Wednesday, November 30, 2011

upcycled light bulb santa how-to

how cute is this upcycled santa lightbulb?!  my art students are making these for christmas.

i found this idea in the latest issue of cloth paper scissors magazine

there is not a tutorial in the magazine, however, so i thought i would share the general steps we are using to make these.  i say general because my students have the artistic freedom to change anything they want.  in the magazine, the artist used buttons to make the beard.  for ours we are using one of my favorite artist tools- our fingers.

to make this one i used an old light bulb and craft store acrylic paint.  if you don't have any old light bulbs, you can buy a box of 4 at the dollar store for a buck. i started by painting the light bulb in a flesh color.  holding the light bulb by the bottom, i painted the top portion first.

then i set it inside a small paper cup to dry.

once it was dry, i turned the light bulb and painted the rest of it.  

then i set it on the cup to dry again.  on this one, i did 2 coats of paint because i didn't want the light bulb glass to show.


once all the layers were completely dry, i used a pencil to lightly sketch a line where the hat would hit and a frame for the face.  you don't want to make this area too big.  i put 2 dots for eyes and  a small oval for the nose.  then from the center of the nose i drew 2 lines that curved out to give myself a guideline for the mustache.  last i sketched a line for the mouth.

to fill in the white i used my finger prints.  i started by following the face and mustache lines first.  put some paint out, dip your fingertip in it, and print it a few times, then repeat.

then i filled in the rest of the front of the light bulb the same way.  i set it on the cup again to dry.  once it was dry, i turned it and filled in the back.  once that was dry, i put a second layer over the entire white area, using the same finger print technique.

once the white was finished, i used a small brush to paint the nose pink and the mouth red.  for the eyes, i filled in the dots with a thin sharpie marker. 

once that was dry, i used a small round brush with white paint to fine tune the area around the face and fill in any other areas of the white part that looked thin.

to make the hat, i used an old red tshirt that my son had grown out of.  first i cut off one of the sleeves.

then i put the part of the sleeve with the seam around the light bulb where i wanted the hat to sit.  once i had the material pulled back tight enough to have the hat sitting where i wanted it, i sketched a line with pencil to mark it.  you can't see the pencil line on the picture, so i marked it with tape to show you.  it is the inside tape line.  it is close to the light bulb, but not right up against it because i know i have to sew a seam.  i think i also put one sewing pin on that line to hold the material together before i carefully pulled it off the light bulb.

now, i have a sewing machine, but it is not set up.  so instead of doing that, i decided to just hand stitch the seam.  if you don't want to stitch it, you could use fabric glue.  even staples might work if you don't pull too hard on it afterwards.  you couldn't see my stitched seam in the picture, so i added white dots on the line to show you.  while it was still inside out, i cut off the extra fabric.  make sure you don't cut too close to the stitched seam.

then i flipped it inside out so the seam was on the inside and placed it on the light bulb where i wanted it.  the top off the hat was still open and ugly from where i cut it, so i pulled  down and marked with my finger where i wanted to attach it.  i carefully pulled the hat off the light bulb and put in a couple of stitches to hold the top of the hat down.  now, i'm just telling you how i made my hat.  you could do this many different ways.  if you do this with your kids i encourage you to let them problem solve a way to make a hat.  my art students are doing their own.  like is said earlier, it's a great problem solving activity.

my hat is just sitting on top, but if you wanted to, you could add a little hot glue on the hat to attach it. 

viola!  a cute and super trendy upcycled santa for the holidays!

i also wanted to show you these ornaments my boys made the other day.  these were sort of an accident while we were looking through what i had stored in the studio.  i had some of these clear glass balls.  

my 6 year old found some shiny pipe cleaners in another box.  you know kids love all things shiny, so he couldn't resist messing with them.   he started bending them and shoved one in the glass ball.  i saw it and encouraged him to shove in some more of different colors.

then we grabbed zac, and they both started making them.  they had such a good time!

now, i really tried to get a good picture of this for you guys, but this was the best i could do.  

i think you can tell that these came out really cute!  i just added a christmas ribbon to the top and, boom, instant gifts for the boys to give.  and so easy, fun and cheap!

happy holidays!



  1. Cute!!! What a great idea to repurpose light bulbs. Your tutorial explains it all!!!

  2. Thanks Dave. My kids are loving it!


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