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How to: Movie film lamp

Old movie film is not the most common material to have lying around your house. When I recently got my hands on a roll, the upcycled gears started turning in my head. I wanted a new lamp for my living room, so a filmstrip to lampshade project created the perfect new release for this space. 


Since movie film isn’t the easiest material to come by, this project translates just as well from old 35mm film negatives. If your negatives are too short, you can always tape them together with clear tape. You can also check your local architectural salvage shop like Resource Exchange if you're in the Philadelphia area. Ebay and Craigslist are also great places to source these unique materials. I often get asked if movie film is flammable and safe to touch. It’s material base is cellulose acetate (oddly enough, the same material used to create cigarette butts). And while the material uses chemicals in processing, the film comes out A-Ok with minimal chemicals. As with all light fixtures, you should use never leave it unattended. With this particular one, it’s best to use a low-watt, low-heat bulb, like an LED.


7 finished wood shelves 56” x 12” x 1”

an old lamp and lampshade

movie filmstrip

plastic lace or lanyard  

low-watt lightbulb





binder clips


Prepare your lampshade by removing any fabric so that just the metal frame remains.

Place the frame on a flat surface. Take the filmstrip and wrap one layer of the filmstrip around the edge of the frame. Make a complete loop with the film strip, overlapping the end by 1” and trimming.

Use this length of  filmstrip to cut 5 to 10 more strips, depending on the desired height of your shade. I used 6 lengths for a small shade.

Loop one length of filmstrip snugly around the frame and secure the overlapped section with a brad. Then clip the filmstrip onto the frame with binder clips.

Use the plastic lace to secure the filmstrip onto the frame, using a whip stitch-type lacing method, looping through the holes on the filmstrip edge, around the frame, and back through the holes on the filmstrip edge.

Take a second loop of filmstrip and overlap one line of holes. Using brads, connect the two strips together in several spots around the perimeter.

Weave the plastic lace in and out through the overlapped area, securing the two strips together. Overlap the last loop with the first and trim off the ends.

Continue weaving the strips until you have your desired height of shade.

Optional: If your original lampshade was cylindrical in shape and you have a second frame ring, you can attach this piece now. To attach, use the same method of lacing as you used in step 5. Place your lampshade onto your fixture and this new lamp is ready for its big debut!

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