Luminary Light Sculpture




Introduction: Luminary Light Sculpture

This project was inspired by an exploration of plastic bags in a prototyping class. I loved manipulating the plastic into structures by melting it with an iron. I also loved how the plastic became more like fabric when it interacted with light sources. This is a fun, ephemeral project meant simply for a moment of beauty and intrigue.

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Step 1: Materials

4 1/8 inch dowels cut to 12 inch lengths
2 pieces of parchment
1 iron
1 pair of scissors
Double stick tape
3-4 plastic bags from the grocery store
1 or 2 Battery operated tea light(s)

Step 2: Protect the Ironing Board and Iron

Place a piece of baking parchment from a standard roll on you ironing board. 24 inches in length works well for this project. We'll need a second piece the same size.

Step 3: Take Apart a Plastic Bag

I like to use the non-printed parts of the bag for this project, so simply cut along the "seam" of the bag. I'm using some bags from my local grocery store. I promise to use my re-usable bags next time.

Step 4: Et Voila, the Back of the Bag!


Step 5: Neaten Up the Bag Piece

We do not have to aim for perfection here, but cut the handles off and give the edges a general trim so you have a flat piece of plastic that generally resembles a rectangle.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat With Another 2 Bags.

Step 7: Place the Dowels

On top of two pieces of the cut plastic, place your cut 1/8" dowels, evenly spaced 4 inches apart.

Step 8: Get the Iron Hot!

Every iron is different. Mine works best on the wool/silk setting for this project.

Step 9: Tuck in the Dowels

Lay the remaining piece of plastic over the dowels. Note: you can add two more pieces of plastic here, OR if you messed up your cut, you can overlap pieces to cover the dowel area. Remember fun, not perfection.

Step 10: Protect the Iron

Cover the entire plastic/dowel sandwich with that other piece of parchment to protect the iron and not melt through the plastic.

Step 11: What's That Smell?

Open a window before you start the next step. Melting plastic is fun, but the fumes are not! If you are not near a window, make sure you are in a well ventilated room.

Step 12: On Your Mark, Get Set, Melt!

Press lightly over the plastic. The goal is to get the pieces to adhere to one another while also sealing the dowels in the plastic. I find it easiest to follow the line of the dowel, ironing all the way up and all the way down. The plastic will shrink and warp. If you melt through a little don't worry, we'll embellish the final product. If you melt through a lot, start over. Finding the right amount of pressure takes practice. You may need to go over certain areas more than once if you have a lighter touch. This will take some trial
And error, but worry not. Plastic bags are easy to find.

Step 13: Who's Behind That Shoji Screen?

Dowels encased in plastic bags! You will notice that when the plastic shrinks under the heat of the iron, the dowels will likely peak out at the top and bottom. This is ok.

Step 14: Trim the Edges...Within Reason

Again no need for perfection here. Just tidy up. You may find as your tidying that some of the plastic hasn't adhered in spots. If so, simply put it back under the parchment and go over those spots again with the iron.

Step 15: Pick a Side to Embellish...Either Side Will Do

The side you pick will be the side seen in the final project. Take the remaining bag parts or some new bags and cut into half inch strips that will fit horizontally across the entirety plastic dowel sandwich. If you would like to play with more colorful elements of the bag in this step, be my guest. I'm going to stick with white. Imperfection is key here because the strips create texture.

Step 16: To Crumple or Not to Crumple...

Crumple! It gives more texture to the sculpture at the end of the project and more angles for the light to play with.

Step 17: Iron Each End of the Strip Application

Iron on the edges of the layered strips so they adhere to the plastic/dowel structure. Protect with parchment and melt.

Step 18: The Melted Edge

You end up with something that looks like this.

Step 19: Trim the Excess Plastic Strips and Assemble

Trim the edges. Turn the structure over and apply 4 pieces of double stick tape to one of the melted edges we've just created.

Step 20: Make a Tube

Pull the taped edge around to the untaped edge and press together. Shape and form the structure into a roundish tube and stand. If a bit wobbly cut some of the dowels that are not encased in plastic. I found they cut easily with craft scissors. Some of the embellishments might come loose. Simply cut them off.

Step 21: Fire Up Your Fake Votives

Easy to find. These came from the Home Depot.

Step 22: Locate a Place for Your Luminary Light Sculpture

Stand it up. Place a battery operated votive or two inside and wait for dark. A fun festive addition for a dreary winter night.

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    4 years ago

    This is a pretty cool lamp. I like the idea of using old grocery bags fused together. Thanks for sharing this!