DIY Wedding

DIY Wedding

Extreme Paper: The Long, Dark Road to a Bright Idea

comments (24) November 24th, 2008     

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Jeff_Rudell Jeffery Rudell, contributor
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The finished piece prior to its installation in the holiday windows of Tiffany & Company. Its on view until December 25 at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. 
Two simple shapes formed the basis for my chandelier. My goal was to come up with a design that looked delicate and ornate but would hold up beneath the hot lights of a window display.
Strategic cross-grain creasing added great stability to my project. As well, I sistered together two of each shape to further enhance the strength of the piece. 
The finished piece prior to its installation in the holiday windows of Tiffany & Company. Its on view until December 25 at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. 

The finished piece prior to its installation in the holiday windows of Tiffany & Company. It's on view until December 25 at Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in New York City. 

Photo: Jeff Rudell
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It is three days before Thanksgiving and the holidays are finally OVER!

Allow me to explain. For me, the holidays began back in late July when I started getting calls from clients interested in having me create projects for their holiday window displays. If you think it's difficult to come up with a festive and creative crafting idea for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, try doing it when the temperature is hovering in the 90s and you're sitting seaside in a beach chair staring at the blank pages of a sketchbook. However, publishers, manufacturers, and crafters all live in this season-out-of-synch world where we are busy making snowmen while the rest of the world is busy eating Sno-Cones.

One of my most challenging projects this year was for Tiffany & Company's flagship Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan. Their theme this year is "All That Glitters" (a particularly apt concept for a jewelry store). My job was to create a chandelier out of paper; delicate, ornate, graceful, vaguely French Baroque in style and about three feet tall by two feet wide. At the time I agreed to do the project, I distinctly remember thinking, "How hard can it be?" Clearly, I was delusional from heatstroke and didn't know it.

This is how hard it can be:

1. Paper wilts. This can be easily illustrated by holding out a 12-inch strip of paper at arm's length and willing it to stand at attention without listing to one side or another. Mr. Crafter, meet Mr. Disappointment. Mr. Disappointment, meet Mr. Crafter.

2. Why not use heavier stock paper? It doesn't wilt. It also doesn't lend itself to delicately articulated curves or easy cutting with anything less than a laser beam. Oh, and it wilts, too; it just take a day or two longer to do so.

3. Wouldn't foam board, museum board, matte board, cardboard, chip board, and gator board all be promising solutions? All were promising, yes, but alas, all of them broke their promises. I tried using my craft knife, but by the time I'd finished making my first test piece, my index finger and thumb were cramped, a nasty blister was rising on my middle finger, I had broken the tips of more than 65 craft blades, and my resulting template was lopsided, jagged, and fuzzy at the edges. I tried a Dremel. I even tried a jigsaw. Oh, and while none of these materials could be said to actually "wilt" after a few days, they all buckled or twisted or yawed in one direction or another just like their thinner and more flexible paper cousins had done.

At this point, I was already a few weeks into the project and had little to show for my efforts other than a stack of coarsely cut, unusable templates and a studio adrift in little pieces of paper and a fine dusting of cardboard curlicues from my ever-eager-to-help-but-nonetheless-helpless Dremel tool. With little hope of success, I did what I usually do in such situations: I stopped working completely. I stopped and took a step back. I spent days, sitting in my studio, staring at the evidence of my failures and ruminating on where I'd gone wrong.

I'll spare you details of the long, meandering path my mind took and, instead, cut to my epiphany: grain. I had been working to overcome the liabilities of paper when I should have been trying to transform those liabilities into something I could use. (Could this be an aphorism for crafters everywhere? The strong overcome: the creative, transform!) When I took a moment to think about paper, I realized that I could put its grain to work in my favor.

Paper tends to bend with its grain and it tends to resist bending (ever so slightly, but still) against its grain. By bending my chandelier components against the grain of the paper, I created some little resistance—a slight push-back. Push-back meant tension, and tension, as we all know, is that simple little force of nature that holds up wide-span bridges and cross-girdered skyscrapers.

