Upcycling can prove to be challenging, but it’s almost always rewarding in the end, which is what makes it worth it… most of the time. Other makers at the Fraser Valley MakerSpace can attest to this. I’m almost sure of it. When I (Daljit) first joined the Fraser Valley MakerSpace in February ’16, I brought my yarn projects because who doesn’t love a good skein of carefully, hand-dyed and finely woven yarn? Seriously, I know I have problems when it comes to disclosing exactly how much yarn I have in my stash, but I digress. I wanted to do something that would challenge me and force me to think out of the box. When a girlfriend mentioned she’d be tying the knot at a winery near Niagara Falls, I had visions of wine bottle lamps for days. I knew what I was going to gift her and her husband. At least I thought I did.
I remember playing with stained glass when I was younger (I’m not really that old, but it was back in the day, before I discovered my love of all things yarn). I didn’t think a wine bottle lamp would prove to be difficult at all. Actually, I thought it would be the easiest gift I’d ever given anyone (anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about the handmade gifts). And it would’ve been the easiest gift I’d ever made until I told a mutual girlfriend about the lamp. She laughed and reminded me of all my failed attempts and half-done projects sitting in my garage. She was right too. What did I know about making a lamp? I knew JACK. To further rub salt on the wound, she challenged me to use 100% recycled materials AND keep the cost of essentials under $10.00 CAN.
I still didn’t think too much about what I’d started. So I decorated a wine bottle and thought that’d be it. But wait a minute, how was I going to get the electrical cord thingy ma-bobber in the lamp and connect it to the socket. I took my lonely bottle to the MakerSpace on a Thursday night (the best night to get work done) and I was a bit embarrassed because I really didn’t know what I was doing. Without asking for help, I began fielding questions about things I hadn’t thought of, and before I knew it, I was learning how to use the mill machine thanks to Jason. Can I mention how excited everyone was, to drill into glass? I didn’t think too much of it during the process, but in hindsight, at least three makers had fun drilling into this wine bottle.
Unsure of how to proceed after the hole was drilled and the twine no longer covered the entire bottle, I was left with a new problem to solve. I needed to figure out a shabby chic way of creating an attractive looking base. Did I mention that the lamp had to fit into the shabby chic style? I thought to myself, a wooden base would be fantastic, but I also couldn’t spend money on the wood, because I’d already spent $2.15 on twine. When I saw my brother-in-law tossing out old wooden patio furniture, I thought I’d struck gold. Recycled lawn furniture was the perfect addition, but of course, I took the pieces of wood to a makerspace where we’re never short of ideas. I ended up learning how to router the edges so the base would look seamless (which is pretty cool) but I didn’t anticipate how to deal with wood that’d been slightly warped. I was lucky to have Mel show me a really simple fix and reassure me no one would notice the box wasn’t completely square.
While Jason and Mel helped get the body of the lamp together, Jason and Rob A taught me enough about electrical and helped source the parts to wire the bottle up. That was a whopping $7.90. Jason walked me through the entire process and David made sure I did it right, quadruple checking my handiwork. I can’t even count how many times I undid the wiring only to redo it. I haven’t set anyone or anything on fire, so I think I did an okay job. After the bulb was in, I spent weeks fiddling with old wire hangers. We’ve all got old dry cleaning hangers and it was the perfect material for the lampshade. Well in theory it was perfect. I thought it was okay; I just needed to figure out how to attach everything so it didn’t look too tacky. David ended up chuckling and challenged me to think of 3D printed corners to help attach the bits of wire hanger I’d cut up. Securing the hanger pieces to the 3D printed corners David designed turned out to be the biggest problem. The lampshade kept falling apart at the corners. My idea of melted pieces of milk jugs seemed pretty futile at this point. In the end, David ended up designing something that would work as a top and bottom. I just had to figure out how to attach the two. A trip to the dollar store solved the problem. Wooden barbeque skewers, another $1.07. With the skeleton intact, I got to work collecting milk jugs. Cutting them up to create 1 x 1.25 inch tiles I flash melted with a heat gun and then drilled into before I chained them together.
I was almost finished until I realized I needed more milk jugs and more patience. My dedication to this project was quickly waning. Leonie took over the tedious job of drilling into the small tiles, but I fear I still need more. All the while my girlfriend has been married 1 week and I’m still only ¾ finished this present. Have I mentioned I’m in Vancouver and she’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan? I have no clue how to ship this once it’s done, without compromising the lampshade, but what a learning experience. This was a “all hands on deck” kind of project and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have fun along the way. It’s still a work in progress… but I’ll finish it and it’ll get to where it’s suppose to go, eventually, right? Luckily I have enough jump rings left over from another project, I didn’t have to purchase any for this one. I went over my budget by $1.12.