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Upcycled Lamp Shade

I brought a collection of slides into the office. The young people in the office didn’t know what they were.

Ouch, right?

Darn youths.

Slides were the way my family held onto photographs when I was growing up. My parents had boxes of carousels in their closet, collecting dust after being viewed once (or maybe twice, if we had guests over after a family vacation, where they would be shown a slideshow of all our adventures).

But as slide popularity died out, it was replaced by new-fangled digital media. My parents converted all of theirs to CDs, and then emptied their closets of all those carousels.

And they aren’t the only people who have moved on from projecting images on a bedsheet hung over their TV. Which means that across the country, you can find these nuggets of personal and photographic history at estate sales.

But what can you do with them? Sure you could dust them off and host a screening party of someone else’s vacation at your house, but then what?

Lampshades! That’s what!

By repurposing those slides and a less-than-perfect traditional lampshade, you can create an interesting and functional conversation piece made almost entirely out of estate sale finds.

What you need:

A lampshade you’re willing to part with.

Jump clips. (You can find these in any craft store. We used two sizes: 6mm and 9mm.)

Two pairs of needlenose pliers.

Color slides. (The number you need will obviously depend on the size of your shade; we used 60 in total for ours.)

A small hole punch. (We used one meant for metal jewelry—the cardboard on the slides is thick, and we wanted a tool that was strong enough.)

A lamp.


First, disassemble your lampshade.

You really only need the top metal part—the "fitter"—so you have something to hang your slides from. Choose a shade that doesn’t have a shape that requires more metal structure than the fitter itself,  (The first shade I bought was pagoda-shaped. Four arms connected the fitter to a metal base. It was problematic. This project is hard enough without bringing geometry into it.)

Next, you can attempt to estimate the number of slides you’ll need. This can be difficult, but a patient and cautious crafter might be willing to do this. Not me! I had around 200 slides to work with. I knew I would have plenty left over, so I was willing to play fast and loose with someone else’s memories.

Next, start punching holes. The standard slide is 2” by 2”, so punch your holes at 1” and near the edge of the slide. (You can measure the depth if you’d like, but again, I played fast and loose, and everything turned out okay.)

Each slide should have four holes. Except the bottom row, which will only need three.

Next, start connecting your slides. I started with one row across, so I could get a decent idea of how many I would need to get around the shade-hanger. And then I made a column down, to get an idea of that length I wanted. And then it was just a matter of connecting the rest.

Over and over and over.

And over.

It was a time-consuming process.

Once you’ve essentially assembled your shade, you need to fasten it to the fitter using the larger jump clips. A problem I ran into was maneuvering around the three bars that connect the inner and outer ring of the fitter. Thankfully, my shade was 12 slides across, so I could evenly distribute four slides between each bar.

But keep that issue in mind when you’re assembling your lamp. Distribution is important.

You have to be cautious when clipping everything to the top. By the time I was done, many of my slides became tangled or unhooked. It was probably because I didn’t close my jump clips tightly enough. So keep that in mind as you maneuver your painstakingly-assembled shade around the fitter. The disappointment I felt as I lifted mine up, quietly cheering finally! after closing the last hook, only to find a tangly mess... I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy...

Well, maybe one person.

They know what they did.

Ultimately, the work paid off. Lit up, one can admire all the history visible on the shade. (They don’t project clearly on the wall—this has been the #1 question around the office—but they’re easy to see when you look at the shade with the light on, and they slides are dark enough you can look at them without feeling like you’re staring directly at the sun. At least that was the case with my shade. YMMV.)

The new shade makes an understated but exciting conversation piece. It would be a fun gift if you could include slides from your own family history, but if that’s not possible, maybe you’ll luck out and find slides at an estate sale from a family more exciting than your own.

And then you can have their memories.

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