Painted Jar Lanterns: DIY Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is Sunday May 11. Do not forget.

Be sure that if you do forget, you will be eternally damned to the fiery pits of familial shame and disgrace, and you shall be thereafter known as the Mother’s Day Grinch.

If you’d rather not suffer the endless wrath of siblings’ guilt-inducing glares, here’s one quirky and easy idea to secure your place as the Golden Child.

A friend and I made a bunch of these lanterns for a Mother’s Day stall at our university, and they were a real crowd pleaser. Most of the students wanted to keep the lanterns for themselves.
These lanterns can also be used as flower vases or, well, decorated jars for your sugar and things, I guess.
Make a super-cool and personal gift she’ll love, instead of that gift she’ll pretend to love so she doesn’t hurt your feelings.
Here’s what you’ll need:
  • Acrylic paint
  • Paint pens (optional)
  • Clear lacquer – not strictly necessary, but helps your masterpiece last longer. Spray is best, brush-on may actually take a little paint off if you’re not careful. Besides, spray gives clear glass a cloudiness that makes the candlelight glow prettily.
  • Jar – I usually use those Moccona coffee jars, but any kind of jar is fine. If you’re planning on hanging your lantern, make sure your jar has a decent neck and rim to hang it from.
  • Wire for hanging (optional) – if you’d like to have a hanging lantern. Make sure the wire is strong enough to stick, but easy enough to handle. Picture frame wire will be easy to use and look more dainty, but rusts quickly if left outside. Old wire coat hangers can be used, but you’d definitely need pliers and wire cutters. You could also use twine, but make sure it’s thick enough to resist weathering (especially if hung outside).
Getting started
Give the jar a good scrub first to remove dirt and dust – the paint will stick better. Let it air dry properly before you start.
Painting your way
If you’re in no way artistic, a watered-down base coat makes a perfectly lovely lantern on its own. Sometimes less is more. Just make sure you don’t cover up all the light – either leave some of the lantern bare, or put down a very thin, wet coat.
If you’re planning on painting anything in detail, I’d recommend putting a base coat down first. Anything you draw or paint on top will stick more easily.
Fox Lantern: Paint pen on acrylic paint base.

Fox Lantern: Paint pen on acrylic paint base.

You don’t have to be too precious about perfection with your brush strokes, either. Uneven, visible strokes catch the candlelight more dramatically.
Keep in mind this is for Mother’s Day, so if you’re adding detail, you might as well make it personal. Her favourite flower, animal, quote, whatever she’s into.
Dragonfly lantern

Experiment with your technique. This pattern was scratched into paint with a knife.

Try scratching patterns into paint or using stencils.
Once the paint is dry, spray or paint on lacquer evenly.
Hanging your lantern
If you want to hang your lantern, it’s fairly easy if you have the right wire. If you’re using picture frame wire, you’ll need to use knots, if it’s normal wire (or a recycled coat hanger) you’ll use loops. Make sure the wire you’re using is easy enough to work—I’d recommend using pliers and wire cutters.
Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.56.32 pmCut off enough wire to cover the circumference of the jar neck, the length of the handle, and about 15cm extra. With one end of the wire, make a loop (which we’ll call loop A). Place the wire around the neck of the jar.
Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 9.56.42 pmAt the opposite side from loop A, make another loop (loop B) pointing upwards.
Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 10.01.10 pmContinue winding the wire back around to loop A. Thread the wire through the loop and tighten as much as you can. Knot it off if you’re using picture frame wire, but one more go through the loop will be more than enough for most other wire types.
Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 10.01.37 pmBring the remaining wire over the top of the jar and through loop B. Knot it off there, or make another loop. Cut your excess wire away.
To finish off, make sure there’s no wire ends sticking out anywhere—matricide by wire-stabbing isn’t going to get you any Offspring Of The Year awards.
And you’re finished. Fill your creation with a little sand and a candle, flowers, yummies, whatever’s lying around at this short notice.
Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 10.26.33 pm
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