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The TV Lamp Collectors Blog » Blog Archive » Manufacturer Profile: Cactus Craft of Arizona

Manufacturer Profile: Cactus Craft of Arizona


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Cactus Craft Covered WagonEveryone’s familiar with ceramic TV lamps, and many have seen them made from plaster or cast iron, but a significant number used other materials all together. Anyone remember the TV lamps that used to populate tourist traps across the country, the ones made from seashells? Still others were made from wood or cactus. Yep, cactus. The company Cactus Craft of Arizona built a thriving business by making all sorts of novelty items with cholla wood, the dried skeleton of cactus. This might seem an odd choice of materials, but the cork-like cholla was surprisingly durable, and also imparted an interesting organic quality.

Cactus Craft LampCactus Craft was founded in the late ’40s by Tucson, Arizona native Carlos Velasco, and the company flourished until the late ’70s. All sorts of lamps were produced, some pre-assembled and others, particularly in the latter years, in kit-form for home assembly. What seems to be a particularly nice example is now at auction on eBay, and is shown in the accompanying photos. (it’s auction #300149814301) The shades were often adorned with some type of old-west motif, and Carlos Velasco himself is featured in many of the scenes… the proper garb can transform anyone into a likeness of Davy Crockett!

Cactus Craft Lamp, in orig. boxThe rustic look, western themes and exotic materials were right on target, finding a market that grew substantially in the late ’50s. The cactus was collected on nearby ranches, soaked in chlorine, cleaned and dried in preparation for use. As the demand grew the operation evolved into something like an assembly line, with around fourty employees performing the various duties. Hand-crafting was the order of the day, and quality was paramount. While similar lamps had been made before, Velasco turned the format into an iconic style, one whose significance is just now being recognized. Expect to pay $75 or more for one in good condition, and as with many collectibles, an original box is a plus.

9 Responses to “Manufacturer Profile: Cactus Craft of Arizona”

  1. Allene Avey Says:

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    Hello,
    I am dating Jeffrey Velasco, the son of Carlos who created Cactus Craft. Not surprisingly Jeffrey does not own any of the things he helped created and market. Do you have or know of anyone I can contact that might have one of the old cactus lamps? I think it would be great for Jeffrey to now own something of his history.
    Thank you,
    Ali Avey

  2. Mark Says:

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    Ali,
    Funny you should bring this up… I just won a Cactus Craft lamp on eBay,,, unassembled in the original box! I see the lamps on eBay fairly often, but they’re not often cited as being by Cactus Craft. The give-away is the distinctive wheels on the covered wagons, and while I believe other companies made similar products, 90% of them are sure to be from Cactus Craft of AZ. Just keep an eye on the eBay TV lamp listing! BTW: Have Jeffrey shoot me an e-mail, will you? I’d love to discuss the company with him!
    - Mark

  3. Kim Jarosik Says:

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    I recently just purchased a cactus craft lamp. I absolutely love it, however the lamp shade (with cowboys on one side branding cattle and horses running on the other side) has cracked. Is there a specific way to care/clean the lamp shades with out causing further damage?

    Thanks,

    Kim

  4. Rose A. Says:

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    Ali, before this website I hit a page that was a Star Net story they did with Jeffrey and it features two of the lamps I believe they are at his store, think I seen one while in there one day. I love these lamps, have wanted to begin a collection forever & always looking - had no idea the majority were created by the Viir Family! I grew up in MI, these were on everyone’s new TV in the 50’s, we were so amazed that Davey Crockett could be on our own lamp! Do you know if Cactus Craft also produced the motion pictoral lamp shades? I’ll be starting my search soon, if I luck out will let you know via this site.
    Rose

  5. Christine Says:

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    Hi Mark,

    Just wanted to let you know that I came across your site while researching a Cactus Craft lamp that I recently acquired - and found this article very informative! So much so, that I have quoted you (and listed your website) on my current ebay auction (of said lamp). Hope you don’t mind! :) I also came across another article describing how the owners of Cactus Craft had had some charges against them pertaining to wages not up to minimum wage, child labor, etc.(!) Just found that interesting - another piece of the puzzle!

    Love your site!
    Christine in Canada

  6. sandra Says:

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    I have a pin and earrings, and on the paper they’re attached to have “Indian Princess Jewelry” and at the bottom it had “Cactus Craft, Tucson, Arizona 1970″. They are silver and what looks like turquoise. The clip-on earrings have some type of emblem on the inside. Does anyone know anything about them or if they are turquoise?

  7. Tony in Mass Says:

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    This is pretty amazing just went through a box of old stuff that I had for a very long time,in one box low and behold I found a DAVEY CROCKET COVERED WAGON Lamp just like the ones you have here exactly and on the box it states:
    “CATUS CRAFT OF ARIZONA” 2404 Oracle road Tuscon, ARIZONA.
    I do know where this came from my Dad brought it back from AZ when he went to visit his sister , I am guessing that at the time I was maybe 10 yrs old I am now 53 . The wagon is in excellent condition and the box is in good condition as well.
    What is the fair market value you think for this?
    I would love to share a few pictures of my find..
    Thanks
    Tony in Mass

    [Tony,
    Given the relatively fragile nature of the Cactus Craft lamps, finding one in good condition is rare, particularly with the original box. Value? That’s tough, as I don’t think they’ve found their market yet. In other words, probably not particularly valuable now, but should go up, even in as little as a year or two. Pictures would be fabulous! - Mark
    ]

  8. Patty G Says:

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    I teach 4th grade and we are studying early Calif. History. One of my students brought me a covered Wagon Kit, still in the box from Catcus Craft. It is in perfect condition. I just assembeled it for the class to see an authentic covered wagon. The model can be made into a lamp, the wagon cover is made from flax colored woven linen. Kit # 980. My students dad found the kit way back in a closet while moving and he forgot he had it, he doesn’t remember where he got it. Any value on it?
    Thanks

  9. Carol Rush-Land Says:

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    I worked at Cactus Craft from Sept, 1966 until November, 1967. I worked in the office, I was 18 at the time. I remember Carlos and his wife had two children, a boy and a girl. My Dad was a furniture salesman in Michigan and got me the job there through a sales rep Ray Bernstein. I used to have a lamp but do not know what ever happened to it. Just happened to see this and thought it was pretty interesting as I often wonder what happened to all the people that worked there.

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