Project 4: light for working on the desk

Jayden Liu
8 min readNov 12, 2020


One of the first results I received from researching DIY paper lamp is the paper lantern toy that we all made when we were kids. After digging deeper, I found a lot more intricate and delicate designs. The principle behind it is simple: the paper surrounding the the light source absorbs and softens the light that passes through, which allows the maker to design and modify a form that is perfect for the illumination of a given situation.

As i have tested with different types of paper, I realized that different paper renders different results depending on the type of fiber it uses, its thickness, and its density. In general, more light passes through lighter paper and less light passes through heavier paper.

As for the paper stock construction, it involves a variety of cutting and folding techniques, some designs I’ve looked at even used origami technique. Glue is often used as an adhesive to hold the form together.

This would be a great challenge for my craftsmanship and creativity, as it not only requires patience and hand skills, but it also allows for basically whatever design i could think of to achieve the assigned function.


Places I lived after moving to California are generally poorly lit. In my bedroom, there are no lights on the ceiling, only a lamp that we bought when we moved in. And i find that true for the first house that we rented out here as well. I remember back in China, there is always a light switch right next to each room’s door that turn on/off a light on the ceiling.

The change in the environment really had an effect on me in that I don’t really feel like working in such a dim environment since I was used to working in my own room. The place for me to work feels to me more comforting and sleep-inducing than work-friendly. This had led me to work on important projects in the living-room, where there is a stronger source of light.

Because of this, I think a place of work needs to have a strong light and maybe even different levels of light that fulfills the needs for different projects and keeps the worker awake.


My initiation in turning my light engine into reality is not the best. I made significant discoveries during my research on the psychology behind lighting, which helped me consolidate the characteristic of my light. However, when I started to piece all my ideas together, I was unable to make a light engine that is both interesting and practical.

I believe I am not the only one who saw and took note of an article published by tcpi lighting called “the psychological impact of light and color”. The article talks how light could be used to help create an environment and also what kind of light is more appropriate for different spaces. A workspace benefits from light sources that offers clarity and energizes people. A uniform bright light with a cooler tone would be great for that purpose. I thought it is also important that the light sources came down from a high point since it offers greater clarity and avoids excessive shadows. In the end, I came up with three qualities that I primarily want to focus on: the uniformity, the desired quality of light(that is bright and cool), and the environment that I want to create.

I had high hopes going into the design process but was less than satisfied with my prototype. In order to achieve uniformity, I thought there has to be little to no feature on the surface of the shade, because wrinkle and folds changes the density of the coverage and may cause the light to not be uniform. Workers are more easily distracted by the light when it is non-uniform and too outlandish. But my ideas about keeping my design simple only obstructed my creativity and made my design simplistic. Next, I wanted to make my light bright, which means less coverage in general. This also prompted me to make my design way too simplistic. And for the last feature, the environment i wanted to create, I wanted to make the use of light to be delightful but also pragmatic and less attention-grabbing. And again, this only made my design process more limiting and less creative.

Ultimately, I focused too keenly on the practicality and effectiveness of things that I end up with a prototype that is way too simplistic and really is not appropriate for the project. I hope i can find valuable ideas in my next drafts that may inspire and question.


Needing for bolder designs, I experimented with paper mache this week. I was intrigued by the Japanese spherical lanterns that was brought up during a discussion in class, so I went on the internet to learn how it is done. Turned out, they often have molds that help them make a skeleton with wires, which is left inside when the light is complete. Although i cannot recreate the design nor do i intend to, I was inspired by the making of these artifacts nonetheless. First of all, the Spherical lanterns are almost perfectly round, which helps to uniformly distribute light from source. Second, when they are applying paper to the wire skeleton, they cut the paper after they have been glued to the wire into the shapes of a kayak, complementing the round shape of the lantern. How material is being manipulated to fit the desired surface really reminded me of paper mache, which, if done right, also provides uniform distribution of light and as long as I have a good mold to work with, it is going to be visually pleasing.

The outcome was not unlike what I had expected. The paper became a lot more durable and elastic coated in glue and it dried into an appropriate shape. But I think more could be done. I don’t want to create yet another conventional looking lamp shade.


I faintly remember there was a discussion about spotlight last class and I felt I could incorporate that into my design. Utilizing the reflective property of white paper, not only can I soften the light with a bounce light engine, but I can also produce a more coherent shade in one piece without having to put a bulb in the middle of it.

After conducting a few experiment on the shine and reflect system in a dark room, I believe that the bounce light from a bright bulb is enough to sustain a working environment.

I am currently working with the paper mache shade that I’ve made last week but I think it could use an upgrade.


Over the thanksgiving break, I made a few shades, aiming to arrive at a concave form that is visually pleasing with minimal complexity on the surface so light could be uniformly distributed once reflected by it.

At first I tried to divide my designs into more than one horizontal sections and connecting them with glue and tape. However, it was very difficult to connect two pieces of paper with minimum overlap. The seams are overtly noticeable, indicating that they would catch light poorly. So I moved on to making angles with one piece of paper instead of dividing it into a number of section. I would cut a twenty degrees angle at the top of the shade and as I progress further down I cut a greater the angle making a shape of a bowl. However, this did not work quite like I imagined as well. The bump made at the angle change is very much noticeable and the stress of the angle change is not distributed uniformly across the cone and stays in the area where the angle increased. Then I tried wet-folding, a way where i do not have to cut angles out but i would fold and shape a curve with my finger. Although the experiment did not look very good i saw potential in wetting the paper.

After spraying water, gently rubbing the surface with wet towel, and bending, I learned to manipulate the surface of the bristol paper to form a nice natural curves. I was quite satisfied with the look of the shade but it was awkwardly small in comparison to the emitter of the light-source


For the final draft, I wanted to make a similar shade but bigger. I realized that the paper cone appears to be much smaller than the paper used so I went to Michael’s and bought the biggest watercolor paper they had, which was 22.30. I think the magnitude of the shade can really help to create an atmosphere within the workplace.

I also had to create a wire-structure that helps to support the light source emitter, which was a challenge. I was lucky that I had experience working with wire and was able to make it work on the first try.

Overall, I think the interaction between the emitter and the reflector worked pretty well. I decided to make something like this because i wanted to make something at least I have not seen before and something that is worthy of discussion.