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Eco-Art Crafts Made by You

Lamp Transformations

It's a familiar story -- you've redecorated a room and then discovered that a cherished lamp doesn't "fit in." Or you've had a wonderful lamp stored someplace because it does not look good anyplace but you can't bear to throw it away. A newly discovered book "Making Great Lamps: 50 Illuminating Projects, Techniques & Ideas" by Deborah Morgenthal (published by Lark Books in 1998) will help you have your cake and eat it too. The generously illustrated collection includes ideas for makeovers as well as detailed instructions for making some lamps from scratch.

With the permission of the publishers, we have excerpted instructions and photos for two lamp transformations which don't take a great deal of time to do. Don't worry if you can't locate supplies in your immediate neighborhood. The book includes a wonderful list of suppliers who fill mail orders.

Chinese Decoupage

Chinese Decoupage Lamp

A Chinese motif and a handsome lamp shade turn a remarkably plain lamp into a remarkably beautiful accent light.

What You Need

  • rectangular wooden lamp in working condition
  • white craft glue
  • sheets of Chinese newspaper
  • walnut stain or water-based glazing medium
  • dark brown tint (available at paint stores)
  • black acrylic spray paint
  • square piece of wood, sized for the base to sit on
  • wood glue
  • harp and harp bottom
  • lamp shade finial, Oriental in style
  • light bulb
  • paintbrushes
  • craft knife

What You Do

  1. Dilute the craft glue with water. Layer a sheet of Chinese newspaper onto the base in decoupage style. Add more layers in whatever design you like best. Trim any rough edges with the craft knife. Allow the glue to dry overnight.
  2. Stain or glaze the entire surface of the base.
  3. Attach the new harp and harp bottom.
  4. Spray the square piece of wood black. Let dry.
  5. Use wood glue to attach the black base to the bottom of the lamp base. Let dry.
  6. Screw in the bulb. Attach the shade and finial.
lamp before decoupage
Lamp before decoration
Photos courtesy of Lark Books.

All That Jazz

All That Jazz lamp

Inspired by the decorative patterns on her Guatemalan bracelets, the designer transformed a very conservative lamp into an exuberant medley of color and texture.

What You Need

  • lamp in working condition
  • colorful, patterned bangle bracelets
  • black paper shade
  • stencil guide (optional)
  • pencil
  • tracing paper
  • white transfer paper
  • masking tape
  • acrylic paint to match bracelets
  • flat black paint for painting on metal
  • gesso
  • water-based polyurethane
  • 6 black marbles
  • quick-drying epoxy for gluing glass
  • 2 wooden balls, (1) 3/4 inch in diameter, (1) 2 inches in diameter
  • wood filler
  • paintbrushes
  • sandpaper
  • drill with 1/4-inch and 1/2-inch bits*
* Note: Check the diameter of the finial and the on/off switch knob, and match the size of the drill bit to them.

What You Do

  1. If you feel intimidated painting the polka dots freehand, use a stencil guide or bottle cap to draw the circle on tracing paper. Then, gentle tape the tracing paper onto the shade and, using transfer paper, trace the circles onto the shade. Remove the tracing paper and paint the polka dots. Let the paint dry.
  2. If your base has any metal parts, lightly sand them to remove the gloss.
  3. Paint the wood parts with gesso. You may have to thin the gesso, according to the manufacturer's directions.
  4. Paint the metal parts black with the metal paint.
  5. Starting with the base, paint patterns inspired by your bracelets. You may want to draw out your design first. (Note: You don't need to prime the metal parts with gesso; once you paint them with metal paint, you can cover those areas with acrylic paint.)
  6. Continue painting the entire lamp with patterns and let dry overnight.
  7. Coat the painted areas with polyurethane. Let dry 24 hours.
  8. To glue on the marbles, first place the lamp on its side. You may have to prop the top part of the base on something so the main body of the lamp can be completely horizontal; this way the marbles won't roll around. You will be gluing one marble at a time. Mix a very small amount of epoxy. Dab a small amount where you want the marble. Immediately tape the marble in place until the glue sets. After each marble is set, turn the lamp and repeat this procedure until all the marbles are glued into various positions.
  9. The finial on this lamp looked like a flat button. If this is the case with your lamp, find a bottle cap around the house into which the 2-inch wooden ball will fit securely. With masking tape, tape the ball into the cap so it won't roll around on a flat surface. Tape the cap with the ball in it onto a work surface. With the electric drill, using a drill bit that matches the diameter of the finial or a little larger, drill a hole so the finial will fit in the hole. Put some wood filler in the hole, press the finial into it, wipe off the excess and let harden. Do the same thing with the smaller wooden ball and the switch knob.
    (Note: On three-way switches, you can unscrew the knob, so you can glue the wood knob onto the knob of the lamp; this is an easier process.)
  10. Sand the wood-filled area on each knob. Prime with gesso. Let dry. Then pick two colors from the lamp design and paint each knob a different color. When thoroughly dry (24 hours), coat knobs with polyurethane. Let dry. Put the knob on the switch.
  11. Place the bracelets over the lamp and let them slide down and rest on the base, or let some hang on the marbles. This is a lamp you can play with, rearranging the bracelets just for fun. (Note: these woven bracelets are pliable, so they are easy to bend if necessary when putting them on the lamp.)
lamp before transformation
Lamp before decoration
Photos courtesy of Lark Books.

See what you've missed

If you've enjoyed this project, don't miss our crafts archive with projects including:

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