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Nursery: DIY Elephant lamp

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw the little previews I did while I was working on this project. I am so happy to finally be done and be able to show all of you my labor of love =]

This is my first Nursery project, a fully DIY Elephant lamp. When researching for inspiration for the nursery I found this amazing lamp by Jonathan Adler. It was just like what I wanted, with only one downfall the price-tag is $395.00 – So very quickly I had to forget about it, instead I planned to make my own version of an elephant lamp.

I wanted mine to be gray instead of white, and with more details than the Jonathan Adler's version. I wanted my elephant to be in a slightly different position and even tho at first I didn't plan for it to have a pedestal, the $5 thrift store lamp I got (to use the socket and structure) worked perfect and I kept the pedestal to give it a little bit more height.

I paired the lamp with a lampshade I recovered with a chevron pattern in red and white. I just love the way the colors mix together =] so now, let me show some more images of the finished lamp so I can also share how I made it!

I didn't set this post as a tutorial because I mostly free hand shaped everything, I didn't follow any pattern or image, so it would be too hard for me to explain how to make one, but if you feel creative I can share the materials I used and what my thoughts were, who knows maybe this can inspire someone else so try something similar, right?

I started with a thrift store lamp that I replaced the cord because it was pretty bad, the lamp only had a tube from the base to the socket, so it worked prefect for me to glue my 2 rectangles of styrofoam (I got the styrofoam from the packaging of our new couch, but you can get any shape of styrofoam at craft stores), I carved a little round shape on the center of my styrofoam so that the tube could be placed there and glue it with silicone (I've found that silicone works wonders when gluing styrofoam to other surfaces, in this case metal) I wrap everything tight and let it dry for at least a day.

After my block was ready I grabbed a kitchen knife and started shaping my elephant. I know there are fancy styrofoam tools that make this kind of projects easier, but I just used what I had around =]

Once my knife shaping was done, this is what I had, it didn't look much like an elephant, but i could see the potential lol

My next step was to sand and give a more detailed shape to the elephant using sand paper, I used an 80grt first for all the shaping and a 120grt for the details.

Then I had to test my patience when adding layers and layers of wall mud (drywall compound), I first applied the first 3 layers just using my hands. The only problem with this is that you have to apply a layer, let it dry and then go with the next, so I would do one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The above pictures show how the elephant looked after the first 3 layers.

I sanded the elephant using a wall mud mesh, I sanded before applying the next layer so that the build up would be as even as possible, that way the whole elephant would have a thick layer over it. I used a brush to apply the mud after the first 3, because that would give me a smoother surface that didn't require much sanding. Above you can see how the elephant looked like after probably 9 or 10 thin layers.

I did the mouth and eyes by carving the wall mud, and building it up with a thin brush, I used a 400grt sand paper form here on because it's very smooth.

I did 2 different kind of feet, because I wanted to see how they look in order to decide, I did a very minimalistic ones for the back and a very thick ones for the front.

After staring at them for a long time and with the help of Ken, we decided we both liked the back feet way better than the front, and even tho the elephant was almost done, I decided to rip the front ones out and work with some more mud to shape them just like the front ones.

I had to give the front legs about 8 more layers to be able to build them up to the shape I wanted, so finally after a long wait (I had to let it dry longer after each layer because I used way thicker layers this time) it was time to sand with a little bit of water, so that the surface would be all smooth and nice for the paint!

For the paint I just went with a gloss spray paint, I painted very thin layers but lots of them so that the coverage was better =] it was a long process, just because of al the drying but I think it was very worth it, after all our baby will have a one of a kind lamp, and mommy only paid $5 for the lamp and about $20 for the wall mud, sand mesh and paper, paint and new wire.

My Mom said that it looks like it's plastic or ceramic, either way it's better than for it to look like styrofoam and mud right? LOL – Ken and I love it and can't wait to put it next to the chair in the nursery (even tho the chair needs some recovering love before it goes to the room too)

I am so excited to move to the next project and start to put the nursery together =] I am almost done with the office, so as soon as I finish here I can start full nursery mode!
I hope you all have a wonderful weekend! I have a couple of very cool post for next week so see you then!
XOXO

Joy



About Joy

Joy Kelley is a Chilean Designer & lettering Artist. Mom to 3 little boys. Crafter. Pattern lover. Color obsessed. Lemon pie dependent. And the hand behind the HowJoyful Studio & HowJoyful Shop

108 replies
  1. Belinda Turner
    Belinda Turner says:

    What a talented woman you are! I love the Idea of sculpting with Styrofoam and mud! You have inspired me to attempt a project of my own!

  2. Kelli
    Kelli says:

    Well first of all, I am AMAZED that you had the patience for this project. So talented!! If you ever have time with all of your preparations, I would love to see how you went about recovering the shade, too. You are always so precise, and my re-hab jobs never turn out with quite the precision that you bring.

