sister for Christmas,” Barnhart said.
He made her a lamp, which was well-received, and the new business was born.
Barnhart made a few more as gifts, but as the word got out, family members and friends started placing orders. That’s when he decided to put them on the Etsy shop.
With Etsy, his original target market was here in the U.S., but he has shipped orders to some international customers as well. Recent sales went as far away as Germany and England.
“I guess people just want a creative form of lighting,” Barnhart said.
His target demographic, he said, is “someone who wants more of a rustic feel.”
The individual jars must be wired to accommodate a lighting fixture and electrical wiring which is hidden by braided rope.
While Barnhart comes from a long line of craftsmen, the process was tedious at first.
“When I saw it on the internet, I assumed it would be super easy,” he said. That first lamp, however, took a huge investment of time and effort.
After mastering the process, Barnhart can now make a lamp in 2 hours.
So far, he has sold about 40 lamps. His secret to success?
“Being able to sell below everybody else,” Barnhart said. Similar lamps retail online for $168, while his lamps retail for only $45 each.
“I guess because I’m in college and this isn’t my job, I can sell them for less,” he said.
Barnhart, who looks forward to owning his own business someday, also has made a few custom Pinterest creations for family weddings.
He said he is looking forward to where his online shop may take him.
“I would love for it to become something someday,” he said.
Barnhart said the success of do-it-yourself websites like Pinterest have certainly helped increase the market for him and for all small business owners.
“People are Pinterest-obsessed, and it’s actually pretty easy to do a lot of it,” Barnhart said. “I will admit that I do have Pinterest, although not under my name. I was embarrassed when I made one.”
Barnhart is currently in the process of increasing his product line to include salvaged wood Edison bulb lamps.
To check out Barnhart’s work, visit his Etsy shop: etsy.com/shop/OakandElmBoards.