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Translucent lamp shade

This lamp shade is translucent when the light is switched on and is made by dipping paper circles into wax that has been coloured with dye or food colouring. By dyeing and dipping cut paper rounds into wax, the scales have a glowing, translucent finish and a gorgeous deep watery hue, giving the lamp a beautiful texture, whether it’s unlit or switched on and glowing from within.

Every year around this time, I start to daydream about the beach and the beautiful scenery that surrounds it. My beach dreaming, coupled with my love for the fish scale pattern and obsession with unique lighting fixtures spurred the idea for this fresh and fun DIY project. The different dye baths used in the project create a ton of watery texture, while the wax technique allows light to filter through the piece and adds to that “scale like” feel.

The project can be completed in an afternoon for about R50, which means all of us who can’t make it to the deep blue sea this summer can at least surround ourselves with something sea inspired! Happy creating!


circle cutter (available at most craft stores) Dye or food colouring
paraffin wax
mineral oil
Large pot
extra bowl
white paper lantern
glue gun


1. Use your circle cutter and use paper to create around 200 circles. The 200 circles will cover a 30cm paper lantern.

2. Place the cut circles into a bucket of dye or food colouring (I used the purple and purple mixed with teal) and allow them to darken to your taste. I chose to make my circles different shades to enhance the texture of the final piece.

3. Create a double boiler with your pot and extra bowl. Put a block of the paraffin wax in the extra bowl to melt. Once the wax is melted, add mineral oil to thin the wax. Make sure your circles are dry and then dip each one into the wax, making sure to leave a portion of the top clean and clear of any wax. Lay the circle on wax paper to dry.

Note: Dipping the circles in the wax makes the paper transparent and allows the light to pass through it more easily.

4. Once the wax has dried, start attaching the circles to a white paper lantern. Use a glue gun and be sure to place the glue on the portion of the circle that does not have wax on it.

5. Work your way around the lantern until it is fully covered. I started at the bottom and overlapped my circles in a fish scale-like pattern so the top layer would be at the top of the lantern.

Note: I tested the lantern using a 60 W compact florescent lightbulb, and the wax stayed cool and completely intact. I recommend sticking with compact fluorescent bulbs to keep the heat in check.


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