    Secondly, I never noticed that your name is Joy Kelley. My first and middle names are Kelli Joy. :)

  3. theresa
    theresa says:

    WOW! That was incredible!! I’d love to hear more about this wall mud. Is that what they use on drywall joints? Where do you buy it? I don’t think I’d ever have the skill for something like this but it’s incredible to read about!

  4. Helen
    Helen says:

    That is amazing! It totally looks ceramic. I can see myself trying this with Fimo/Sculpey/modelling clay :) Thanks for sharing!
    Helen x

  5. Christine
    Christine says:

    OH. MY. GOSH. This is the coolest lamp I’ve ever seen! I cannot believe you made this! Sheer talent! I really want to try this…I just don’t know if I can do this free hand….

    Wow. I’m officially your biggest fan!

  6. Jody
    Jody says:

    I am so amazed by this lamp, you are one talented crafter. I can’t wait to see the nursery I have a feeling it will be mind blowing :)

  7. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Yours turned out way better, at least in my opinion. I love the animated look of your elephant vs the more abstract looking one of Adler’s. Awesome job!

  8. Vane
    Vane says:

    Oh my goodness that is so cute! I read this whole post with my mouth open because I cannot believe how you made it.

  9. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    There is just no way you turned styrofoam into this! I am in complete shock and awe. Joy, this is absolutely beautiful and you are so talented! The sculpting alone is amazing, but to get that nice, smooth finish is unbelievable! Love, Love, Love it.

  10. Bia
    Bia says:

    OMG! Yours is way more beautiful than the one you took the inspiration!!
    You really should think about sell them, seriously!

    Kisses from Brazil!

  11. Bernadette
    Bernadette says:

    Your lamp is a work of art and worth more than the one you used as inspiration. Hand made and fashioned with love…how can it get any better than that! You are truly blessed with a great gift of creativity in craft and vision.

  12. Krista
    Krista says:

    I LOVE THIS!!!! I have been trying to figure out how to make a frog lamp for my sons nursery. I couldn’t decide on frogs or a cowboy theme so I went with a frog cowboy. Just can’t seem to find the perfect lamp…now I’ll make one!!! Thank you so much for posting this!!!!

  13. Cassandra
    Cassandra says:

    This is simply AMAZING!!! You are so clever and talented, and incredibly patient too. Thanks much for sharing!!

  14. Cindalou
    Cindalou says:

    This is amazing! I can’t believe, although I saw that you did, make this adorable lamp from a styrofoam base!

  15. Robin
    Robin says:

    Wow, this is amazing!! Definitely a labor of love. :) I can’t believe that your carved this out of styrofoam, it looks like ceramic in the pics. Awesome job!

  16. Val Shepley
    Val Shepley says:

    You are sooo clever and inovative! I love the stuff you do, it spurs me on to greater hights too. lol Thanks so much for your posts. God bless you and yours. xx

  17. Cynthia Douglass
    Cynthia Douglass says:

    I just love this lamp. You have done a remarkable job. You should go into business. Like you have time?

  18. Sara
    Sara says:

    Joy – this is SO incredible!! Wow! I absolutely love it! You should be so proud. It looks fantastic. Adorable and fun, and wow, I can’t believe you made this from scratch!

  19. kim
    kim says:

    HOLY CRAP. That is AMAZING looking. It looks store-bought for sure. It’s going to be a lamp your baby will treasure forever.

  20. Fancylooks
    Fancylooks says:

    I can’t believe what I have just seen, it is so incredible that there is Styrofoam under that shinny glossy ceramic like surface. I cannot believe you can do such wonders with wall mud, this is such a fantastic and skilled work. My sincerest congratulations.

  21. Luciana
    Luciana says:

    Nunca comento ninguna de tus publicaciones, aunque las leo todas, pero esta me mató de amor! pensé que habías comprado el elefante y habías ensamblado las partes pero cuando ví que lo tallaste UAU!!! Felicitaciones x 500.000!! hermosa!

  22. Helen
    Helen says:

    Hola Joy, tu eres una artista y haces unas cosas muy bellas. Respecto a tu pregunta, Quien nos inspira para hacer cosas que nunca habíamos hecho? Pues, nuestros hijos. Yo, nunca había cortado ni cocido, pero la llegada de mi bebé me inspiro mucho. de hecho le quise hacer como porta pañales la weekender bag de Amy Butler, pero se me dificultaba comprar el patrón desde Venezuela, y con mucha paciencia,amor, inspiración y conocimientos de dibujo técnico puede hacer mi patrón y quedo precioso. Felicitaciones por el bebe, te espera un mundo lleno de aventura!. P.S. Se que eres chilena y por eso escribo en español.

