A Sentimental Look Back
A long journey is coming to an end. A journey that began ten years ago in Paris, in a small, fine shop for antique lamps owned by my friend Ara Kebapcioglu. A journey with extraordinary discoveries, experiences, insights, highlights and also with bad, rainy days. A journey I would not want to miss in my life. I met remarkable people, made great friends, learned many things that were completely unknown to me and gained a deep understanding of a first-rate cultural asset. A journey not in 365 days, but with 365 kerosene/paraffin lamps that have enriched my life, cost me countless hours of work, filled our house and emptied my wallet.
And now? The journey is coming to an end for me. 10 years and 365 lamps are enough (says my brain; my heart says something completely different, of course). I have reached my goal. The website whose lines you are reading and whose photos you are looking at eventually moulted into the goal. I now have the satisfaction of having achieved exactly what arose as a pipe dream in my head a few years ago and became stronger and more urgent as the years went by, namely, the inclusion of my collection in a detailed website so that it would be accessible to the public.
But the journey is far from over for my lamps. They are now marching (or even flying?) in the immeasurable depths of the internet; being looked at by other people, taken note of and hopefully also partly admired. Because they deserve it. They have been people's best companions for several decades (one can even say almost a century). They broke the darkness, they let people read something beautiful late at night, write a love letter, do necessary repair work. They made dinner fun; they took away children's fear of the dark. They were irreplaceable. So their journey is probably not coming to an end, hopefully not for a long time. One day they will come into other people's collections, delight other collectors' hearts and they will be treasured again as new trophies. I wish them that, they are worth it.
The one question that concerns every collector is the future of a large, valuable collection that has been assembled with a great deal of effort and financial sacrifice. I must confess that at the beginning of the collection, several years ago, I did not think about this at all. Finding, acquiring, repairing, completing each lamp was the only goal, not its future. As years passed, as the collection grew larger and more valuable, I also grew older. With age inevitably comes the question of what should happen to the collected treasures if the heirs are not willing to keep and even continue the collection. This is a dominant, sometimes frightening question, because there is no reasonable answer.
I have sometimes been asked whether it would not make sense to donate such a collection to a museum so that it would be preserved as closed as possible. To this end, I would like to relate an experience from my life that demonstrates the sense or nonsense of such an undertaking: Some years ago, my wife Maria and I went on a car tour through the Netherlands and Belgium to get to know large and small towns in these cultural countries. Among other things, the road led us to Bruges, of course, to this beautiful, ancient Belgian city with great European culture. In Bruges there is also - among other wonderful sights - a lamp museum. It is called Lumina Domestica and is located in the middle of the old town. And of course we were keen to visit the museum. As we made our way to the museum on foot, we noticed a long queue of people outside the museum door. I was irritated and delighted at the same time that so many young people, some with small children, wanted to visit a lamp museum. I joined the queue; my wife already went to the entrance to get a picture of the entrance area. Shortly afterwards she came back and told me that there were two museums in the building; a lamp museum and a chocolate museum; and that the long queue was only for the chocolate museum. We went inside - and sure enough, there were two separate ticket offices, each for a museum. There was no one in front of the ticket office for the lamp museum. We bought our tickets and went into the lamp museum. My wife and I were all alone inside until at some point a friendly person came out of a side room and greeted us. We struck up a conversation (English) and learned that he was the owner of both museums. He was Ed van Belle, who made his fortune in Belgian chocolate and collected lamps on a large scale! He was in the museum that day completely by chance, because shortly before he had personally shown his lamp collection to two friends from Brussels. The sad realisation for me was that there are hardly any people interested in old lamps (and lighting history in general) these days. What is the value of a collection that cannot attract people and sleeps away in the rooms of a museum?
We had the same experience in the lamp museum in Krosno, in the deep south-east of Poland. Someone first had to unlock the museum rooms one by one; we were the only visitors; there was not a single soul but us (and the young woman who only spoke a little English and had to unlock every room individually in front of us). Well, this can possibly be explained by the fact that the museum is located deep in the East, which is very remote for us Western visitors. But Bruges? A tourist magnet par excellence? Yes, this is the triumph of chocolate over old lamps...
Better to sell the lamps individually then, so that they please other collectors and are appreciated. They remain virtually on the website as a closed collection anyway. Sell them? When should one start? Which lamps should one sell first? Very unpleasant questions without a single, sensible answer. The rational and the emotional parts of the brain fight tirelessly against each other.
The Making of the Website, Seen Through My Glasses …
This website in its present form is the result of tireless, diligent work over the last 9-10 months. It was created in a very friendly, cooperative collaboration between myself and Ms. Tsekyi Thür. I wrote all the texts, took all the photos and took care of the English translations. This means that I am entirely responsible for the content. Technical and linguistic errors are my fault.
Tsekyi, whom I know from our collectors' circles, spontaneously and without any conditions agreed to create the website for me when I expressed my despair at an annual collectors' meeting (before Corona times) that I could not see any possibilities to make a website with my lamps, although this had been my wish for a long time. Tsekyi is not a professional website maker. She has only dealt with this medium as a hobby and has also made some (far smaller) websites for herself and for some friends. She showed me some of her websites on her smartphone. And I was thrilled! That day our joint project was born. At the time, I had no idea at all how much background work with special software is required to get a website up and running. My naive idea was that you write the text in a text editing programme, add the corresponding photos as graphics and simply copy the whole thing into a prepared website frame. Today I can only smile about that...
