How-To: Falling Leaves Lamp

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CRAFT: Home Sweet Home
Falling Leaves Lamp
By Patricia Zapata

Light and paper are always a good combination, and indirect lighting can be such a nice way to soften the feeling in a room. The translucency of vellum and the texture of the handmade paper is what makes this project really stand out. Add a little bit of a three-dimensional design and the impact of this simple project will be self-evident.
This project specifically requires the use of a large sheet of vellum and handmade paper for added texture. If neither of these are available to you be creative with the materials that you use. For added color and interest, a large poster can be used for the outer tube. The inner vellum tube can be replaced with something like a double layer of newsprint. Keep in mind that the translucent nature of the vellum will provide more light than other materials. If in doubt, hold up your paper against a light source to see if it will offer the look you are after.



20″×24″ white handmade textured paper
Cutting blade
Cutting mat
19″×30″ double-ply vellum
Foam core
Transparent tape
PVC glue
Puck light
Wooden base, 8″ in diameter


Step 1: Draw a 12″×22″ rectangle lengthwise in the center of the white sheet of paper. Some handmade papers have a “front” side and a “back” side (where the texture is less prominent), so make sure to draw this rectangle on the back side of your paper.
Step 2: Using a pencil, lightly draw random vertical leaves inside of this rectangle. The leaves should vary in size and width, so that the whole design is more dynamic. Draw some leaves that are cropped off around the borders of the rectangle.
Note: I have drawn the leaves darker than I usually would so that they could be visible for the photographs of this tutorial.
Step 3: Using the cutting blade, cut out all of the leaves. Carefully erase any stray pencil markings.
Step 4: Trim off the ¼” raw edge of one of the long sides of the sheet. Set the sheet aside.
Step 5: Use the compass to draw a circle on a piece of foam core that is 7″ in diameter.
Step 6: Draw another circle that is centered in the first circle and is 4½” in diameter.
Step 7: With a very sharp cutting blade, cut along the lines of the inner and outer circles.
Step 8: Repeat Steps 5–7 to make another foam core ring.
Step 9: Fold the vellum sheet in half. Form a roll (lengthwise) and slide it into the center of the 2 foam core rings. This will give you the perfect diameter for the tube that you need to create with the vellum.
Step 10: Place one staple, ½” from the each end of the vellum tube.
Step 11: Place short strips of double-sided tape along the overlapping edges of the tube made of vellum paper.
Step 12: Add a very thin line of PVC glue around one end of the vellum tube, 2″ from the edge of the tube. Slide the foam core ring closest to this side and place it over the glue. Slide your hand into the tube and press the vellum against the ring. Wait for it to dry.
Step 13: With scissors, cut 2 vertical slits that are 1″ tall and 1″ away from each other. The cuts should be made to one side of the overlapping vellum. Push and fold the paper or tab created between the cuts towards the inside of the vellum tube. This will be the space needed for the puck light cable to go through.
Step 14: Add a very thin line of PVC glue along the outer edge of the end of the tube where the cuts were made. Place the vellum tube inside the second ring and make sure it is touching your work surface.
Step 15: With a cutting blade, make 2 cuts on the ring that are 1″ apart; cut all the way across the ring and match up with the cutout space in the vellum tube. Remove the excess piece of foam core.
Step 16: Cut out a ½” square out of 2 of the corners of one of the long sides of the handmade paper sheet.
Step 17: Starting where the 1″ gap is located, add a thin line of PVC glue around the outer rim of both foam core rings.
Step 18: Wrap the white sheet around the 2 foam core rings. The straight long edge of the sheet should be touching the work surface and the outer edge of the bottom ring. The short sides of the sheet should overlap over the 1″ gap in the vellum tube and bottom foam core ring.
Step 19: Using PVC glue attach the short ends of the white handmade paper where they overlap.
Step 20: Attach the puck light to the wooden base per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Step 21: Add several strips of double-sided tape to the bottom of the foam core ring that has the 1″ gap, and attach it centered on the wooden base and over the puck light. The cable of the puck light should be placed through the gap on the bottom of the paper structure.
Note: Double-sided tape is used in order for the paper structure to be removable in case there is need to fix a damaged puck light.

Tips and Variations

One of the most important things to keep in mind during the first steps of this project is to draw lightly — very lightly. The lighter the pencil markings the easier they will be to erase, if needed.
Use a very sharp blade when working with paper and in particular with the foam core. A dull blade can damage any work that you’ve accomplished by tearing or making edges ragged.
This lamp was specifically designed with a leaf-shaped pattern, but that isn’t to say that it should be the only one used. Trees and geometric shapes such as circles are just some examples of other designs that can be used. If you have a favorite fabric or wall paper print that isn’t too elaborate, it can be easily traced and transferred onto the paper to carry your theme to your lighting as well. Just make sure that the negative spaces aren’t too large or the lamp won’t hold up well.
If you find a paper that you prefer for the outer portion of the lamp but it is too thin, glue a sturdier card stock paper to the back side of it. This will allow the thinner paper to stand in a vertical position and be strong enough to be used for this project.
The height and diameter of this lamp can be reduced. For safety precautions, I would not recommend making the inner diameter of the foam core rings any smaller. The puck light should have enough ventilation and it is best that it not touch the paper.
Unfinished wood is used for the base of this lamp. Stain or paint can be applied to it before starting the project for a different look. Small felt circles can be attached to the bottom of the base to avoid scratching furniture.
About the Author:
Patricia Zapata is a graphic designer who loves working with cut paper. She explores crafty endeavors on her blog,, and interviews inspiring artists at Crafty Synergy. Be sure to check out her new book, Home, Paper, Scissors: Decorative Paper Accessories for the Home for many more fabulous home decor ideas.
zapata book cover.jpg

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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