  23. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    Your creation is beautiful! And I do like yours better than the inspiration! You are a talented, talented lady, and you could sell these if you chose, if only it weren’t so labor-intensive! Keep using your God-given skills!

  24. katie
    katie says:

    WOAH! This is amazing! You are super talented because a normal person would not be able to make this detailed lamp. Great job again!

  25. Abbie
    Abbie says:

    Having worked with both styrofoam and mud (and not enjoying either–has to do with the messiness factor), I’m quite impressed. Excellent job! Your elephant is adorable, and it does really look like porcelain. I will be pinning this for future reference!

  26. Melanie
    Melanie says:

    I looked up Adler’s lamp and yours is way cuter. I would buy yours before his!
    Nice job

  27. Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating says:

    This is truly one of the most amazing DIY projects I’ve seen in a long time. I have studied each and every photo of your process and the finished lamp several times, because I just want to drink in every single detail. And I sincerely believe that yours is cuter than Adler’s. He’s a brilliant artist, and I love his stuff, but your lamp is definitely the better one. I’ve featured this on my blog today. Thanks so much for the inspiration!! –Kristi

  28. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    I am totally in love with this project – and very jealous of your talent. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t do this diy, but you made it look amazing!

  29. Lindsay
    Lindsay says:

    Oh my goodness. This is incredible. I would of never guessed that started out as styrofoam. I love it – My son’s nursery is elephants and I actually saw that Jonathan Adler lamp – after looking at the price I said, yeah no thanks. I never thought about making my own…I wouldn’t of even known where to start. So adorable. P.s I think yours is much cuter than Alder’s ;)

  30. Felicity
    Felicity says:

    This is amazing – i can’t believe a) it is handmade b) it is handmade from styrofoam! it’s wonderful. I think yours is much sweeter than Adler’s, but his giraffe one’s pretty cute :)

    If i ever get the time/ confidence i’m so trying this – thank you!

  31. andrea
    andrea says:

    this project is beyond awesome and is sooooooo cute i can’t stand it!!! it was amazing to watch the transformation — FABULOUS job! hugs…

  32. Meeha
    Meeha says:

    Awesome project, I’m speechless! I’m pinning it now, but I can’t really understand how you were able to carve out this beauty!

  33. Emma
    Emma says:

    So many people have said this already, but this is completely amazing. When I started reading the post I was thinking “oh where did she get the elephant to drill a hole through for the wire?”, and then I find that you made it?!?! Absolutely incredible!!
    Definitely something that needs pinning!

  34. Geri
    Geri says:

    Wow! It’s adorable – can’t believe you made it from scratch – thanks for showing your process.

  35. Monica
    Monica says:

    I am so amazed! I would have never imagined carving syrofoam! Your elephant turned out just beautiful! Thanks for the tutorial!

  36. zhing
    zhing says:

    most precious little thing ever! :) you have so much patience (and talent!!) im sending this to a girlfriend who is crazy about elephants!

  37. The How-To Gal
    The How-To Gal says:

    A-Freaking-Mazing! I love, love, love Jonathan Adler but hate the prices for his pieces. I like this better than his version and am so impressed with your creativity. Awesome job.

  38. olelos
    olelos says:

    Hey, YOUR lamp is much better than the one by Jonathan Adler :) congratulations! A phantastic project!

  39. janey
    janey says:

    WOW – absolutly fantastic… you truely are a talented lady thanks for the inspirational blog!!!

  40. Clare
    Clare says:

    This is absolutely beautiful and even more wonderful because you created it with love. I love everything about this lamp and am dying to see how your nursery looks when it’s done!

  41. Paz
    Paz says:

    Hi XD i just found your blog and i loved it.
    XD shen i saw the lamp i was like… OMG how cute and simple, i think i can find something to recycle and make it a lamp as cute as this… XD
    then i saw you carving… i was like… “i hate you” XD HAHAHAHA

    BUT I DONT! really, you are really tallented, i think i’ll give it a try someday… but i dont think is going to be as good as yours… :D cya!

  42. Katherine @Little Luxuries Co.
    Katherine @Little Luxuries Co. says:

    Wow you are so talented! Job well done. I hate that i am so late in finding you only thankful that I have! I cannot wait to see how and what else you continue to up-cycle.

  43. Melanie G
    Melanie G says:

    This made me smile! I love it,even better than the designer piece.What a lucky,lucky baby you guys have :)

  44. Noe
    Noe says:

    Joy, you are AMAZING! permitime decirte que miré este post de arriba abajo, de inicio al fin.. estoy Fascinada! con tu increible talento! Tu trabajo es verdaderamente inspirador. Haz pensado en abrir una tienda? I’d pay a flight ticket to CA to be able to purchase your creations! no kidding.
    He descubierto tu blog de casualidad buscando diseños de ´Hot air Balloon’ y fué asi como te descubri. Quiero que sepas que admiro tu trabajo y que de hoy en más seré una lectora fiel de tu pequeño corner of the Blog-esphere.
    XOXO,

  45. Hollie @ I'm Busy Procrastinating
    Hollie @ I'm Busy Procrastinating says:

    Are you serious? I am amazed. Who thinks to use styrofoam and drywall mud to create a cute elephant lamp? Maybe the art classes I took in high school were too “classic” and should have been more “crafty”! Saw your project featured at Addicted2Decorating and had to pop over to see how you made it. Amazing!

