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How to Make an Akari Paper Lamp

Contemporary American artist Isamu Noguchi created Japanese-lantern-style Akari paper lamps that became popular in the 1950s. Each of his Akari light sculptures consist of a light source covered in an artistically shaped paper shade with textured folds. The designs are simple and elegant, with either plain white or a solid colour. You can make your own Akari-style paper lamps from common materials easily purchased at craft supply centres and home improvement stores.

Fashion the lampshade frame. Use 10-gauge wire to make a contemporary, flowing design. Find some photos of authentic Noguchi Akari lamps and use them to inspire your shape. Make sure you have at least four vertical struts for support in the shade frame and bend them in interesting ways. Make a wire support for your frame that will easily attach to the lamp base you will use. Wrap 18-gauge wire around the frame struts in a spiral pattern and twist it around the struts at the top and bottom ends to complete the frame.

Cut the mulberry paper into wide strips that are slightly larger than each side of the shade frame. If the shade frame is round, decide how many paper panels you want and cut petal-shaped panels.

Glue the panels onto the wire frame. With the shade frame lying on its side, brush glue onto one side of the wire frame, coating all the wire surfaces on that side. Press a panel of paper onto the side, making sure paper comes into contact with each wire. Trim excess paper from each side with the utility knife. Let the first panel dry then turn the frame and glue a panel onto each side using this procedure until all sides are covered.

Apply glue to the top and bottom wire of the frame and fold the edges of the paper over and press them down. Leave the top and bottom of the frame open. Let dry.

Attach the finished shade to the lamp base.

Tip

You can find mulberry paper at craft supply houses or online. Try using other types of paper, such as tissue paper or patterned paper for different effects. The paper should be translucent so that light can come through it. It is also a good idea to fireproof the paper.

Warning

Use energy-efficient fluorescent light bulbs in your lamp. Incandescent bulbs can be too hot to use near paper. Do not use hot glue for this project. Heat from the light bulb may cause the glue to melt when the lamp is in use, causing a fire hazard. Always use approved electrical components for your lamp.

Things You'll Need

  • Mulberry paper
  • 10-gauge flexible wire
  • 18-gauge flexible wire
  • Scissors
  • Lamp base
  • White glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Utility knife
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About the Author

Karren Doll Tolliver holds a Bachelor of English from Mississippi University for Women and a CELTA teaching certificate from Akcent Language School in Prague. Also a photographer, she records adventures by camera, combining photos with journals in her blogs. Her latest book, "A Travel for Taste: Germany," was published in 2015.