Creating Paper and Steel Lamps
Liz is a papermaker and metalworker who makes sculptural lamps by welding a steel framework, covering it with a sheer fabric, and spraying paper pulp over the fabric.
She chooses to spray paper pulp rather than use sheets of paper to cover lamps for several reasons. First, some of her lamps are quite large and she would have to use multiple sheets to cover them, leaving seams showing. Secondly, she wants a strong, taut covering and spraying paper pulp gives excellent results. Finally, paper pulp has a wonderful surface texture when sprayed. It is quite unlike any other paper.
Once the lamp is designed, Liz fabricates a welded steel framework. Using steel gives her the ability to create almost any shape and it is, of course, very strong. The steel framework is powder coated or colored with reactive metal patinas and lacquer. These finishing techniques are both beautiful and durable.
Next, the framework is covered with a sheer fabric such as cotton gauze. Now the piece is ready for application of the paper. Liz uses only archival quality natural fibers such as cotton, flax, and abaca (banana leaves), never recycled commercial paper. To the base fiber, she often adds natural fibers that she has collected. These include cornsilk, iris leaves, hanging moss, and many others. To spray paper pulp, Liz processes fibers into a slurry similar to that used in making sheets of paper. The pulp is put into the hopper of a sand blaster connected to a large air compressor. This rig is used to spray the pulp slurry onto the fabric covering the steel frame. Several layers of paper are needed to build up enough pulp. The pulp is allowed to dry between each coat. When the last coat of pulp is dry, Liz coats the paper with a low VOC varnish to make it resistant to moisture and to harden it.
Then, on to the final step…the electrics are installed. The lamp is now ready to provide years of beautiful illumination in someone’s home or office.