How to Make Luminarias

Use these step-by-step instructions to turn ordinary items -- from fishbowls to carryout containers -- into shining luminarias.

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It's a familiar sight around the holidays: paper-bag luminarias — filled with sand and twinkling candles — guiding friends and family down a sidewalk or lane. Our twists on the paper lantern are designed for spring, but the message is the same: a warm light always means a warm welcome, a good time, a celebration. These luminarias — made of tin, paper, glass, even fishbowls and cardboard carryout containers — can shed light inside or out.

Craft designer Michael Basler likes to use a decoupage technique on fishbowls and glass vases. On our versions, we overlapped red and white rice paper for a checkerboard effect and alternated stripes on a glass chimney.

More ideas and tips:

  • To add stability to the cylindrical and rectangular rice-paper lanterns, glue or tape thin strips of bendable cardboard to the tops and bottoms of the larger lanterns and use dowels in the corners.
  • Give a simple paper tube the star treatment with a rubber stamp and gold ink. Cut each star point to let the light shine through.
  • To make the "to go" luminarias, use a carryout container as a template.
  • The "tin" lantern is really craft aluminum with a design poked into it using an awl and a golf ball (trace a design onto paper, attach the paper to the tin and punch out the design). Curve the aluminum into a cylinder, poke holes in the overlapping pieces and secure with wire.
  • For more free-form illumination, shape flexible mesh around votive candleholders.

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Fishbowl Luminaria

Materials and Tools:

fishbowl
decoupage
sharp scissors
brush
decorative rice paper in two colors

Steps:

1. Dilute decoupage with water until it's creamy (about 50-50 water to glue).

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2. Cut out or tear pieces of rice paper. Brush pieces with decoupage and stick onto fishbowl. Continue until entire bowl is covered, overlapping as you go.

3. For the fern, we traced a fern picture to create a pattern and cut out the green rice paper using the pattern as a guide. The fern was glued on last.

Photos by David Luttrell

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