Lamp of Bones: Upcycle Project Update


Dark and creepy feelings, creative shadow designs, ornate tracery, and animal bones are so far the highlight of my Upcycle project. I am sticking to the Modern Gothic design aesthetic to create a lamp that will be a centerpiece piece that projects light across the room. So far I’ve received excellent feedback from people who have viewed the project in person, so I’m excited that the project seems to be on the right track.

Supplies Used 

To achieve the desired upcycle characteristics, I am using a number of found objects as well as items purchased from second hand stores. So far I have chosen which of the many bones in my collection that I will use. I have 8 vertebrae pieces which are all roughly the same size but have some variations in the amount of the bone which remains intact. And I plan to use the largest piece I have, the pelvic bone, because it looks like a skull to me and I hope that viewers of this final piece will see the hip sockets as eye holes.

I took a trip to the local thrift store to find lamp and lighting pieces which I could potentially use, and I was happy to find multiple cheap lamps, shaped like candles, which I hoped would fit the aesthetic. Luckily, one of the two lamps works well.

Then I decided to hunt for some cardboard pieces which I could use to add some structure to the piece. Just one trip to my apartment complex dumpster gave me a great stock of interesting pieces. I found a lot of identical pieces which had interesting symmetric shapes cut out, which I thought I could use as a lamp shade. There were tall pieces with notched shapes on top which could potentially look like spires of a gothic church. And there were also many big sturdy pieces of cardboard which could be cut and used to add shape and structure to the lamp.

Design Progress

To begin designing the lamp, I turned off the overhead lights and turned on the candle lights. I then started experimenting by holding the bones near the light in various ways to see what kind of shadows I could create. I especially love the way the pelvic bone holes create creepy circular shadows on the wall.

I tried multiple ways to incorporate the vertebrae, including an idea to have them protruding directly from the wall, one stacked on top of the next with the pelvic bone sitting on top. Then I discovered that the ribs were a perfect curved shape that seemed to mimic the high arches of gothic churches. The vertebrae pieces fit perfectly onto the rib bone. I used some thin gauge wire to hold the pieces together, since I don’t wish to drill into the bones or create any permanent marks on them.


The cardboard pieces are being used so far to hold the temporary shape of the piece. I found that just a small piece of cardboard, cut into the shape of an arch, was all that was needed to balance the pelvic bone upright in front of the light source. So far, the other cardboard pieces are being used experimentally to play with light and shadow.


I am facing two main challenges at this stage. First, I am not sure how I will build the lamp in such a way that it will be sturdy enough to hold the heavy pelvic bone in place. I’m not sure that the cardboard will be sturdy enough, or safe to use with the lamp.

The next challenge will be to continue working on this project while I am now traveling overseas. Obviously I could not take the bones with me on an international flight! So instead, I created 3d model files of the bones and other parts using a photogrammetry app called Polycam. I was able to print some of the bones before leaving to ensure that it worked well. I’m hopeful that having accurately-shaped 3d models will allow me to continue working on the project overseas where I can design the final shape of the model and tracery pieces.

What’s Next

For the next stage of the project, I intend to design some decorative pieces which will go on the cardboard to add more ornamentation to the piece. I plan to use quatrefoil shapes and other symmetric designs to mimic the tracery that is seen in the stained glass windows of gothic churches. 

Having the 3d models of the bones and lamp should allow me to continue designing the piece and incorporate decorative pieces that will fit correctly. I plan to 3d print the remaining pieces when I return to the States in mid March.

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3 Comments. Leave new

  • Holy Goodness!
    The gothic vibe & this aesthetic is pretty appealing, along with 3d printing parts – this basically fuses the two different time periods into one piece of art, such extrema they are, ain’t? 🙂
    I am very curious to know where did you get such bones from? I did try to do something like this past, could get such bones. Also, are you looking to fuse bones together in order to make this art piece mobile?

  • The 3D Printing and photogrammetry of these pieces strike me as a way others could also benefit from these materials! Very cool progress update.

  • Aidan Shelburne
    February 19, 2023 12:18 pm

    The design is really compelling, thank you for all the detail you put into your write-up, it’s great to see the process! The photogrammetry aspect is particularly interesting, I don’t know how powerful the software is, but are you hoping to be able to create artificial projections and shadows with the models to test different layouts? Either way, it seems like a really useful skill for modeling, thanks again for sharing!


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