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Create ornamental lanterns out of fused plastic bags

Give a new lease of life to plastic bags using an iron and wire, to create a string of ornamental lanterns to display at home for all to see for Glasgow Open House 2021!

How to create fused plastic lanterns

this activity has been designed by artist giacinta frisillo

You will need…

  • Plastic Bags: At least 4. The amount will depend on how large you want to make your lantern and how thick the bags are. You'll need more bags if the plastic is thin.

  • Scissors: Cut off handles on the bags, cut at the seams. You can also cut strips of different coloured bags to design your lanterns

  • Iron: Make sure your iron is completely dry. No steam.

  • Paper: Parchment/Baking paper works best, but you can also use printer paper or even newsprint. Just be sure it's not waxy.

  • Galvanized Wire: This should be strong, but bendable by hand.


  • Acrylic Paint and Brushes

  • Markers

  • Rubber Stamps and Ink

  • Battery/Solar Powered Fairy Lights

Step to step guide

1. Choose your plastic

Most regular shop bags work. Just remember that thinner bags will need more layers. You might want to choose specific colours of plastic or use white and paint on it later!
Note: Don't use compostable bags - they're good for the
environment, but terrible for our project!

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2. Cut!

Use your scissors to cut off the bag handles and to cut the bags on the side seams so the plastic lays flat.

Note: Keep your handles to use as patches in case you burn any holes in your plastic.

3. Lay flat
Find a hard flat surface like a table or the floor and lay down your paper. After cutting your plastic bags, lay one flat on top of your paper and another bag on top of the first. Decide if you want the design of the bag on the outside (visible) or if you want to show the back/plain side. You will need to put at least 2 layers of plastic together. You can always add more layers if the plastic isn't thick enough.
Note: Be sure there is nothing plastic beneath where you'll be ironing, as it can be ruined.

Lay out enough paper to cover beneath the parts of the bag where you'll be ironing.

4. Cover and Prepare your iron
Begin with your iron on a dry medium heat. Be sure there is no water inside. Every iron is a bit different, so you might find that medium is too low and doesn't melt the plastic together. If your iron gets too hot, however, you'll burn holes through the plastic. It can be a bit finicky at first, but don't get discouraged.
Note: Be sure to cover the area you're ironing with paper between the plastic and the iron. You will ruin your iron otherwise!

5. Start ironing!

Keep moving your iron in a circular motion around the plastic. This will help keep holes from burning into your bag. The plastic sheets will start to wrinkle and stick together as you do this. Lift the paper occasionally to check and see if you need to increase or decrease iron temperature.

Your bags should fuse together and form a flexible strong material. If you find it's too thin or tears easily, you can add more layers. You might want to add strips of coloured plastic bags along the way to make patterned fabric.

Note: If the paper is sticking to the hot plastic, just give it a moment to cool down and it should peel off easily.