• Laurel Contributor

Lamp Epiphany

by Donna Rhodes

For Donna Ysland, every driftwood collecting excursion is an adventure. Not all of them include the risk of being buried in the sand. You can safely view her creations at Smitten in Highlands.

When we visited Donna Ysland in 2015, she’d just had her Floor Lamp Epiphany.

That experience launched her company Riverlights, now a thriving Western Carolina enterprise. It has evolved from rustic furnishings and accessories to a more elegant line of contemporary functional art.

In case you missed the 2015 article, here are the CliffsNotes. She, her daughter, and her Bernese Mountain Dog were out for a walk by the river, which turned into a walk in the river. A chunk of walnut driftwood snagged her foot. She and her daughter hauled out the wood, looked at it, then each other, and said in unison, “Floorlamp.”

At first, every piece of riverwood was a find. But after a close-encounter-of-the-quagmire-kind, she became a lot more selective.

She and Tyler, her Bernese, are a wood collection team. He carries saws/tools in his saddlebags. She carries a Marine duffel bag filled with their retrieved wood. On one scouting mission they collected three lovely pieces weighing 50-plus pounds.

In hindsight, Donna says, “Had I given a lick of rational thought to my situation, I would have emptied the bag and carried each piece separately.”

Instead, she started her climb out of the river toting all three. She slipped and fell on her back miring in the sand. She was sinking, unable to move. Panicking, Tyler provided the only support he knew… face licking.

But that same strong will that got Donna into the business of tackling large works also got her out of her predicament. She forced herself to roll back and forth until she could free her arm and get enough purchase to disengage the bag and lift herself up. Aside from a few bruises, she lived to tell the tale, laugh about it, and make something beautiful out of her would-be anchors.

You can see what she did with them at Smitten’s Third Thursday, September 21, 5:30 P.M. ‘til the fat lady sings and the cows come home. Smitten’s address is 468 Main Street, Highlands. Call (828) 526-9300 for hours of operation.

The Laurel Magazine

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