Introduction: EL Wire Plant Lamp

While living away from home, I get a little homesick now and then. My first thought was to steal a little bit of home from the internet and paste it on my wall, then after a little more thought, I realised that a silhouette outline on my wall would be far more appealing and slick looking. Over the weekend I realised using a little EL wire could really make this wall art come to life and make an impact day or night. In fact, using a very simple construction method means that I could replace any of the colours very easily. Also any number of EL wire colours could be attached to suit any mood you may be in.

These steps will show you how to source and manipulate images from online, cut the silhouette, install the EL wire and mount the design on your wall.  

Step 1: Image Manipulation

The first step is to organise what your silhouette will be. I have chosen a New Zealand flax which I am fond of. You may choose anything really, it is up to you. Go online and find any images above about 300x300 pixels. The resolution is not important as we will be cutting and pasting alot and in the end, actually cutting the silhouette out of card.
Try to find images that have a distinct background so the silhouette is easily distinguished. Once images have been sourced open up in a image manipulation software. I will describe Photoshop functions here, but these are simple and will be achievable in other software.

Use the replace colour function to replace dominant background colours. The notes on the images should explain the Photoshop functions. Alternatively just magic wand or lasso the image onto a new sheet. Open a new sheet and make this roughly the size you want the overall silhouette to be. In my case, I want it to be large - like 1500 x 1000mm wide, stretch up to the size you want on the page. I want to have some flax leaves at the bottom, so I have found some that I like and I have lassoed and cut them onto a new sheet.

Once the colour images are on the sheet use the 'curves' function and stretch the curve to the upper left hand side. This will saturate the image totally black. There are many other ways to do this, so feel free to experiment or do it your own way.

Step 2: Image Organisation

Once all is in silhouette format, you can organise these parts how you want on your page. You will probably not find the exact silhouette you like online, so feel free to experiment and change to design to exactly what you want. I wanted my leaves to be at the bottom with 3 flax stalks sticking up. 

The whole design is based on fitting over a wall socket. This is basically so that I can plug in the EL lighting transformer and hide alot of the electronics behind the silhouette.

Once you have your image exactly as you want ot see it on your wall, print it out ready for cutting out of card. This could also be laser cut if your lucky enough to have access to one. I personally printed out this design on about 12 A3 sheets. 

Step 3: Cutting the Form

Make sure you purchase card large enough to make the silhouettes in big pieces. I have used black A4 sheets about 0.5mm thick, however would have preferred thicker and larger card. To compensate for this I have backed the card with corrugated card. If you use large enough sheets, you can separate the silhouette into 4 parts; 3 stalks and 1 flax leaf part.

The best way to transfer images to card is to use a pin. Prick along the drawing to get the form, then cut out. The forms will need to be stuck together to make one solid form. This can be done by simply sticking placing the forms together and gluing a piece of card over the join.

I have traced around the corrugated card onto the back of the black card ready to stick to the front side. Do not stick the two cards together just yet as you will need some way to fix the design to the wall.

Step 4: Fixing to the Wall

To fix the design to the wall you will need some pins about 20-30mm long. These will need to be long enough to go through the card, leave about 5-10mm between the silhouette and the wall and insert into the plaster wall enough to support the design. Try to use the pins with a spherical head rather than drawing pins. These will be longer and have a smaller diameter pin, which means less damage to your wall.

First cut cross the card and push the pin through so the top of the pin will be flush with the front of the card. Cover the pin with masking tape to avoid pushing the pin back through.

The number of pins required will depend on the size of the design. I have used one about every 200mm or so and everywhere where the design may need some support. This will depend on the rigidity of the card used. Now you can glue the black card to the corrugate but be careful as these pins will be in this position from now on!

Step 5: Adding the EL Wire

Now the fun part. Size up the EL wire to run along the lenghts of branches or whatever you have designed. In my case I have made the overall length of the silhouette 1.5m which is the lengths of EL wire that I have.

One of the big problems is how to fix the silhouette to the wall without disturbing the length of light coming from the wire. This is overcome by using white or clear "twisty ties". Cut the card with two slits where the EL wire is to run and poke the twisty tie through. These ties will need to be placed at any point where the design curves or turns. Lay the EL wire and twist the EL wire into place. 

The transformer or battery pack to power the EL wire can be hidden behind the silhouette depending on the size, however, the design may need to be packed out with card or longer pins may need to be used.

Step 6: Testing the Silhouette

Once the wire is in place you can fit to the wall and try out your invention! You may need someone's help if you have a big design. Push each pin in sequentially until the desired depth is reached. Make sure you leave enough room for the light to bounce off the plaster wall behind. 

Try different colours and different designs. Since the EL wire is only twisted into place, it is quite easy to change colours when you want to.

Enjoy your new wall light.
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