Nation/World

Following Tiffany’s Footsteps Yakima Valley Business Keeps Lampshade Art Alive

There’s a secret here that few know about.

Nearly hidden among the row of shops on downtown’s Main Street is a small factory that produces art praised and admired worldwide.

For more than two decades, the name H.L. Worden has become synonymous with brilliant, stained-glass lamp designs patterned after those by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the famous New Yorker who helped establish art nouveau.

One flip of the switch at the H.L. Worden Co. LampHouse transforms a dark showroom into a dazzling world of color: ruby reds, opaque whites, iridescent greens - intricate pieces of glass that come to life as the light shines through each fragment.

But few in the area know the company is based right here - in a small, rural Yakima Valley community of 2,053.

“There are people who live here for a long time who don’t know about us,” says Verna Getsinger, a Worden employee for more than 17 years. “They can’t believe this little town has a company that makes big business.”

Like the town, the H.L. Worden Company is tiny: This is where Granger’s mayor has his day job. There are only nine employees on the payroll and the factory and showroom cover a mere 1,000 square feet.

Don’t be deceived by its size.

As one of only two companies in the country to design Tiffany-style lamp patterns, H.L. Worden ships thousands of lamp kits not just in the United States, but to cities in Europe and South America where Worden’s catalogues are distributed.

This is also where the art of stained glass lamp-building experienced a revival. If it weren’t for the company’s founder, Howard L. Worden of Granger, the craft wouldn’t be as widespread today.

“He made it available to everyone by creating a kit that included instructions,” said Nancy Hall, the company’s customer service representative who also learned about stained glass from Worden. “Before Howard, the equipment and supplies weren’t readily available - it was just for the artisans. He made the craft accessible to ordinary people.”

One could say that the H.L. Worden Company was born out of boredom.

After retiring from the Yakima Bait Co. in 1973, Worden was left with nothing to do, he said.

“Everyone’s got to have something to fill their time. So I did what I liked to do. I designed lamps - lots of them,” said Worden, a silver-haired man with a kind, grandfatherly demeanor.

Working out of a mobile home in Granger, Worden didn’t tell anyone about his plan; he simply came up with intricate ideas, invested thousands of dollars and obtained a patent for his designs.

Three years later, his hobby turned into a business.

Today, the company manufactures more than 300 lampshade patterns and sells equipment and glass in all colors and textures. In 1978, it moved to its current Main Street location, the showroom and factory tucked between a liquor store and barbershop.

“We have a lot more going on now, but we still have a lot of fun,” Worden said with a smile.

A latecomer to lamp building, Worden spent his life inventing fishing lures for his father’s company, the Yakima Bait Co. in Granger. It wasn’t until 1963 that he built his first lamp, an 8-by-14-inch tulip-shaped piece made out of fiberglass.

It all started with a request from his wife, Kathleen. After watching a local craft show on TV, she asked him to make one for her. The lamp, which took months to make, hung above the Wordens’ kitchen table for more than nine years.

Since then, Worden has become the creator of hundreds of lamp designs. Some are Tiffany copies but many are originals: a bowling motif, an apple tree, the Country Checkerboard series - ducks, pigs, cows or a rooster. And at age 75, he still has the enthusiasm of a 10-year-old whenever he talks about lamps.

Although there are few Tiffany originals around, the Tiffany-style lamps are seen everywhere thanks to patterns designed by Worden.

“It’s a hobby for only a small group of people scattered throughout the world,” explained Worden, who has built about 40 lamps in the last 25 years. “It’s quite involved and timeconsuming. It’s a hobby if you like to do things with your hands and you’re not in a hurry.”



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