DIY Treasures: Make A Lamp From A Thrift Store Vase And Reveal Your Inner Light

I should have ‘knocked on wood’ last week after having an internal Stuart Smalley-esque conversation. You know the type: the self-confidence boosting internal dialogue where, because of ample sunshine or a positive exchange with an old friend, or heck, even loads of caffeine, all seems right with you and the world. These are the life-affirming monologues that confirm you are just where you ought to be: ‘good enough, smart enough and, gosh-darnit, surrounded by people who like you!’

‘I think I could probably do anything now,’ I reassured myself, ‘like trip and fall in front of hundreds of people or have an entire conversation with a poppy seed stuck between my teeth, and totally laugh it off.’ I meant it. I still do.

But was I really being honest with myself? Sure, I could literally fall and bounce back with the best of them, but as I learned two hours later, there were still a few insecurities lurking in the depths. What are they?  I am not a ‘let it roll off my back’ kind of girl. Bullies still scare the living daylights out of me, especially if I become their target. I am probably definitely an unhealthy people pleaser by nature, and when confronted by someone who might be a not-so-nice person, or a normal person having a bad day who then decides to take it out on whomever crosses his or her path, I crumple. Day. Ruined. Anxiety. Overload. And that’s exactly what happened. I walked into the wrong social media ‘path,’ or rather, someone unexpected and angry barged right into mine and left me reeling.

So, needless-to-say, a mere two hours after having that great soul loving conversation, I was on the phone with a friend hoping for a rational answer to the unanswerable question, ‘why are people so hurtful?’ I felt foolish and full of anxiety. Though I might have suggested I thought said person was a real jerk, I hadn’t yet internalized it to the point where I could let their bad attitude reflect poorly on them and not take it as an indication that I was somehow lacking.

‘In time,’ my friend suggested, ‘the light will shine on these people. We can hope that they will see that light and respond, maybe down the road, with greater kindness to others.’ Our conversation helped recall one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one that I’ve held close this past year as I’ve seen an escalation in angry rhetoric in the news, in social media and among friends: ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’

In my particular situation, the only way to ‘shine the light’ on negative or hurtful behavior is to not ‘take the bait,’ and instead respond respectfully to their negativity. It might do nothing, but it might just throw them for a loop and make them realize how they sounded. Either way, I knew it would make me feel better.

October is recognized as anti-bullying month, so I’ve picked a very special DIY project for this week: how to design and make your very own light. I’m not kidding when I say that this is a surprisingly simple project, and the sense of accomplishment you will get when you are finished is a definite 10 out of 10 on the satisfaction scale. Not only can you shine a metaphorical light on others, but you can also do so literally. Win-win.

What You Will Need

  • Vase/Milk Jug/Bucket/Basically any type of container you want to use as a base.
  • Lampshade
  • Lamp Kit (I used the Westinghouse Make-A-Lamp Kit)
  • Screwdriver
  • Light bulb

The Hunt: The possibilities here are endless. You can make a lamp out of a milk jug, a small flower vase, a large flower vase, a decorative vase, a bucket, a decorative glass piece, etc. The absolute easiest thing to do is to look for a piece that has a spout or opening no larger than three to four inches in diameter. Most lamp kits will come with three different fittings/adaptors. If it’s easier, pick up a lamp kit from a hardware store and bring the included adaptors with you for an idea of the size of spout you are seeking. You can certainly look for something else without a spout, but be aware that you’re going to need to drill a hole to fit the adaptor, and certain materials like glass or ceramic will require a special type of drill or drill bit.

I lucked out at the second thrift store I visited and found this decorative vase for $1.99. I even liked the color. But don’t let the color stop you: you can always add a step and paint the vase to whatever colors you’d prefer. I also found this lampshade for $1.99–not an uncommon find or price in most thrift stores.

The Transformation: The steps will vary here depending on the lamp kit that you purchase. I can tell you that it took me only ten minutes to put my lamp together, and I did it just by looking at the diagram. You are simply stacking the pieces together in the exact format as the image provided on the back of the instructions.

Eventually you will thread the wire through the socket, so unlike a lamp where the wire comes out the bottom, your lamp will have the wire coming out of the socket (top of the base). If you are working with a material that is hollow and easy to drill, you can always drill a hole toward the bottom and pull the wire through. I think it’s easier to assemble the lamp with the wire on the top. Then, just hide that side against a wall.

The most ‘electrical’ step involves placing a wire beneath a screw and tightening that screw. All it takes is a little bit of patience, a steady hand and a screwdriver.

Then, screw in your light bulb and double check that the light is working by plugging it and turning it on. Once you confirm it’s working, which is a ridiculously accomplished feeling, add the lampshade.

The Grand Reveal:YOU DID IT! You just MADE A LAMP. Total cost of the lamp pictured? $14. Sure, it seems like a small thing, but I’ll bet once you’re finished, you’ll be quite proud of yourself. That’s the thing about DIY, art or creating anything out of found materials: it is really a journey that you take, a conversation with yourself where you push yourself to explore your creativity and to ultimately shine the light on your talents (hidden or otherwise). And no one, no matter what they say, can take that away from you.