A few weeks ago I was down in DC and had a chance to spend some time with my college roommate. Since she had witness a lot of my crafting first hand she was curious about the lights I’ve been making, and we spent a while brain storming what sort of materials I could try using next. I don’t remember exactly what made me think of it, but suddenly all I could see was the tabs from soda cans, layered like chain mail, hanging from a drum shade! Of course I had the small hiccup that I don’t actually drink things that come in cans (I hate carbonation so no soda, and no beer) but of course once again Etsy came to my rescue! I swear no matter how strange my idea I can almost always find the supplies I need on Etsy, I know I shouldn’t be surprised by that any more but I guess I still am.
This light is actually my fourth attempt to bring my idea to fruition, because at first I really had the idea of jingling hanging pieces and so I attempted to sew the can tabs (or pop tops I guess some people call them) onto various materials. I started with a wire mesh with 1/4″ holes, but the mesh was so rigid that I found the tabs didn’t hang nicely. I was also attempting to sew them on with thin metal wire, and the whole project was just becoming too difficult.
Next I briefly tried a piece of left over mesh laundry bag, and discovered that the fabric nature of the bag was much better for the tabs (as was simple thread.) But, my laundry bag was white which didn’t look great, plus it didn’t have any structure to it which I was worried about. So my final attempt was to use window screening, which was softer than the wire mesh but more structural than the laundry bag. And the thing is, the screen was working really well, but about 7 tabs in I realized, this is going to take freakin’ forever! And I just did not have the patience. Go figure.
So, I turned to my trusty glue gun and thought, I wonder what would happen if I just glued them straight onto a plastic Lobbo shade? Success! The tabs are so light weight that they certainly aren’t going to pull at the glue and start falling off, plus they are so heavily shingled that once you have a second row in place the first row doesn’t really have anywhere to go.
I learned two things with this first little shade (which I love and can totally see in a set of 2 or 3 hanging over a bar or kitchen counter!) First thing, take the extra time and draw pencil guide lines on the shade before you start gluing the tabs in place. (Since the shades arrive flat its easy to do.) I thought it would be easy to keep the straight lines because you are just following the openings in the previous line of tabs (and the bottom line of tabs followed the bottom edge of the light) but about a third of the way through my shade I realized that one side was a bit lower than the other side. Oops! The second thing I learned was, thank goodness I didn’t try to make this light using my tabs from soda cans I actually drank, because it takes WAY more tabs than I originally would have thought! This one small 6.5 inch x 7 inch light took approximately 600 can tabs! Unbelievable.
I guess I also did learn some other things. Metal makes your hands really dirty, so beware of what you touch after you work on a light. It also can leave little scratchy marks all over your table, so put something under the light before you end up with an abstract piece of artwork on your favorite white table top. (I have this shade now helpfully sitting on top of a shag carpet sample I was about to throw away.) I also decided that in order to keep the same small bits of white shade showing uniformly over the whole shade I would need to hang the bottom row off the end of the light (which actually looks pretty cool once done) and to have a double thick row of tabs around the top, which I probably unfortunately sticks out wider than the rest of the rows, but isn’t a bad detail for the top of the shade.
I love how this shade looks but now I’m wondering, what other sizes might work? And also, what would happen if I decided to shingle the tabs horizontally around the shade? Would it look like scales on a fish? Hmm… I may have to try that! Now that I’ve found my newest obsession, stay tuned for other tab lights to start popping up around here and my Etsy shop! (As usual, this light is available for sale for anyone who thinks the final result is cool but the project sounds daunting.)
For now, stay crafty and stay hydrated! (Anyone else really want to open up a can of soda right now? I may not like carbonation, but I love the sound the tab makes when it pops open. If only I could include sound effects with my lights…)