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How to Construct a Handmade Paper Lampshade

Lisa Ferreira shows how to create sculptural illumination lampshades with branch and log lamp bases.

Lisa Ferreira of Portland, Maine, always gathered as many twigs, leaves and rocks as her hands could carry. A last-minute selection of a fiber arts class during school inspired a nature-based project that brought her back to her roots. The result was a unique collection of lighting fixtures with handmade paper lampshades atop branch and log bases.

Materials and Tools:

abaca paper pulp
retention aid
paper pigment
formation aid
heavy duty all-purpose tub
electric drill
large paint mixer (to attach to drill)
2 saw horses with plywood top
potting vat
old screen door covered with old sheets
fine mesh screen stretched over frame with a duplicate frame
12- and 8-gauge copper wire
hex nut
copper-brass solder
soldering board
soldering mask
acetylene torch
safety goggles
white glue
acrylic water-based medium
sponge brush
small container
natural found branches and milled exotic wood
drill and drill bits
lamp cord
bulb clip and finial
palm sander

Figure B


1. Cut one length of wire for the top of lampshade and form a 2" to 3" diameter circle. Cut a second length of wire for bottom of the shade and form another 8" to 9" diameter circle. Cut four pieces of 8" to 9" wire to connect the top and bottom lampshade circles. Vary the lengths to create a unique shape.

2. Solder the top and bottom wire circles closed.

3. Solder the four pieces of wire to the larger circle, spacing them randomly apart. Solder the other ends of the wire to the small circle. Shape it into a freeform frame.

Figure D

4. Cut four pieces of 8-gauge copper wire 3" to 4" and solder them to a hex nut at 12-, 3-, 6- and 9 o'clock positions. Solder each of the four wires to the four vertical wires of the shade frame 1" to 2" down from top of the shade.

Figure F

5. Mix abaca pulp in water using a power drill equipped with a paint mixer, add retention aid, sizing and color. Add the pulp to a larger vat of water including the formation aid and organic textural plant components.

6. Paper lampshade:

  • Dip the wood framed screen into the vat spreading the pulp evenly over the screen. Let the water drain.
  • Place the pulp side of the screen onto the drying rack.
  • Press a sponge against the back of the screen to remove the water and transfer the paper to the drying rack.
  • Make four pieces of paper using the above method and let them dry on the drying rack.

Figure I

7. Remove the four pieces of the handmade dried paper and trace each panel of the shade. Cut out each side leaving a 1/2-inch seam allowance.

8. Glue each handmade paper panel onto the lampshade frame folding the excess paper over the wire to the inside of the frame.

9. Coat the handmade paper lampshade several times with a water-based acrylic. Dry between coats.

Figure K

Sculptural Lamp Base

10. Cut a 14" to 15" branch or to the desired length.

11. Trace around the branch on the base for positioning and hole size. Drill a hole for the branch in the lamp base using a hole saw attached to a drill. Custom chisel the hole to fit.

12. Drill holes in each end of the branch for the wire and socket. Drill a hole in the side of the base for the lamp cord. Wire the branch with the socket. Thread the wire through the base.

13. Glue the branch to the lamp base. Wire the plug and switch. Finish the branch and sculptural base with polyurethane.

14. Attach the handmade paper illumination lampshade to the sculptural finished lamp and switch on.

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