That's Goodwill
Bird Cage Lanterns

Today we’ll be looking at a simple idea for folks who aren’t afraid to daringly do some DIY deco with repurposed thrift merch and a couple of odds and ends available at your local arts & crafts retailer.

Bird Cage Lanterns

By Ryan Cassidy

What you’ll need:

-a bird cage

-a little paint (Be sure to choose the right kind; most aerosol spray paints or enamel paints will adhere to metal surfaces, but if you’ve got a wooden cage you could go with more eco-friendly alternatives like vegetable dye or tempera paint or an all-natural stain application.)

-a sheet of semi-translucent Mylar or velum

-some invisible thread and a sewing needle

-pictures of birds

-a permanent marker (preferably lightfast pigment so the colour will not fade)

-a light source (Depending on what you’ve got in mind, this could be a tea light, a desk or standing lamp that needs a new shade, or a small button LED powered by a watch battery)


The Step-by-step:

1) Scour your local Goodwill Stores and garage sales for bird cages. I gave myself a budget of $25 dollars and ended up with four different shades! While you’re at the Goodwill, grab a couple National Geographics or large coffee table books with some nice bird photos. If you haven’t already got your light source figured out, you might want to pick up a cheap lamp while you’re at it.

2) Prepare your shade by cutting out a strip of Mylar or velum and folding or bending it to fit within the interior of your bird cage. This will take a bit of fiddling, so keep the shade as un-creased as you can until you’ve found a shape you can live with. Pictured above are examples of both rectangular and cylindrical shades.

3) Find a couple images from the bird books and trace out the design for your shade with the permanent marker. Be sure to keep the wet ink on the interior of the shade, otherwise your marker strokes may be a little too visible from the outside when the lamp is lit. I went with a minimal design here because I didn’t want to project too many shadows everywhere once the lamp was illuminated (plus I figured the more I drew, the more likely I was to mess up!). Here’s an example of a lamp-in-progress lit from inside with a desk lamp.


4) Using the invisible thread and your stitching needle, sew together the ends of your shade (without overlapping ends if you can) to create a continuous shape. This part can be tricky, especially if you’re completely lacking in sewing skills like me.

5) Now paint up your cage and let it dry.

6) Once your shade’s completed and your cage is dry, pull out the needle and thread again and suspend the shade from the top of the cage so that it floats.

7) Now, the last step comes with two disclaimers; don’t let someone else use your finicky camera to take photos you’ll be using in an instructional blog (see terrible photo below), and more importantly, do not mess with light socket wiring unless you’ve invested some time in learning how to do it safely. If I had to do this one over again, I would have gone with those tiny battery-powered button LEDs because they’re easy, safe, and don’t have visible wires. Since these particular lamps were installed by professionals contracted by the place I was decorating, they wanted the lighting to be switch-activated and handled all of the electrical stuff for me.


That’s all for now folks. Thanks for reading and happy crafting!

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