By Matthew Borgatti
I love folding paper. I especially love how a few elegant curves and pleats can turn a plain sheet of paper into something that is beautiful, at once organic and mechanically precise. Looking at those simple shapes and beautiful lines inspired me to make this paper lamp, which resembles some kind of exotic jellyfish creature.
Stiff vellum or cardstock paper at least 9″x9″
LED accent lightplug in or battery powered; I found mine at Home Depot.
Clear spray enamel or varnish
1/4″ diameter wooden dowel at least 2″ long
Brass paper fasteners
Step 1: Start by gathering your materials. You’ll want to make sure you have a place to spray your final jellyfish with varnish to keep it protected. I recommend doing this outside on a sheet of newspaper or hung from a string on a fire escape. Just make sure if you do decide to spray indoors you are in a well-ventilated room with lots of windows open.
Step 2: Print out 2 copies of the jellyfish template and cut off the excess paper. Tape them together to make a circle on your vellum.
Step 3: Using the edge of your screwdriver trace all the lines on the printout while pressing down firmly. You want to transfer the lines from the printout onto the vellum to create places along which the paper will want to fold, giving you a very clean and precise-looking final product. This process is called scoring.
Step 4: Remove the printout and discard. Cut out the circle you’ve just created and fold the 4 straight lines downwards (so that the creases are facing up at you like the peaks of little mountains). Do the same for both little circles at the center of the sheet.
Step 5: Fold the curved edges in towards the straight lines so they look like valleys facing up at you. Gently run your finger along the inside of the crease while folding to get a nice sharp edge. Once the edge is fully folded over, secure it with a bit of masking tape at the corner. Repeat for all 8 curves.
Step 6: Isn’t it incredible how it’s transformed into a neat bowl shape with just a few simple folds? Now that your piece of paper is more jellyfish-looking, give it a coat of spray varnish to seal and protect it. Although this step isn’t essential, it will make the lamp last a lot longer and keep it from picking up any dirt or fingerprints. Spray the paper with 3 light coats on the outside, taking the tape off for the final coat. Then spray 1 coat of varnish on the inside of the paper lamp. Remember to read the directions on your spray can to find out how long you should wait between coats.
Step 7: Push a brass fastener into each corner to secure the folds. You could also do this with a spot of glue, a sewn bead, or even a line of stitching. I decided to go with the fasteners because I love the way they look.
Step 8: Now it’s time to put everything together. Estimate how much dowel you’ll need to stand the lamp shade about 1″ off the ground once it’s mounted on the light. I needed a 2″ dowel. I cut it by twisting the dowel while squeezing it in a pair of scissors. Then I applied a daub to the center of the light and affixed the dowel. Lastly I put a small bead of hot glue in the center of the paper shade and stuck it to the dowel.
Now you have your jellyfish lamp! This lamp works great up on a bookshelf or a nightstand. Don’t forget that this lamp is made from paper and can be damaged easily. If you like to experiment, scale the printout to create an even bigger or smaller lamp. Try the design with colored paper or with paper you’ve drawn on and decorated. It can make for some incredibly beautiful light displays!
About the Author:
Matthew Borgatti is a maker/artist/designer/geek who specializes in math, materials, and machines. He’s currently developing a series of little spaceman lamps. You can see more of his inventions and projects at sinbox.org.