Oct 21, 2023


AI-generated stained-glass created with Midjourney tools.

Update, May 26, 2023: After first publishing this story, a Twitter user assured me that one of the lamps being sold on Twitter is indeed real, even if the product doesn't look quite like the photo being used to advertise it. But be careful out there. Some of them are definitely fake.

A series of stained-glass table lamps have sprung up on websites like Amazon, Twitter and Etsy recently, with people shelling out real money for the intricately created decorations. But there are countless reports that people have not received their lamps, and there's probably a very good reason for that. Many of these images of lamps were created using artificial intelligence tools. They’re simply not real lamps.

"Transform any room in your home into a magical wonderland with the Stained Glass Table Lamp. It's time to find your inner oasis and immerse yourself in magic," one listing on Amazon reads.

The listing goes on to claim the glass in these lamps is "hand-cut" and everything is handmade. How much does something like this cost? Just $24—an absurdly low price for such an intricate lamp made of expensive materials and labor. In fact, some platforms have an even cheaper price, with these lamps selling for just $6.

But buyer beware. Because I emailed with the real creator behind some of these images and many of these lamps don't exist in the real world.

Vishma Maharaj, who goes by the name Whizical Mermaid on Etsy, sells this AI-assisted art. But Maharaj isn't selling any lamps. Maharaj used AI-image generator Midjourney to create the artistic concoctions and simply sells prints of the colorful lamps, something that buyers can actually purchase.

"What is being done on these various websites has been without my consent nor am I affiliated with any of them," Maharaj told me over email.

"I have tried reporting them to Facebook but have yet to receive a response. They are even being sold on Amazon & Ali Express in addition to the many ads that have been posted on Facebook. This has been very upsetting and stressful to say the least," Maharaj continued.

The U.S. Copyright Office recently ruled that any art created with AI cannot be granted copyright protection, which means Maharaj has no recourse. But the artist has been notifying as many sellers online as possible in the hopes that they don't get scammed.

"I know by now many people have been scammed thinking they are going to receive one of these stained glasses inspired lamps. It is sad," Maharaj told me.

The internet is filled with lots of fake images and misleading information—from photoshopped presidents to skateboard tricks that defy the laws of physics. But those people aren't trying to sell you a product that doesn't exist. If you give these scam artists money, you’re not getting a lamp. You’re getting a whole lot of nothing in the mail.

But even with the negative experience, Maharaj still believes in the use of artificial intelligence tools to create compelling art.

"In late 2022, I discovered the world of AI artwork through Midjourney and fell in love ever since," Maharaj told me over email.

"I have seen an incredible impact since I started posting my AI artwork on Facebook and Instagram, with several people reaching out to me how they have become inspired, teachers telling me how they show images to their students and write stories about them, other artists confiding to me how it has reignited their creative passion, and others battling with depression who have revealed my artwork has helped lift their spirits and they cannot wait to share with their family and friends. The response has been truly overwhelming."