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How to Create, Wire and Design Mannequin Lamps by Rowdy Creations

Updated on November 9, 2012

Designing and wiring mannequin lamps step by step

My goal is to provide a step by step process in the designing and wiring of various types of mannequin lamps. They will range from leg lamps to full body type mannequin floor lamps. Once you learn the process, the possibilities are endless. Photos and helpful links will be provided to assist in this process.

Completed Mannequin Lamps I have created

Here is the male Christmas Elf floor lamp. I married primitive folk art into the design.
Here is the male Christmas Elf floor lamp. I married primitive folk art into the design.
This shows the base of the elf mannequin lamp. This was a vintage end table that I repurposed and wired with a bottom light.
This shows the base of the elf mannequin lamp. This was a vintage end table that I repurposed and wired with a bottom light.
This is the full body Christmas Pixie mannequin floor lamp.
This is the full body Christmas Pixie mannequin floor lamp.
The two lights/shade are from a vintage pole lamp. I enjoy working vintage items into the these lamps.
The two lights/shade are from a vintage pole lamp. I enjoy working vintage items into the these lamps.
This is the Harvest Fall elf full body mannequin lamp. I made his gloves/hands with my primitive folk art design. Clothing has been repurposed.
This is the Harvest Fall elf full body mannequin lamp. I made his gloves/hands with my primitive folk art design. Clothing has been repurposed.
His light shade is a vintage lucite chunky rock globe from the 60s era.
His light shade is a vintage lucite chunky rock globe from the 60s era.
Here is my Harvest Maiden full body mannequin floor lamp. I created the squirrel from my primitive folk art design. Also, I designed her arms which are poseable. All clothing has been repurposed or designed by me.
Here is my Harvest Maiden full body mannequin floor lamp. I created the squirrel from my primitive folk art design. Also, I designed her arms which are poseable. All clothing has been repurposed or designed by me.
Her shade is a vintage orange light fixture. I repurposed it as well.
Her shade is a vintage orange light fixture. I repurposed it as well.
Her leaf dress was designed by me. I made most all the leaves using my primitive folk art design. Each hand stitched in place.
Her leaf dress was designed by me. I made most all the leaves using my primitive folk art design. Each hand stitched in place.
I also created her leaf shoes using primitive folk art design.
I also created her leaf shoes using primitive folk art design.
this is the full body mermaid lamp I created. I designed and made her tail/body portion.
this is the full body mermaid lamp I created. I designed and made her tail/body portion.
This is a leg lamp I created.
This is a leg lamp I created.

Photos during the process of creating a mannequin lamp

It is almost always required to sand you mannequin in order to paint it a nice flesh color.
It is almost always required to sand you mannequin in order to paint it a nice flesh color.
the base of the elf lamp during the design and wiring process
the base of the elf lamp during the design and wiring process
making of the elf shoes.
making of the elf shoes.
wiring the pole portion in order to create various options of lighting
wiring the pole portion in order to create various options of lighting
me sewing some clothing and working on the arms and hand portions.
me sewing some clothing and working on the arms and hand portions.

How to restore a mannequin for a lamp

Many are confused on what to do with a cracked, worn or a mannequin that is missing parts. First of all, do NOT discard any mannequin part due to a crack or missing piece or anything! Each portion can be used at some point in the process whether on the mannequin lamp at hand or another one you design later. SAVE! SAVE! any and all parts...You will eventually need them, even if to practice or use as a test.

Ok, you have stumbled across a mannequin you really want to make into a lamp! YAY! You are now inspired and going to do this! You find this mannequin however it needs some work to restore it. Let's assume your mannequin has cracks, or many worn paint/chipping areas. (and many mannequins will if you purchase second hand).

First, you need to clean and sand the mannequin completely. If the mannequin is dirty from storage, I will clean it first and then sand. Of course, after sanding you will clean it again. The grade of sandpaper doesn't have to be so specific. I use fine to sometimes a little more grade depending on how worn/cracked the mannequin is. Your goal is to get the mannequin to a smooth feel and all chipped paint areas smooth. You want to make sure to sand the entire mannequin (even if not cracked or chipped in the areas) because you need a surface that your paint will adhere to. ***If your mannequin is perfect and needs no restoring, simply skip this step*** Please remember, if you are going to repaint the mannequin at all (including facial features), you need to sand it so the paint will adhere!

