Bend to Conquer: How to Make a Beautiful Paper Lanterncomments (12) July 14th, 2008
Some years ago, I went to a meeting with an art director for a well-known magazine. As usual, I brought along my portfolio, my resume, and a list of previous clients, hoping to nab the job based on my past performance. This art director didn't have any interest in looking at what I'd done before. Instead she handed me a single sheet of paper and asked me to "do something impressive with it" and bring it back to her the next day. I went back to my studio, put the sheet of paper on my desk, and stared at it. Two hours later, I was no closer to having a single idea, let alone a sufficiently "impressive" one.
As the day dragged on, I dismissed the obvious things (such as turning it into a piece of origami) as well as the not-so-obvious things (such as burning half of it and drawing a picture on the other half using only the ashes). It seemed to me that the term "something impressive" was too vague. What I needed were some narrower parameters in which to work. (Does this happen to anyone else out there? When you can "do anything" do you find that, more often than not, you "do nothing"?)
My way of narrowing my options was to allow myself only two "actions": I could cut the paper (but not cut anything out of or off it) and I could bend the paper. Cutting and bending and nothing else. It seemed sufficiently impossible to me and so I set to work. The next morning when I went back, I placed the piece of paper on the art director's desk. Other than a bunch of cuts, slices really, it was the same paper she'd given me 24 hours earlier. I then proceeded to bend and twist it, first into the shape of a bouquet of flowers. Then, with a few more manipulations, into the distinctive shape of a VW Bug, and finally, into a three-dimensional picture of my own face.
It must have been sufficiently impressive because I did get the job. So, today, I thought I would focus on cutting and bending. (For the purposes of this demonstration, I've allowed for a little trimming in order to create a decorative edge along the top.)
The cutting involved is not complicated but it IS a bit difficult to explain using only words. To help make things easier for anyone interested in attempting this project, I've included a full-size PDF template that you can download and trace. Follow the directions carefully and you'll have a beautiful, delicate, and (I hope) "impressive" lantern shade that will cast a subtle and warm glow.
Cut with Care
On a sheet of 17" x 13" paper, trace the image of this iris (the attached full-size PDF template can be downloaded and printed at home). Pay special attention to the fact that many of the lines DO NOT CONNECT. This is intentional, as these areas will provide the hinges for our folding method.
Feel free to eliminate or modify the decorative design along the top edge of the page if you so prefer.
Here is a view of the sheet after it has been cut as indicated above.
Once you have completed cutting the iris, start folding and shaping the cut areas. To help make it clear how these folds should be done, I've included a second template that you can download and view on your screen. Areas indicated by YELLOW are pushed through the paper so that they extend out the back. Areas indicated by GREEN are pulled forward so that they protrude from the front. You may wish to score the areas you intend to fold, using a bone creaser, as this will give you a cleaner edge.
Note that the center petal (pointing upward in the picture above) gets folded all the way forward until it points downward toward the leaves. A small dot of glue can be used to hold this in place if your paper is particularly stiff.
You can download a full-size PDF guide to folding the various sections.
Once you have folded and shaped the parts of the iris, you can roll the sheet into a tube and affix it, end to end, using double-sided tape or paper adhesive (be sure to line up the decorative shapes along the top edge). Burnish the tape to secure the adhesion or hold in place until the glue has dried.
Below is a picture of what your finished lantern shade should look like. Simply place your iris over a small glass containing a single tea light. (Caution: Do not use more than one tea light or any candle that is not enclosed in a glass holder; otherwise, your lantern may go up in flames.)
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