In the end, I went back to my original, medium-weight paper, creased and folded all of the pieces against the grain, and glued them together to make what is essentially a paper spring. The resulting piece was actually so strong that I delivered it to Tiffany & Co. folded in half lengthwise and tied with a piece of string. When I untied the string, the piece sprung into shape under its own tensile strength and required only a small application of adhesive on the final seam. I then affixed the candles and the piece was complete.

All told, this piece ended up having more than 765 discrete components, 10 feet of dental floss, 15 glue sticks, 6 ounces of white craft glue, and weeks of my time and effort. The resulting chandelier is, I believe...a failure. A beautiful failure, perhaps, but a failure, all the same. I say this because, given the budget I had for this project, it ceased to make much financial sense long before I actually struck upon a solution that allowed me to complete it. I actually lost money. Failure.

However, since I am loath to admit defeat, perhaps I ought to consider amortizing the cost of this project over the coming weeks, months, and years where the lessons learned here will likely pay handsome dividends. Until the balance sheet tips in my favor, I'm happy to offer up for your review my biggest "failure" of the year. 

The holidays are over. Hooray! Long live the holidays.


These are my templates for the two structural components of my chandelier. I cut 12 of each shape and then paired them up: two stemmed arms attached to each other with paper struts, alternating with two stemless arms attached to each other with paper struts.

 


The first 12 stemless components. Hand-cutting these items took longer than expected but, given the budget, die-cutting was not a viable option.

 


These components formed the underlying structure of my project. I cut 12 of these profiles and glued them together in pairs.

 


A detail of the assembly as it began to come together. The two scroll pieces are separated by a small paper strut. The armless pieces, folded in half and attached one to another, form the fluted shape between each of the six arms.

 


Each candle consisted of three flame shapes and three "candle" shapes glued together to make a 3-D object. A small tab at the bottom of each flame allowed it to be sandwiched between the pieces of the "candle" during gluing.

 


For the candle shoes, I affixed a small ringlet of paper to a white paper disk using hot glue. Once the glue was dry, each candle was then slid into the candle shoe.

 


For the crystal garlands that hang between each arm of the chandelier and for the three strands of crystals that hang from each of the six upper candle shoes, I cut disks in two sizes: 1 inch and 5/8 inch. As with the candles, each shape consists of three pieces glued together to form a 3-D object.

 


White dental floss proved an ideal material to glue my crystals to. As is visible here, each crystal is made of two white disks and one silver metallic disk. The resulting crystals have just a hint of glimmer to them, further enhancing the notion that they are reflective baubles.

 


A detail of a candle shoe with three strands of crystals attached, mounted on the scroll base.

 


Because the candles were not glued into the candle shoes, I was able to move and position each candle to point straight up.

 


For the crystal garlands that hung between the arms of the lower rung of candles, I alternated large circles with small circles. This gave a little visual heft to the lower portion of the chandelier and added a slightly whimsical sense to the piece.

 


A large bauble, made of ten 3-inch disks, made a beautiful pendant ornament for the bottom of my piece.

 


The finished piece prior to its installation. Not a droopy candle or limp-looking scroll to be found.

 

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Comments (24)

RedShoe_Stylist writes: Hey, That's great guy
This is the most marvelous thing i ever seen.

Posted: 3:29 am on March 1st
Verityk writes: Hi again so i purchased the magazine attached to this page and it does not have the pattern in that book. Is anyone able to help me on how i can purchase the pattern in Australia.

Thanks
Posted: 12:02 am on January 7th
YvetteG writes: Hello Jeff,

I love this chandelier and would like to make one for my niece for her birthday. Can you let me know where I can find the template to trace over the paper I plan on using? I would greatly appreciate it and thank you so much for sharing this design.

Yvette
Posted: 2:39 pm on September 12th
YvetteG writes: Hello Jeffery, I absolutely love this chandelier. I would like to make one for my neice's birthday but I am unable to find the template. Would you be able to direct me? Again, amazing job...is is beautiful!!

Thank you,

Yvette
Posted: 1:51 pm on September 12th
Verityk writes: Hi ElihuA91 are you able to advise me on where u get the patterns from? Is it in the booked that is advertised on this page 'Holiday Decorating Ideas' Im am very interested in making one as you have just done.

