DIY: How to Make A Paper Mache Lamp

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
-Newspaper
-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.

Keep going…

and going…

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.

When it’s completely dry, then it’s time for the REALLY FUN PART. So hang it up (it’ll be lightweight again, now that it’s not all wet)…

Grab a needle, and stick it in that balloon! Omg, this was so satisfying.

Peel the balloon out and turn your lamp over. I rested it on a trash can. You’ll see the bottom is all unfinished.

Trim it up with scissors.

This is what it looks like when hanging.

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 hung it in her home office with pride.

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.

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31 Comments

dreadedjaws

I kind of love the idea of using my kids’ drawings for the outside layer (my daughter in particular is a prolific producer of artwork). Maybe we can make a series of smaller ball-shaped shades to fit over the three pendants we have in over the kitchen counter… hmm…. maybe we’ll tackle this today!

Reply
Mary lee

Be careful if you use wallpaper paste as the glue. Some of them contain fugicide and that is harmful to baare skin. Some craft shops stock cellulose glue which is safe and aproved for school use. As a child my Mum used flour and water paste. Mix ordinary plain flour( the kind with no raising agent in it) with hot water, beat till smooth and as thick as you want.
To paint the articles you make mix sweetened condensed milk with poster paint powder. Thin with water if you need too. This dries shiny and is waterproof. I made piggy banks with pre schoolers. Great messy fun
regards from Mary

Reply
elasticeye

hallo
first of all this is a very good tutorial and a gorgeous light.
I agree with Mary on the flour and water glue, but don’t forget to add a table spoon of salt to keep it firm!
peace from Greece

Reply
michelle

omg, my mind is officialy blown! i was searching for a paper mache pendant to see if it was doable, and this is so great, clear instructions, clear pics, and AMAZING result!! thank you so much! im off to buy myself a great big balloon …

Reply
Sylvie PLANTIER

j’ai appliqué plus ou moins cette méthode pour faire avec des enfants des ballons dirigeables, mais pas avec cette pâte grossière au finish et j’essaierai à l’occase car le rendu est super. Avec la lampe les bandes de plâtre sont vraiment judicieuse

Reply
CafeDecals

I totally love working with paper mache and never thought of lamp or lamp shades. I’ve used wacky shaped bowls for different ideas. I think that would work great for this too. With mine I added real dried flower petals and seeds. Gotta make sure it dries well or the seeds will sprout. And yes Michelle you can make paper mache pendants using soap molds or plastic smooth molds. To make them not stick, spray the bowl or molds lightly with cooking spray that you would use on your baking sheets or frying pans. Thank you very much for the ideas, Greatly Appreciated!!

Reply
Daphne

Absolutely magnificent! It is beautiful. We are going to try to make a lamp shade next weekend. Thanks.

Reply
Rejah

Hey there! This is some amazing work. I want to know how you managed the circuitry and all. I have to do something similar and I’m not too sure how to handle the elecric part! Lemme know. (:

Reply
katherine

Hello! I would like to ask if it is possible to use a blow up ball (like a beach ball) instead of a ballon. I am afraid that the ballon might blow up during the preparation because of the high temperature (36C) and i will loose the shape of it. Thank u!

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Victoria Rymell

Hi

I just made this and it looks cool and so much fun but as it’s drying little bits are falling off!! Does this mean I have not used enough glue? or should I just leave it with fingers crossed it hardens? And what type of paint should i use? I thought this might strengthen it?

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Christina

I love this idea for my living room, and I’m DIY addict (I even volunteer to do projects for other friends’ homes) but since I live in a slightly remote town in the Dominican Republic the Plaster Gauze is not common, before I order it online and pay for triple shipping costs (amazon to miami-miami to dr- then per pound) I was wondering if I could use powder plaster? Would it be harmful once heated up? Any advice would be welcomed.

Reply
Rosa Sá

Hello Anna and friend.
Today I saw your blog and I love your work.
It became absolutely wonderful. I’ la going to make two for my living room.
Thank you so much for the idea and for this so easy to follow tutorial.
Congratulations. Rosa.

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