  46. Brittany
    Brittany says:

    WOW! I love this! I looked at the same Jonathan Adler lamp and just got sick looking at the price tag, but there is just no way I would have this much talent!! I would love seriously bad to buy one of these off you…if you ever decided you would like to try this again, please PLEASE contact me!

  47. Bpcbutterfly
    Bpcbutterfly says:

    Is there any way to convince you to make some to sell??? I love this more than the Adler lamp, but no way I could carve and paint so well.
    This is exactly what I want for my nursery…..any chance?

  48. quintece hill
    quintece hill says:

    YOU ARE AMAZING! Can I buy it! There is no way I would attempt that DIY! It takes a lot of skill to make that.

  49. Jacquie Kirkpatrick
    Jacquie Kirkpatrick says:

    This is fantastic, you are so very talented. Would you be able to create another to sell? I am doing a teal and pink vintage carnival theme, and this is just too perfect. Thank you!

    919-868-3382

  50. Rebecca Treutelaar
    Rebecca Treutelaar says:

    I absolutely LOVE this lamp. If you are willing to make another one and sell it, I am totally in!! PLEASE contact me…this would be perfect for our baby boy’s nursery! :) ~Becky

  51. Nancy Conklin
    Nancy Conklin says:

    My daughter want the same lamp.I am a super crafty/seamstress also.Just can’t see spending that much for that lamp either.Thank you for tackling the job before me lol.As a farmer and livestock raiser i have limited time so your directions and photos are perfect for even a beginner,and now i can make her the lamp before the first grand daughter arrives in late Jan 2014.Best wishes with your new addition and keep up the crafting (y)

  52. Mae
    Mae says:

    What a lovely lamp, I had no idea that you could create your own base using Styrofoam and wall-mud but I’d love to give this a try! I have just finished creating the felt hot air balloons you shared for a baby shower gift (though I opted to make felt baskets rather than use wine corks) …. they turned out lovely! Thanks so much for sharing your talent.

    Mae
    http://www.thelifeofacompulsivecrafter.blogspot.com

  53. Della
    Della says:

    The lamp looks fantastic! Have you sold any yet? I would be interested ASAP if you are making to sell?? Let me know please. Thanks.

  54. CindyZS
    CindyZS says:

    what a wonderful and creative idea! wow! i am soooo doing this!! any tips on how not to get styrofoam pieces clinging to you and the house, lol! thank you so much for sharing this wonderful idea. oh also, i would assume it is safe, electrically speaking?

  55. Sara
    Sara says:

    The whole room is beautiful, just gorgeous, but this lamp—wow, just amazing. I remember your wedding on WB so I shouldn’t be surprised by your talent, but I would have never guess the lamp was made from styrofoam and wall mud. Beautiful!

  56. Sydney
    Sydney says:

    Wow this is so amazing! Can’t believe your talent and how resourceful you are, I might attempt this sometime because my 2 year old niece name is Ellie, so we kind of word play elliephant (: thanks for the inspiration!

  57. Jan
    Jan says:

    I have just seen this. I am amazed at what a brilliant job you did creating your little elephant. It is beautiful! I would be so proud of myself if I managed to create such a wonderful piece.

  58. karen
    karen says:

    You have got to be MY LONG LOST TWIN!!! i lOVE YOU! tHIS IS ALSO WHAT I DO. It’s who and what I am!!….. aLL OF IT. yOUR WHOLE SITE, IS ME! WEIRD, BUT VERY THANKFUL FOR YOUR BLOG,I now I KNOW I AM NOT AN ALIEN OR HAD A MARTHA-STEWART-INVASION-OF-THE-BODY-SNATCHERS Moment! hahaaa SO, I’ll be stealing your ideas, now! LOL. My Grandson Benaiha needs a nursery, and His mother, my daughter, loves your letter K and I love your Elephant lamp. (so what I do!)
    …. and there she goes, giggling uncontrollably with glee,
    looking for wood to make her letter B……………

  59. Inês Pereira
    Inês Pereira says:

    I am amazed! I can’t believe You shaped it with a knife! OMG, so beautiful!
    I would love to share this DIY at my blog if You don’t mind.
    Thanks,
    Ines

  60. Terri
    Terri says:

    May I send you all the material and money so that you can make one for my daughter? She is an elephant lover and her room is all about elephants. She would LOVE it.

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