last year, our friend jhon sanders from many mouths one stomach shared with us a short narrative tute about lantern-making from the very VERY gape-mouthed-wonder-inducing artist mykl wells.

this year, krampus mama linda soffer started using mykl’s techniques as well as her own in early fall to make a comprehensive set of how-to’s so that folks can make their own lanterns — whether at home, or with us at the maker workshop on december 8. (and i will say again, it’s worth RSVPing for that.)

here is linda’s how-to, and i really wish i could have done more for her than just bring her back a dumb loaf of bread from pittsburgh to thank her. but i guess i have time yet. ūüôā

here we go!


Cardboard – large, flat pieces
long straight edges
pencils and/or markers (any color)
mat knife & blades or box cutter
cutting surface
black acrylic paint (w/ brushes or rollers & trays)
drop cloths
window material (paper, vellum)
glue stix
awls or large needles
florist wire
touch lights & batteries
black tape (duct, masking or gaffers)

Start with a large, flat piece of cardboard.  Trim edges to make upper left corner as square as possible (90 degree angle).  You can use a t-square or other long straight edge to do this.  The top and left-hand sides will be the edges you measure from.

1.    Decide on # of sides (this example has 5) and the width (can be the width of the cardboard divided by # of sides).  Measure & mark these vertical lines on the cardboard using a straight edge.

2.    Decide on the number of facets (this example has 3) and the height of each. Measure & mark these horizontal lines using a straight edge.

3.     Decide on the shapes of the facets.  This example has a long lower taper, a squat, rectangular center facet, and a short, wider upper taper.  For the greatest stability, the central facet must remain fully attached on both the horizontal & vertical sides.

To create a taper:  decide on the amount of taper you want (can be as narrow as a point) and mark this width in the center of the outer facet edge ( for the bottom facet, it will be the lower edge of the cardboard, for the top, the upper edge).  Draw lines from the corners of the inner edge of the facet (which is also the edge of the central facet) to the width mark(s) on the outer edge.

4.     Cut out facets along taper lines.  Make sure you do not cut the edges of the central facet.

5.     Score the horizontal & vertical edges of the central facet using a straight edge & a bone folder or other blunt tool.  Make sure you are scoring on the side of the cardboard you want to be on the inside of the lantern.  It is important to score before you cut out the window shapes.

6.     Decide what shapes you want in your windows & draw them on each facet.  Simple shapes are easiest to cut.  Make sure to leave at least a quarter inch of space both between shapes and between the shapes & all sides of each facet.

7.     Cut out shapes.  Make sure you do not cut the edges of the central facet.

8.    Flip cardboard over and paint the outside (non-scored side) of the lantern.  Using a roller ensures a thin, even coating of paint that dries quickly.

9.     Turn cardboard over so dried, painted side is down.  Get window material (vellum in this case) lay over cardboard and trace the area that you want the vellum to cover on each facet (doing the entire facet is easiest).  Make sure that the edges of the vellum extend beyond the edges of the shape, but not beyond the edges of the facet.  Cut out vellum shape.  Doing one facet at a time, cover entire surface with glue stick and place vellum piece on top.  Press & smooth to ensure full adhesion.

10.     Fold facets along scored edges to create lantern shape, using hands on both the inside & outside to support the cut windows.  Using an awl or a large needle, poke holes in edges of facets at desired attachment points (usually the top & bottom of each facet.  Longer edges may require an additional, central point).  Make sure to put holes in the centers of the top edges of the upper facet (which you will use to attach the lantern to the handle), and make sure that the holes are not too close to the cardboard edge.

11.    Working from the bottom up, secure the facets using short pieces of florist wire threaded through the holes from the outside in.  Twist wire ends together on the inside of the lantern.

12.    Thread longer pieces of florist wire through each of the holes on the top edge of the lantern.  Twist each to secure then twist all of them together to creat a single, multi-wire strand.  This strand is what you will use to attach the lantern to your handle.

13.  Take a tap light and a long piece of wire.  Center the wire on the back of the light and wrap the wire around the light like a ribbon on a present (wrap wire over 2 opposite edges, cross & twist on the light side, wrap up around the other 2 edges, twist wires together on the back side).  Put black tape around the edges and on the back of the light to hold the wire in place.  You want at least 5 inches of wire hanging off the light.

14.  Get whatever you are using for a handle and mount light to handle by wrapping the wire around the handle, leaving a couple of inches of wire between the light & the handle.  Secure with black tape if necessary. (Note: in this example, I used a sunflower stalk that had a curved end that was hollow.  I inserted an awl into the hollow end & made a small hole coming out the top side of the stalk to use as a threading hole.  If you have a regular stick you may simply wrap the wire around the stick.  See photo.)

15.  Mount the lantern to the handle by working the light into the top of the lantern then twisting the lantern-mounting strand to either the handle or the light mounting wire.  Secure with black tape if necessary.

krampuslauf philadelphia is grateful to linda soffer for this tutorial, and to mykl wells and jhon sanders of many mouths one stomach for spreading the light, and to hurricane sandy for providing us with so many sticks.