Make a Luminary and Get Glowing

Illuminated wire + tissue paper sculptures are a staple of FOOLmoon, and hundreds light up the night as people march into downtown Ann Arbor after the sun goes down. (To join in a luminary processional, see here). Trust us, you’ll feel really cool that you made one.

You can make your own luminary out of simple materials! Our official hardware supplier ACE has everything you need. This activity is better with friends, so invite some people over, put on some music, and get yo’ glow on.

What you need:
– Wire (14, 16 &/or 18 gauge)
– Wire cutters
– Clear packaging tape
– Scissors
– Watered-down Glue
– Tissue Paper
– A brush
– Battery-operated lights

Instructions are as easy as moon pie; here’s a picture outlining the basic steps.

luminary graphic

How-to graphic by Scott Wedemeyer.

See the process in action!! Watch this short tutorial video.

But wait!! Before you get started, you’ll need to decide what object to make. 2020’s official theme is ‘FossilFOOLs’ so you could run — er, swim — with that idea. The unofficial theme every year is randomness, so you can make just about any random object. Can’t choose? Here are some popular methods used by the pros:

The Recency Approach: choose an object you’ve held in your hands in the last 24 hours — a bowl of soup, a bowling ball, a bulldog, your favorite stuffed animal, a pet chinchilla, a pet rock, a Dixon Ticonderoga #2 pencil, a fork, a waffle…

The Serious Approach: the decision should not be taken likely, so consult all of your friends and family, your neighbors, your accountant, your doctor, your dry cleaner, your dog whisperer. Meditate on their feedback, start a journal, and write down all of your dreams. The answer will become clear.

The Blindfold Approach: put on a blindfold first thing tomorrow morning, go about your day, and remove it only when you hear someone say the word “fantastic.” The first object you see, that’s your luminary. Do not attempt while driving, swimming, cooking, operating cranes, walking your dog, or walking yourself.

The Nonsense Approach: roll a pair of dice. Take the sum and divide by pi. Transpose the first 100 decimal digits to the corresponding letters of the alphabet, then arrange them in a 10×10 wordsearch puzzle. Find as many words as you can and write a love poem including all of them. The 22nd word of your poem is your luminary.

The Dictionary Approach: open a dictionary to a random page and choose the first noun. Boom.

The Pictionary Approach: Invite your friends over for a game night and force them to play Pictionary. Make your noun the first thing they have guess, and choose the worst guess someone makes as your luminary.

If this is your first luminary, we recommend you start small until you get the hang of working with the materials. Simple shapes (a banana, a pufferfish, a worm) are easy to execute and some of the best luminaries are smaller than a breadbox.*

Have a blast! Throw a luminary-making party to involve your friends and frenemies! And remember to show off your luminary in one our processionals on Friday, April 5.

*no one technically knows how big a breadbox is, but don’t let that stop you