Now, once it is sanded and cleaned....you will still have the cracks, sanding alone doesn't correct the cracks. There are several products that are great for filling cracks. However, I have found that Plast-Aid works best for what I do. The reason, will Plast-Aid has multiple uses and can fill cracks, used to mold various areas (such as mannequin elf ears that I did on the elf mannequin)....very good stuff! It can also be sanded and painted! I will provide a link to the product so you can read about it or view a video of it in use. Let's now assume you have filled the cracks or other imperfections. You will once again, sand the mannequin, especially in those areas you filled....you need the areas to be smooth once again. (thus if you do not use Plast-Aid, make sure you use a product that can be sanded AND painted).

OK, now the mannequin has cracks filled and other areas smooth and sanded! The next step is to decide how you will need to run the inner parts (the pole, wiring and such). I will discuss this in another section. I have learned to do this step BEFORE painting the mannequin.

Introducing Plast-Aid

Decisions...Decide where to place the inner lamp wiring parts

Now, like I stated earlier....this is BEST done BEFORE you invest your time into the painting of the mannequin (this requires, at times, all or some of the following...sawing, drilling, correcting mistakes, and the list goes on).

First, place your mannequin in the position you desire it to look when completed. This applies to a mannequin part or to a full size body mannequin. You want the mannequin placed in the exact position you want it to be once completed. I cannot stress enough how important this is.....I have learned!

Once you have it in the position desired, look at it carefully and take a marker or pencil and mark where you want the top pole/light position to be. Afterwards, look at the bottom portion of the mannequin and place a mark where the bottom of the wiring or pole needs to be. You want to make sure once the pole is placed through the holes it is straight up and down (unless you decide to do a specific slant to the pole once it is placed in position, this is a slightly more advanced technique, which I will eventually discuss later in another section). For most designing, you will want the pole straight up and down, despite the mannequin's position.

You will need to drill a hole at each mark you made. Now, here comes the tricky part...place the lamp pole thru the holes and see if it is in the correct vertical position. (make sure your mannequin is also in its finished position). If the pole is, CONGRATS! you are one of the fortunate! If not, you need to either remark the holes and drill...or simply drill the holes a little larger and move the pole slightly into an upright position. Afterwards, this is where you may need to repair unwanted drilled holes (Plast-Aid once again). Or you may need to re-sand areas you scuffed with the drill or by moving the mannequin around. ***This is why I stated DO NOT paint your mannequin before this step***

TIPS....Most (at least vintage mannequins I have worked with) sometimes require metal at the base (sometimes steel) to drill. Make sure you use the proper drill bit to do so and wear safety glasses through the process. I recommend a good Dremel tool. A dremel has saved me so much time and energy!

Also, remember that the pole will need to be secured at the base (whether at the bottom of torso or leg portion. A washer and nut serves that purpose. The above steps apply to whether you are designing a leg lamp to a full body mannequin lamp.

NOW....if you are running wire only thru, for example, the leg to reach the torso area which will then go thru the pole...you will need to drill a hole in the foot and the top of the leg portion. Simply use a wire clothes hanger to run the wire thru the leg. Tape the wire on the cloths hanger and run it thru to the top of leg. Once done, it is best to tie a knot in the wire so it doesn't slip back thru causing you do it all over again. YUP, I have learned that lesson too!

Once you have ALL your drilling completed and you have confirmed everything lines up as it should (double check your work!)....you can now paint the mannequin.

Using a Dremel Tool

Painting the mannequin and placing it together

OK, now you are ready for painting the mannequin. There is no need to go into massive detail about painting, there are tons of links/videos on painting. But I will provide some tips.

Make sure once again you have all the drilling done properly, all your cracks and imperfections corrected. Choose a proper color you want the mannequin to be...which I am going to assume is a nice flesh color. I provide a link to some tips on mixing a great flesh color. Sometimes you can simply find a nice "fleshy" spray paint color to use, rare!

You can either have all the inner working in place (ie, poles, wiring and such) before you paint...or, you can paint and then place the inner working in place. I personally have found it easier to already have the poles and wiring in place. That's just my preference. (all your drilling should be completed at this point, so either way works).

