Note: This project has not been tested for safety. Consider this project at your own risk.
My friend Anna and I like to get crafty together, so when she needed a new pendant lamp for her home office/guest room, we put our heads together. I’d been wanting to make a paper mache lamp for a while, ever since the Paper Mache Table DIY, so we decided to go for it.
This is a totally rewarding project that requires no special DIY skills, and is definitely a fun one to do with a friend. Let me show you how to make a paper mache lamp…
How to Make A Lamp from a Balloon and Paper Mache
First you’ll need to gather supplies:
-A balloon the size you’d like your final lamp to be, blown up (no helium). We used a 3 foot balloon, which costs about $2: Standard White 3′ Latex Balloon.
-A rope to hang the balloon, and something to hang it from. It will get heavy, but we were able to hang ours from an outdoor umbrella with no problems
-Plaster strips. We used two packages of this: Plaster Gauze Bandage Roll 4in X 5yd
-Wallpaper paste or lots of white glue: Rust-Oleum 2874 1-Quart Suregrip Universal Border Adhesive
-A bucket to get all messy, and something to mix with that you don’t mind ruining (like a paint mixing stick)
-Then to finish the lamp, a pendant and cord set (we used this one from West Elm) and a conversion kit (to hardwire it from the ceiling).
-Start the night before by making paper pulp. To do this, shred newspaper, lots of it, into strips/chunks. Fill a bucket 3/4 of the way with newspaper, and then fill the whole bucket with water, and let it all soak overnight. Agitate it occasionally to help break up the fibers. Alternately, you can put the shredded newspaper in a pot, fill with water, and boil, agitating the mixture to break up the fibers. If you do the soaking method, you can make more at once. But if it comes time to make your lamp and the fibers are still not pulpy enough, you can boil them at anytime to make your pulp smoother.
-Once you have your paper nice and pulpy, you’ll want to squeeze the water out a bit, and mix in glue. I used wallpaper paste, but you can also use white glue if you have lots. I can’t tell you exactly how much to use, because that depends on how much pulp you have, but you’ll just need to coat it and mix it up well.
Next, hang your balloon. Place a pan or bucket of water nearby. Cut or rip plaster strips, dip them in water, and smooth them onto your balloon. You could go straight to using pulp, but I like the plaster layer for ensuring your lamp keeps its shape.
You don’t need to go all the way down to the bottom of the balloon, you’ll need it open when you are done so light can come out. You can cut the edge of the lamp later so don’t worry about making a perfect edge. Smooth the plaster out as you wish, but don’t worry about making it perfect, as we are going to cover it with pulp anyway.
Little helpers can get involved here, if you like.
Here is our balloon with a few layers of plaster.
At the top of the balloon, we took care to make a tear drop shape, because that is what Anna wanted for her lamp. You just want to make sure the opening is not too wide, if it is too small you can always cut it later, but if it is too wide for your lamp socket, that’s hard to fix.
We did a few layers of newspaper strips before doing the pulp. So we tore strips of paper, ran them through wallpaper paste with our fingers, and smoothed them onto the lamp. Not necessary but we thought we’d prefer it this way. I like the way it looks so I took lots of pictures. It would be fun to do this with craft paper and draw a globe on it, no?
The bottom of our lamp looks like this, it all will get adjusted later so don’t stress it now.
Let this all dry, overnight or maybe even a couple of days.
Now we are ready to add our pulp. We started by adding the glue to the paper pulp. We put it all in a large trash can with a bag in it for easy clean up.
I had a foam brush but we didn’t end up needing it. Gloves would be a good call though.
Now you grab a handful of pulp, squeeze out some of the moisture, and pat it onto your lamp. After awhile, the lamp may get quite heavy, if you are making a large one. At that point set it down on the ground.
Gently shape your pulp, smoothing as you desire.
Work your way down the lamp.
Continuing to add. I thought it was easier to apply with less moisture in the pulp, but Anna found that with a little more moisture, she could get the smoother finish that she wanted.
and going, until your lamp is covered in pulp and is as smooth as you want it to be.
Another view of the bottom of the lamp, which you will finish later.
Put your lamp in a safe, dry place to let it dry. Depending on it’s size and how thick/moist your paper pulp is, it could take anywhere from 3 days to two weeks to fully dry. We let it dry for a full two weeks.
You could paint the lamp, or dip it, or do whatever you want to it. I wanted to paint it, but Anna really liked the industrial gray look the newspaper pulp took on, so we left it as is. The white from the plaster inside makes the light really bright which is nice. We had to hang it up in the garage immediately to test it out.
Anna didn’t want to paint hers, but I think that could be a great touch. I could also see lamps like this made out of strips of your child’s drawings or wrapping paper, anything you can dream up.