Lights on!

1 Feb
A glass jar covered in a lattice of jute twine, shot in the dark, with many small lights shining through the glass. The dark background is the untidy surface of my desk, with a ball of the twine clearly visible on the side.

Last week I showed you some of the flowers I made as a token for all my coworkers.

However, I must admit that not all coworkers are created equal. There are a few people there I consider friends, and for them, I made something else to go along with their flower.

Two glass jars covered in jute twine lattice, one of them with the lights still on, and holding two flowers. The blue one has petals stacked on a vertical stem, like a hyacinth, with two airy, frond-like leaves. The other one is yellow with an orange center and yellow stamens, with four thin, blade-like leaves. The background is the untidy desk again.

If you are interested at all in how I made them, and don’t mind an image-heavy post, check below the fold.

Like so many things here at Casa Aztec, it all starts with trash that should be recyclable but that, in the hellscape that is my address, is not actually recycled: a glass jar (pickled pepperoncinis for the win), and a disposable plastic water bottle.

A 1-liter clear plastic bottle and a clear glass bottle, both without labels (still on the poor desk, with black monitor behind)

Some dollar store twine, a couple of glues, and some LED fairly light strings, and we are set to start.

A half-used roll of jute twine, a bottle of super glue gel, another of 'the original super glue wood glue', and a string of fairy lights, still rolled up and with the little plastic tab one has to pull to 'free' the battery for use.

You may be wondering what the role of the plastic bottle is in this setup. Fair question! It goes like this: I want the lamp to be also useful as a holder of things–pens, rulers, paper flowers, cat toys. But if you plunk the string of fairy lights in the jar, then you can’t really use it for anything else: it’s a mess in there!

The empty plastic bottle cut into three sections: the top curved one with the cap, the straight body, and the bumpy bottom. The body has two series of holes punched around both ends, about a quarter of an inch from the edge, with slits cut from the edge to each hole.

So I thought that I could use the body of the plastic bottle as a frame to wind the fairy lights around, and keep them from tangling with anything one puts inside the vase.

The body of the plastic bottle, with the string of fairy lights wound around the outside, anchored by strategic passes through the hole/slit combinations on the edges.

And it worked!

Overhead shot of the jar, showing the plastic insert inside, with the lights off.

One of the things I like most about these lights is that they give enough ambient light to be cozy; a bonus is that they last quite a bit (the box says “up to 64 hours”, but honestly, a fresh battery, lasts up to 72 hours).

Overhead shot of the jar, showing the plastic instert with the lights on.

I used some thin chipboard, saved from packaging, to affix the battery box/switch combo inside the jar’s mouth, near the very edge of the glass. This serves the dual purpose of stabilizing the plastic insert, and keeping the switch within easy reach when using the vase as a light source.

A glass jar with jute twine forming a lattice over most of the body, with some cardboard around the top of the thread on the mouth of the jar; the battery box from the fairy lights is hanging outside the jar, anchored to the plastic insert.

Some more twine to cover the thread around the jar’s opening, and voilà! A lamp:

A glass jar covered with a lattice of jute twine, with the fairly lights inside turned on; the thread at the mouth of the jar is now covered with jute twine glued around it.

And so, with very little expense, I made these for my friends:

Four of the finished lamps set in a row; they all have one or two cardboard papers each. The flowers are all different in shapes and colors, and there are subtle differences in the lattice covering each jar.

If you are observant, you may have noticed that the four lamps in the image above are all slightly different, but that the two lamps in the second image at the top of this post are identical. That’s because I actually made five of these, and originally had intended to make them all the same, but got bored by the sameness after the second one.

Behold, the original design: a classic, elegant yet simple.

The lattice over the body of the jar is basic diamonds formed by single strands of jute crossing diagonally from a top band of twine to a bottom band, in both directions. There's significant space from the top band of twine to the band covering the thread at the mouth of the jar.

The first variation: an exercise in modesty.

The lattice on the main part of the body is the same as the previous jar, but the top band of jute at the top just keeps going all the way to the top.

The natural progression: a more open, airy style.

The lattice on the body of this jar is more spaced out, forming long Xs rather than the diamonds of the previous version. There are bits of twine going vertically at regular intervals between the top band around the body, and the band around the thread at the mouth of the jar.

Followed by an almost minimalist design…

The lattice around the body of the jar is formed by twisting the strands of twine around each other, to form sort of vertical elongated twisted Xs from the bottom to the top bands. There's clear glass between the band at the top of the body and the one around the thread at the mouth of the jar. There are two bits of metal poking from the twine around the mouth of the jar.

…with a twist.

A different angle shows the bits of metal are jump rings attached to a square wire handle that can be pulled upwards or pushed down flush with the body of the jar.

There was absolutely no way I wasn’t going to try to make something resembling one of those old-fashioned oil lamps with the wire handle. No way.

And since I had the wire (remember when Chinese food boxes had the wire handles? yeah, that’s what this is), here we are.

The same lamp, suspended from the tips of my fingers.

If you made it this far, thank you! “And to all a good night.”

A dark shot, similar from the one at the top of the post, of one of the finished lamps, with the fairy lights on. And yes, still on the messy desk.

Oh, you are curious about the other flowers? Never fear, you’ll see more of those soon.

5 Responses to “Lights on!”

  1. whiskeyinthejar 01/02/2023 at 10:05 AM #

    That’s genius about the plastic bottle and lights! You should be so proud of the finished product, that yellow flower with the red/pink out of it made me gasp a little.
    I’m a minimalist who likes her clean surfaces, but this is still making me think about buying/consuming and how much I throw away.

    • azteclady 01/02/2023 at 10:24 AM #

      I started saving recyclables a few years ago, because a coworker set up bins at the office that he would take home and put in his own bins (my city hasn’t done that for a long while), and in short order I was amazed and awed (in the original “that’s terrifying” way), at how much ‘trash’ one person can produce. So much packaging!

      • azteclady 01/02/2023 at 10:27 AM #

        and, thank you!

        I’d been mulling how to add light to the vases while leaving usable space inside, for a while, and one day it just hit me, and then I wondered how I hadn’t seen it all along.

  2. Miss Bates 02/02/2023 at 6:46 PM #

    They’re beautiful!!

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