It was literally a lightbulb moment. “I was tinkering with some leftover rebar in the store,” says Jaimie Kartes, founder of Rebarn Designs. “I started bending and welding, and the next thing I knew I had these beautiful lights.”
Although Kartes also makes furniture from barn wood, he wanted to make some smaller items that he could easily ship from his Etsy shop. And he adds, “I wanted to build something handmade that people in my income bracket could afford.”
When he’s not making lights, Kartes is living the feast-or-hunger life of a freelance videographer. “I’ve been in television production for over 40 years,” he says. “When I started I was a handle electrician so I knew how to wire things up. I think maybe on a subconscious level, so my head went to the lights when I tried to come up with something new. “
Since he started crafting in 2008, he has shipped pendant lights, wall lights, and chandeliers to all 50 states. Kartes’ works cost between $ 85 and $ 365 and have been bought by Manhattan bar owners and prominent local artist Constance Edwards Scopelitis, among others.
To produce pendant lights, Kartes first cuts pieces of reinforcement to length. Then he puts it in a hydraulic bending machine he has built. When the bends are in place, he scrapes the reinforcement with a wire wheel to remove rust and mill scale. Finally, he welds them and refines them with lacquer or clear lacquer. A cleaning fluid gives the painted ones a distressed look that goes with the rebar.
Kartes’ larger chandeliers usually include several pendants that sit by refurbished barn wood panels. And all of his creations require sockets, cables and special light bulbs after the metalwork is complete. It’s a long, arduous process that can keep a craftsman busy late into the evening – the time of day you need good lighting.