Tsekyi has done the other half of the work brilliantly. She took care of the layout (always in close consultation with me). Font and size, colours, dimensions of the photos and many countless other things that belong to such a website are literally her work. She selected the necessary software, collaged the photos into collective photos, conceived the design for the home page, linked certain text passages together, and integrated everything expertly into the website. If she got stuck at any step because she had never done it before, she asked for help or tried it out herself until it worked to our satisfaction. If the content with text and photos is my part, the outer appearance and the technical functioning, which is not visible and unimagined for us laymen, is her part. That is why we call this website "our website", because it is the result of both our work.
For her part, Tsekyi probably had no idea what extensive work she was getting herself into when she generously and unselfishly offered me her help back then. At the very beginning, when we exchanged thoughts about what I wanted to put on this website, I only had a vague idea of it. I had rather thought to present about 150, at most 200 lamps of my collection in photos and with a short, documentary text about the used burner and shade plus lamp dimensions. We both probably didn't know that this would turn into a much larger, mammoth project.
Who has not experienced this? When a large public building is to be built, a binding budget is drawn up. After all, taxpayers' money is being used for it. The more the construction progresses, the more money is spent. There are buildings in Germany that have consumed ten times (!) their original, binding budget. We had a similar experience with our website. As time went by, more and more ideas came up about what could be added. It then came to a very extensive "general part". And finally all 365 lamps ended up on the website and not just selected pieces. The size of the website increased "inflationarily". Tsekyi always encouraged me to maintain this scope, even though it also meant she had a lot more work on her hands. The website would never have reached this size without her persistence. Seen in this way and viewed soberly, this website is also quite clearly "her" website.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Tsekyi once again from the bottom of my heart, as she made a great wish of mine, a "pipe dream", become reality. THANK YOU TSEKYI!
... and with the Words of Tsekyi
At a lamp meeting that a mutual collector friend organises every year, I got to know Arto and immediately took him to my heart. This first encounter was not only characterised by humour, but we soon discovered that we have a similarly strong sense of harmony, which is not only limited to the mood, but also to the combination of colours and lamp parts. So Arto got out his laptop and I admired the photos of his collection of lamps, which at that time was much smaller than it is now.
A little story comes to mind about this:
When we met again at our friend's lamp meeting, we both happened to have the same lamp with us, even in the same colour. Only the colour shades were a little bit different. His lamp had a tank whose brown colour was a bit stronger and brighter. My tank, on the other hand, was a little paler, albeit in a very similar brown. The lampshades were the other way round. The shade of Arto's lamp was a slightly paler brown than mine. My shade had exactly the luminous component in the colour that matched Arto's glass tank. So we tried to see how swapping the shades might affect the look. I was amazed, because this exchange upgraded both lamps visually. It was as if they had found each other to give each other the proverbial icing on the cake that both lamps had been missing.
Alliance between history and the future:
For me, the internet is really the gateway to the (whole) world. Through this channel I have already met many very different and interesting people. Some of them became and remained friends. For the last 20 years I have been interested not only in the use of modern means of communication channels, but also in the creation of websites. I have to say that this is hobby; I don't do it professionally, but simply for the joy of creating a platform for people to exchange ideas or to show interesting things to the world.
Constantly growing demands on functionality, which I could not fulfil as a layman, and the increasingly complicated legal rules that you have to keep an eye on as a webmaster, led over the last few years to my giving up this hobby and also no longer dealing with the technical development of websites.
Now Arto is a person whom, since I have known him, I would not want to deny any wish, provided I am able to fulfil it. When he asked me to create his website, it was clear that I would take on this task.
We started our work in October 2020. Actually, we had planned to sit down for 2 days to discuss how everything should look like, what possibilities there are and also what limitations. The rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 patients threw a spanner in the works, so we switched to working together via online meetings and phone calls. It quickly became clear that the two days would not have been enough and that this form of cooperation is perfectly suited for us.
Then the first photos arrived at my place. I must say that I have never received such well-prepared, high-quality working material as I did from Arto. We created the first collages together. Because Arto could follow my work on his monitor, he was able to express his wishes directly. In this way I could show him how the pictures had to be prepared, so that I could process them further.
So I sat there, processing the images of very old lamps with modern technology. In the process, Arto told me a lot about the lamps, where they came from, what their exact purpose once was and how they came to be in his collection. In this way, a really great connection of the past, the present and the becoming was created.
The creation of this site was a process, a development that ran over almost 10 months, combined with a warm, humorous and intense exchange. THANK YOU ARTO!
At the very beginning, in the Introduction, we already indicated that a website is a "living object". It can also be updated, corrected, expanded and improved later, which is also a great advantage over a printed book with the same content. So we take the duty and the freedom to update the website whenever necessary.
This also includes the option of adding more texts and photos if this is useful. We have some ideas about what could be added. We don't want to reveal more. Let us surprise you.