Improvised Design: Simple String Lights Made Out of Coffee Cans

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Every artist needs light. While the early mornings bring excellent daylight to my studio, I need a little extra boost after the sun goes down. While a pair of desk lamps is the standard choice for most, I have always found myself constantly frustrated with the abundant cast shadows that desk lamps cause when I am trying to make my artwork. I also have very limited desk space and I try to optimize it as much as possible.

The number one solution for small spaces is always to look up. I have been fantasizing about a nice set of track lights for years, but until I have the cash and the freedom to rewire my apartment that option was pretty much out of the question. The solution:

A simple, frugal design project-- coffee can string lights.

As it turns out, coffee cans make excellent light fixtures. They are reflective inside, light, and sturdy. I finished off five cans of coffee in a shamefully short amount of time and held onto the cans and lids.

A few coats of gesso and bright orange acrylic and I had my housings. It was a simple matter remove the bottoms with a can opener and make a hole in the lids just the right size to feed the bulbs through.  I had an old set of cheap string lights that worked perfectly once the green cord was painted white to minimize the ugliness. Screwing the light bulbs into the sockets holds the fixtures in place, kind of like a bulb/lid/socket sandwich.

If you are trying this yourself, make sure the lids are secure with a strong adhesive like super-glue or even hot glue. Epoxy is wonderful too, though I was out so I used a jewelry adhesive on mine. The lids for the coffee brand I buy are translucent, which makes for a wonderful up-lighting effect, while still shedding the majority of light downward onto my workspace.

Problem solved!