Thanks
Posted: 1:49 am on June 30th
ElihuA91 writes: This was a wonderful project, I really enjoy cut paper art/sculpture and am working on making a portfolio of this type of work. I was so inspired i decided i would go out and make one myself. It in no way came out as well as yours it was definitively not as clean but that was probably because i rushed through the project. Ill put up a picture of my version and i will hopefully be redoing it and making a cleaner one. One more thank you so much for sharing this with us.
Posted: 10:12 am on June 23rd
Verityk writes: Jeffery, this is fantasic!! I am from Australia and wonderinf if where i can get the pattern to make this great creation. Or if anyone else can help me that would be great i would love to make it for my best friends new baby room.

Posted: 11:59 pm on June 13th
fevireyes writes: Where can I get this template? I love it!

Posted: 8:16 am on May 22nd
jacke writes: Thank you for sharing! One way to recoup your time/$ would be to sell templates for the less talented of us, this would be really cool on probably a smaller scale for apt dwellers

also this might could be a design for Ikea or something like that....i want one!!!
Posted: 2:04 am on December 3rd
lshablesky writes: I love this design, its absolutely breath taking. Can someone send me the templates?
Posted: 1:01 am on October 16th
missbree126 writes: i fully enjoyed making this chandelier. thank you for sharing your design.
Posted: 10:58 pm on October 11th
msnew007 writes: This is amazing...and a lot of work! Really beautiful!
Posted: 12:32 am on July 27th
sandeejones writes: jeffrey, I just found you and am floored by your talent! AMAZING. I was hoping you would share exactly what lb. and type of paper you used for the chandelier. I REALLY want to try one - not as large but try just the same. Do you have your own blog/website? Do you have a book? I can't wait to see what you create next! Just seeing creations like these make me happy! Thanks!
Posted: 4:10 pm on April 7th
bethtrue writes: Absolutely gorgeous - that is an amazing creation! Thanks for sharing your great step-by-step too!
Posted: 2:40 pm on January 8th
LAURAMCHUGH writes: Jeff, This is amazing.............I would love this in my home. You are the best paper crafter I have seen. Keep up the great work. Can't imagine the amount of thought and time that went into this one. How do you come up with all these interesting designs????? I always loved working with paper but you take it to a totally different dimension, and you make me step up my game when working with paper. Thank you.
Posted: 4:27 pm on December 15th
CritterCharmer writes: Amazing work!!
Posted: 9:40 am on December 3rd
TarheelCraftyGirl writes: I've never commented on a project before, but---this is magnificent.

I've seen your work before, and been amazed, but THAT is absolutely amazing. Words fail me, I WANT to be this good!
Posted: 7:30 pm on November 28th
PatriciaZ writes: Amazing! I love how you've shared the process.
Posted: 7:19 pm on November 28th
grammy_gone_WILD writes: WOW!!!! far more patience than i can imagine! WOW!! how smart are they to ask you to dress there window! WOW!!
Posted: 11:40 am on November 25th
DanaBarbieri writes: This is beautiful!! Thanks for sharing this.
Posted: 9:01 pm on November 24th
MichaelaMurphy writes: I can't even speak. Is this what is going on when I call you and ask what's up? You constantly blow my mind.
Posted: 2:42 pm on November 24th
AWilcox writes: WOW, this is one of the most creative and beautifully executed projects I have ever seen. This is absolutely gorgeous! Is there anyway of actually attaching small lights, that won't burn the paper (e.g. a very small string of Christmas lights) to this AMAZING chandelier? I want one of these in my home! It is truly stunning, Mr. Rudell you have OUTDONE yourself! Simply INCREDIBLE!!! Great job - this makes a perfect gift for any season. Congrats on a superior product.

Have a nice holiday!
AW
Posted: 12:42 pm on November 24th
susanstars writes: That is absolutely magnificent! I'm just amazed.
Posted: 12:35 pm on November 24th
Jen_W writes: Jeffrey! This is the most incredible thing. I just kept muttering "Omigod, omigod, omigod" as I looked at this post and saw all the photos of what meticulous talent went into producing such a work of art. You elevate crafting and this site into the heavens.
Posted: 11:57 am on November 24th
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