John Doolittle’s creativity came to light for the first time in a while during the Peach Festival at Pere Marquette Lodge on Aug. 8.
Doolittle, whose specialty is steampunk lamps that are built from found material, hasn’t had a show since early in 2020, due to the pandemic restrictions.
For those not in the know, steampunk refers to work that combines the modern with either the Victorian or the Old West.
For Doolittle, his lamps have turned into a labor of love since he retired from the Army.
“I don’t sell my Steampunk lamps for a living,” he said. “I love doing it. I started collecting materials from online searches, junkyards and flea markets.”
Friends, family and neighbors also donate items.
“I also started working at festivals like the peach festival because it’s fun and I enjoy working with people,” Doolittle said. “My background is in computers. I worked with the Department of the Army for over 35 years, and now I am retired.”
Since he retired, Doolittle has time to make his innovative creations.
“It is a labor of love for me,” Doolittle said.
Although most of the time he works by order, customers will ask him if can make certain creations by giving him specifications for a design. Dolittle also took the time to make lamps for each of his grandchildren. “My seven grandchildren have asked me to make lamps for them. I listened to their suggestions and created the lamps from the designs we came up with.” Doolittle said. “My granddaughter Leah, who is a gymnast, sat with me and went through different gymnastic motions until we settled on a design for her robot lamp: a handstand,” he said. “Her brother, Jesse, wanted a Star Wars double saber warrior, so his lamp has a long saber running diagonally across his back with a light at both ends.”
“I have two grandchildren who are twins and are in college. Carly and Hannah got floor lamp designs. Lily’s robot is reading, and Weston’s lamp incorporated a small figure of the Mandalorian. Violet’s lamp included a small panda bear to the side.
“I just wanted to make them happy and to see them smile,” Doolittle said.
Doolittle earned a mathematics degree from St. Louis University and took additional studies at Washington University and IBM.
“One of the reasons why I started this labor of love was because I wanted to learn how to build a home,” he said. “I picked up knowledge and skills a long time ago at Central Hardware. We learned how to build walls, put up the two-by-fours, wire it, connect to the control panels, and so forth.”
Doolittle said he then went on to learn about plumbing and how to pour structural foundations for building homes. After a bunch of courses from Central Hardware, he finished the lower level of the house where he and his wife were living at the time.
“I installed all the electricity, plumbing and drywall,” Doolittle said.
“When my wife and I built our first home, I had a contractor, but I did a lot of the work myself, he said.
He went on to build four more homes for family members.
“We built our last home on Table Rock Lake,” Doolittle said. “When my kids started having grandchildren, Linda and I ran back and forth from Table Rock to St. Louis. It became a nuisance traveling back and forth all the time, and so we moved to St. Louis to be near the kids.”
For more information, you can email DoolittleJF @ gmail.com. Doolittle also will be at the Apple Festival on Sept 19.