It was literally a lightbulb moment. “I was tinkering around in the shop with some leftover rebar,” says Rebarn Designs founder Jaimie Kartes. “I started bending and welding, and the next thing I knew, I had these beautiful light fixtures.”
Although Kartes also makes furniture from barn wood, he wanted to create some smaller items 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 light fixtures, Kartes lives the feast-or-famine life of a freelance videographer. “I’ve been in television production for 40-some years,” he says. “When I started, I was a grip electrician, so I knew how to wire things. I think maybe on a subconscious level, that’s why my head went to lighting when I was trying to come up with something new.”
Since he began tinkering in 2008, he has shipped pendant lights, sconces, and chandeliers to all 50 states. Kartes’s works range from $85 to $365, and they’ve been snapped up by Manhattan bar owners and prominent local artist Constance Edwards Scopelitis, among others.
To make pendant lights, Kartes first cuts rebar pieces to length. Then he puts them in a hydraulic bender he built. With the bends in place, he scrapes the rebar with a wire wheel to remove rust and mill scale. Finally, he welds them and finishes them with paint or clear coats. A wipe of mineral spirits gives the painted ones a distressed look that suits the rebar.
Kartes’s larger chandeliers typically include multiple pendants seated through refurbished barn wood slabs. And all of his creations require sockets, wiring, and specialty bulbs after the metal work is done. It’s the kind of long, laborious process that can keep a craftsman busy late into the evening—the time of day you need a good light.