Once you have painted your mannequin,,,that includes the body and facial features....be sure to use a great sealant to seal your work. Patience is required during the painting process. sometimes you will have to paint several coats to get the desired look.

Also, you may place the mannequin together after painting. That is, depending on the mannequin you are making...place the torso, head, legs, arms all together and have all the wiring completed. Most times, you will need to securely attach the torso to the leg portion using metal pieces/plates that you can screw into place. These metal plates can be used to securely attach arms as well (if you desire them in a fixed position).

In a nutshell....at this point, you need your mannequin wired with all the inner workings, painted, securely attached and painted. And placed in the finished position that you desire it to be...ALWAYS double check your work along the way. otherwise, you will have to disassemble and rework...exhausting! I have done that too!! TIP....make SURE when you have the mannequin in its finished position, it is on the stand you are using! Sometimes, when a mannequin is placed on a stand, it will vary in position!!! Important!!!

I provided links if you need exact details on wiring a lamp, painting, etc. My goal here is to provide some helpful tips and insight and mistakes I have learned. Mistakes are good, right?! We learn from them!

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Completing the mannequin, helpful information TIPS

Now, that the mannequin is simply ready to be dressed at this point, all the time consuming hard work will pay off. I will not go into how to dress a mannequin, but I will state... make sure the outfit fits properly. You want him or her to look FANTASTIC! There are various ways to dress a mannequin, especially, in the making of a mannequin lamp. Personally, I redesign or make the outfits for the mannequins I design. Sometimes I make the arms for the mannequins from my primitive folk art experience...making them pose-able and such. That all comes with time and willingness to learn.

Through experimenting and mistakes, you , too, can learn how to design a mannequin lamp. Be patient through the learning process. Don't get discouraged. I made lots of mistakes and still do when I try various designs....learn from them. The designs are ENDLESS! be unique, be original...don't be afraid to try new designs. Start small with a simple leg or arm part...then work your way up to full body. You can do it!


TIPS on bases and shades: bases can be made from a VARIETY of items...TV trays, Old table tops, old metal bases, etc etc. Shades....take a vintage shade and redesign and paint it! Use older vintage shades, they are so unique! There are lots of links and videos on how to do that.


I wish you the BEST and ONLY the best in your mannequin lamp. I would even enjoy seeing a photo or two. Sharing is the greatest tool! Contact me if you desire...if there is any step you feel you would like more information, please let me know. I would enjoy any and all input.

Remember, always be safe and use correct safety glasses, gloves etc that you need in various stages in the making of the lamp.

Another TIP....I have learned that salvage stores/places have numerous poles, parts etc that you will need for the inner workings...they can also, at times, cut the poles etc to your desired length.

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    • rowdycreations profile image
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      rowdycreations 4 years ago from Lookout Mountain, Georgia

      Thank you so much! I appreciate your kindness.

    • mylindaelliott profile image

      mylindaelliott 4 years ago from Louisiana

      What an interesting idea. You are certainly creative. I enjoyed all the pictures as well.

    • rowdycreations profile image
      Author

      rowdycreations 5 years ago from Lookout Mountain, Georgia

      Hello Skytreaures, thank you for your compliments. I appreciate that. I do take special orders on some mannequin lamps and can create most any type requested. I do have mannequin lamps for sale on etsy, my shop name is Rowdy Mannequin Lamps. The link to my shop is below: http://www.etsy.com/shop/RowdyMannequinLamps

      Thank you for taking time to view my creations...if you have any other questions, please feel free to contact me.

    • profile image

      skytreasures 5 years ago

      You have an unusual talent. You are very creative. Your designs are great. These would look great in a large window view. Do you have a large gingerbreadman for Christmans? Are they for sale and do you have a site where you sell them?

      Skytreasures

    • rowdycreations profile image
      Author

      rowdycreations 5 years ago from Lookout Mountain, Georgia

      Thank you so much! I look forward to many sharing of ideas thru here. I appreciate your comment!

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      Welcome to HubPages! This is a wonderful hub packed with detailed instructions, handy tips and amazing photos! A very good job on your debut hub!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful, Awesome & Interesting. Voted up