Bright Ideas

Sometimes I come up with bright ideas… little artsy-craftsy projects that I think I might be able to do. Of course, you know I’m not the artsy-craftsy sort, so it’s not surprising that most of my bright ideas never turn out quite the way I’d envisioned them.

Lately, since our grandson Madox has been visiting every week, I’ve been on the lookout for bright ideas that I can share with him, easy little projects that we can do together.

I was sure I’d found a good one when I flipped through the pages of a recent Woman’s World magazine, as part of how to create a fun “movie night” for your family.

Bright Ideas (2)

Paper lanterns! How simple! How pretty!

This was definitely something I could do. I vaguely recalled making lanterns like this — not quite so fancy — back in kindergarten!

My bright idea was to use watercolor paper with splatter art — Madox loves to splatter watercolors now that he’s discovered that technique. And I already had a lovely piece of splattered paper, a beautiful pastel pink sheet with magical “salt blooms” — created by adding salt to the wet paper.

I rushed downstairs, set right to work folding and cutting, and in minutes I’d created a very pretty little lantern. I taped it together, showed it off to my husband, and started thinking about how much fun Madox and I would have making lanterns.

Then came the next bright idea. I was sitting in the art studio looking around. I’d already taken one sheet of cardstock and splattered a bit of paint on it to use for my second lantern. I would gladly show it to you, but it seems to have gotten lost someplace in the mess my studio has become. After finishing it up, though, I glanced at my new acrylic pouring station — the latest addition to my studio.

Hey, why not! I seem to recall the workshop instructor saying you could pour on practically anything, so why not cardstock? Wouldn’t that make a gorgeous lantern!

Now, maybe this project was driven at least in part by some furious desire to prove myself with acrylic pouring. Maybe I felt compelled to do it again just so I could say, “See! I can actually do this.”

But I quickly learned that, no, I couldn’t actually do it, at least, not very well. Although I tried following the directions as I remembered them from the workshop, I mostly managed to make a big mess. I spilled my pouring medium all over the floor. I didn’t use enough paint either. I poured my acrylics on my cardstock and realized I didn’t have quite enough to cover the sheet — at least, not the way it was flowing.

Not thinking too well, I tried to pick up the paper and tilt it, just as I do with watercolor. Wrong! I got paint all over my hands, of course, and what I should have done was to pick up the wire rack beneath the paper! I realized my error, tried again, but it was already turning into a hopeless situation.

Next I grabbed a nylon brush and tried to brush the paint over the cardstock. Yeah, I know. That was not a very bright idea. Instead of swirls of colors, I ended up with one thick acrylic layer of some color that didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. Mostly dark red. That, at least, was a good color for a Japanese lantern or Chinese lantern… wasn’t it?

I still had a few drops of paint clinging to my little paper cups, so I made a dismal attempt to splatter a few drops over the red acrylic. I had mixed results. But it didn’t matter. At that point, I knew the project was doomed. I put it aside to let it dry, let out a sigh, and admitted defeat. Time to face the facts. Acrylics and I don’t get along, and I’m really not good at acrylic pouring.

But I still had my pretty pink pastel paper lantern, and as my husband and I sat outside that evening listening to the birds, I thought of how lovely that lantern would look in our garden. I didn’t have any tea-lights, but still, I hurried inside to get my lantern.

“Isn’t that nice?” I asked my husband as I placed the lantern on our patio table. He nodded. Yes, it was nice. Until it wilted.

Using watercolor paper for these lanterns was not such a bright idea, I saw. The paper absorbs too much moisture in the air. My lovely little lantern began to droop and sag.

Droopy (2)

Oh, well. Live and learn.

But meanwhile, back in the studio, how was my acrylic cardstock pouring coming along? Actually, it turned out better than I’d expected. That’s not saying much, of course, but it wasn’t a complete, total disaster.

Lantern AcrylicI was able to fold, cut, and create a lantern of sorts. Not the prettiest lantern ever made, but one that left me with a glimmer of hope.

Yes, I can make a paper lantern. Yes, I can share this project with Madox. Yes, we’ll have fun doing this.

But I’ll need to make a few changes:

  • I’ll use cardstock and watercolor, not acrylic paint.
  • I’ll paint both sides of the cardstock so that the inside is as pretty as the outside.
  • I’ll measure and cut the slits so that they’re all equally spaced and are all equally distant.
  • I’ll trim cardstock before cutting the slits so that everything lines up neatly before gluing, stapling, or taping. (I taped my first lantern, then opted for staples in the second. I think I prefer staples.)
  • I’ll add a little handle. This way the lanterns can be hung (with no tealights) or used on the ground with a tealight (battery-powered only, of course!)
  • What about spray varnish? I’m wondering if applying Krylon before cutting and folding might make the lanterns sturdier and less likely to sag. Thoughts?

Oh, I did find that watercolor cardstock. This is another with salt added, and I might just leave the salt on it instead of brushing it off. I’m wondering, too, if I could add a bit of glitter to future lanterns. And, wouldn’t that metallic watercolor be great!

Here, take a look for yourself. Don’t you think this would make a beautiful paper lantern?

Lantern Paper (2)

Blue Lantern (2)I also had a small watercolor with a painting that didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, but the paper was painted on both sides. I couldn’t resist turning it into a little lantern.

What’s especially fun is that there’s a complete painting on the inside, just in case anyone wants to peek.

You’ll notice that I haven’t yet bought any washi tape… well, correction. I ordered some just now from Amazon. It will be here tomorrow, and when Madox comes to visit on Wednesday, he and I will have lots of fun making paper lanterns.

Like everything else, lantern-making can be simple child’s play — my level — or it can be as fancy as you want to get.


Fancy LanternsHow to Make a Chinese Paper Lantern

Fancy Paper Lanterns

How to Make Fancy Paper Lantern Balls

Wowzers! I don’t think I’ll be trying anything quite this fancy, but you’ll find these and dozens more ideas with a quick online search.

Of course, another option would be to do as Women’s World suggests and use colorful patterned cardstock or scrapbooking paper.

There are so many possibilities! And that’s what arts and crafts are all about.



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