This project was documented as I endeavoured to create it. As I have not made a lamp like this before I was learning as I went along. I thought about the process long and hard before I began but I’m sure that should I make another, I would be able to refine the process further.
In my head I worked out all the steps I would need to take quite accurately but I hugely underestimated the amount of time i would need. A problem I frequently encounter. This time, the week I had put aside turned into a month. The number of seeds I thought I would need changed from 300 to 500 and the cutting and pasting, oh my goodness, I got repetitive strain injury and more than a few headaches. I am however thrilled with the results. It looks far prettier in real life than the photos I was able to take. I hope you enjoy my efforts.
Step 1: TOOLS AND MATERIALS
One standard lamp stand
Small plastic football
Air drying clay
Scrap white paper for papier mâché
White unbleached tissue paper,
Brown tissue paper
Large box of paper art straws
A length of dowel that is very slightly wider than the art straws
Strong clear drying craft glue
Clear hot glue sticks
Fairy lights x 300 or more
White Matt spray paint or stain block (not essential)
sandpaper and wire wool
Paint brush for PVA glue
Small rolling pin for the clay
Bowls for glue etc
Huge amount of patience and a warm, very dry environment.
Possibly some vodka
Step 2: PREPARING THE STAND
Lightly sand the stand and spray or paint with white primer (or stain block if the wood stain is strong and likely to leach through).
After the primer/stain block is dry, cover the stand in white papier-mâché using watered down PVA glue.
Once dry give the stand a final coat of unbleached tissue paper for a more natural colour and slightly textured surface.
(It is not essential to paper the stand. I did this for aesthetic reasons only. You could leave it as wood or paint it which would be far quicker.)
Step 3: CREATING THE SEED HEAD
For this you will need a smallish plastic football. The one I have used is approximately 18cm wide. First cover the ball in cling film and tape into place to create a smooth surface.
Find a container to balance the ball upon.
Start to papier-mâché over the cling film. I tend to use two different types of paper so I can see that I am covering it evenly. For this project I used newspaper and a cheap children’s colouring book. I watered down the PVA to make it easier to brush on and tore the newspaper into small squares. Don’t rush this. Using larger pieces of paper will create wrinkles and distort the shape as the layers are applied so keep them small.
Apply three layers of paper, drying between layers. To speed up the process I placed the ball on top of the radiator which enabled me to complete the three layers in one day. Cut the papier-mâché carefully from the ball using a sharp craft knife. It is wise to create a notch to make it easier to position it when you are putting back together. Use sticky tape to fix the two halves together. Apply three more layers of papier-mâché till the ball feels firm and leave in a warm place to dry.
Step 4: CREATING THE SEEDS
This stage takes ages. Radio 4 or a podcast or two can help relieve the tedium. There are no shortcuts I can think of sadly.
For the individual seeds I started by covering my length of dowel in a strip of silver paper. Given a good squeeze once it is rolled around the dowel it stays in place nicely. I then roll out a thin strip of air dry clay, approximately 3cm wide and 2mm thick to the length of the silver foil and then I cover it with the clay, smoothing it into a long tube. Using a blade I mark the tube of clay into segments approximately 2.5cm in length. I do this casually so as not to make them too uniform. I want the seed head to look a little irregular for a more naturalistic effect. I then slip the roll from the dowel and leave it to dry.
Once dry it is easy to break the pieces apart. You may find that they have already done this as you were removing them from the dowel. Taper one end of the seed using a craft knife and cover the seed in a layer of brown tissue paper. It is best to do this before attaching them to the papier-mâché ball as you get a better variation of colour.
Step 5: ATTACHING THE SEEDS
Use hot glue to attach each seed keeping them as close together as possible. Be careful not to glue inside the holes. Before you get to the bottom of the ball, cut a circle out of the papier-mâché just large enough to fit your hand throug. This is so you will be able to fix the lights later. Once all the seeds are in place, fill the spaces between the seeds with brown tissue paper to cover any gaps that show the papier-mâché.
Step 6: FITTING THE LIGHTS
I needed a string of 500 led fairy lights for this stage. I used plug in ones as it was such a length and I wanted the completed piece to be similar to a regular standard lamp. Using my awl I punctured a hole through the middle of each seed. As my awl wasn’t large enough I then used the end of an art brush to widen the hole enough to poke an led light through. I did this with each of the seeds. Another ‘far longer than I realised’ part of the project. Once finished I firmly stuffed the remaining space with rags to keep all the lights in place. (Forgot to photo that bit. I was a bit too overjoyed at finishing. It looked a lot like an alien egg at this stage and I was sat drinking vodka, staring at it and imagining another planet.)
Step 7: MAKING THE SEPALS AND FIXING THE SEED HEAD TO THE STAND
First I had to make the top of the stand wider as the hole I had cut for my hand to fit inside the seed head was wider than the top of the stand. I decided to utilise the smash tin base as it was just he right size and firm enough for the purpose. I removed the sides and cut a hole in the center for the wire. I then made a doughnut of silver foil to cushion the seed head. I covered this in a layer or two of papier-mâché and let it dry. For the sepals I cut a pile of long leaf shapes from thick unbleached water colour paper and using my awl I scored them length ways a few times (see pictures) and lightly distressed them by giving them a slight scrunch. To attach them I cut into them at the top and crossed the two halves over to create a bend (again, see pictures) and glued them around the doughnut. I threaded the lead for the lights down through the stand and used a huge amount of hot glue to attach the seed head to the doughnut. If I made one again I would use gap-grip or a similar adhesive but it was Sunday, I live in rural Wales and the shops were closed.
Step 8: CREATING THE SEED STEMS (for Want of a Better Word)
Another mind numbing stage requiring vodka and audio entertainment. First cut the end of the paper art straws into 6-8 fronds. I just used scissors for this. I could find no shortcuts. Once I had 500 (omg!) I then cut extra fronds from tracing paper. So.....more vodka.......take an A4 sheet of tracing paper, fold it in half and cut to A5 then in half again and cut then once more making eight small rectangles. Fringe each section lengthways into approximately 2mm strips. Attach to the straw with some strong clear craft glue (see pictures). Splay out the fronds and insert the other end of the straw into a seed. It needs to go into the hole and over the led so the led is inside the straw. You may need to correct the end of the straw if it is crushed by inserting an art brush handle into it first to open it out (all of mine needed this. Don’t store your straws end up!) Make sure the straw is fully inserted to the length of the seed before gluing into place.
Step 9: COMPLETION
Once complete, plug it in, sit back, admire your handiwork and finish off the bottle of vodka. It might surprise you to know that before starting this project I was utterly teetotal but it drove me to drink! I actually bought the vodka to make hair dye but it was there and i was going a bit mad (a lot mad) and it was quite nice. maybe I will be less puritanical in future......or a lush.....who knows! hope you enjoyed my creative and torturous efforts. It is such a peaceful, ethereal piece now it's finished. Oh sweet irony!
Second Prize in the