Monday, September 05, 2016

Octopus Lights!

Octo Lights: On

This project went on for sooooooo long! In a way, now that it's all done, it's kind of like "what's the big deal?" Well, the big deal is, I'd been needing to redo my bathroom for a few years, was actively saving up for it for months, and had been wanting some octopus lights foreeeevvvvver! So let me show/tell you what I'm talking about.

I have one small bathroom in my house. In the 10+ years I've lived here, this is the second time I've renovated it. It was damaged when I bought the house, and then I got a cut-rate hack job which after a few years led to the bathtub actually cracking on the bottom. Unfortunately, this happened while I was in the midst of my extended involuntarily vacation, so I was left with no recourse other than to stand awkwardly while showering, in hopes of not crashing through to the crawlspace.

When I went back to work, one of my main priorities was the bathroom. And the priority of the priority was...octopus lights.

While I was saving up, I was researching like crazy, trying to find someone somewhere who made octopus lights I could use as main lighting for the room, as opposed to some small accent light. Came up with nothing. Even on Etsy! Really, check for yourself! In any case, the answer was — as it so often is — make them.

I refocused my search on finding some kind of statue or plaque that I could wire for lights. Now, if you're looking for statues, you'll find tons. I narrowed it down to three, and ordered all of them.


I was really rooting for the one on the left, which is intended as a candelabra, and seemed like it would be the easiest to wire up. It was also meant to sit on a table, though, so when I put it on the wall, it just...did not work. The middle one was my second choice, because I liked the coloration of it, and the side-set eyes were cool. But I couldn't come up with a good plan for bulb sockets, so it went back, too. Left me with my last choice, the "steampunk" octopus. A little ironic, that, because now, it's my favorite of the three, and they worked so well.

Octo Lights: Socket Detail
Shaved, epoxied, and painted socket, with dry-brushed collet nut finish.
The bronze octo has three spots where bulbs could potentially fit, which would mean 6 bulbs between the two I intended to install on either side of the mirror cabinet. (The lights currently in the bath had 8 bulbs, so I was concerned about getting enough light.)

They're still small curls, though, so full-size bulbs wouldn't work. That meant more research on candelabra bulbs to find some that would give enough light, sans heat, and would still look cool.

Let me tell you, I had no idea how many kinds of lightbulbs there are out there. I mean, why would anyone? I've been buying the same CFLs for a decade now, so I hadn't even been paying attention to all these LEDs and stuff. But man, I found some cool ones.

I got some little candelabra sockets at the local Lowe's, which almost fit into the curled tentacles. The plaque itself is some sort of resin, so I decided I could open the space a little with my Dremel, to get the sockets in there. Luckily, I decided to talk to my cousin Rob about this project, and he said the sockets would be easy to shave down, with less potential for disaster. See, this is why you sometimes just need a second brain on a project.

Rob got interested in the whole idea, so he came over and the two of us sat out on the deck, shaving down plastic lamp bases until they fit nice and snug. Then we filled in any gaps with epoxy to keep them stable.

Octo Lights: Eye Detail
The eyes are super cool in person.
The sockets were plain black, which worked fine since most of it was behind the tentacle, but the raw top edge was pretty ugly and unfinished, even with a bulb set in it. I found some nice rounded collet nuts at the hardware and decided those would make an appropriate finishing touch, with a little bit of paint. So I spray painted them matte black, and then dry brushed some copper. They really look like a part of the sculpture now!

After looking all over the place for just the right light bulbs, would you believe I found them at Kroger? Yeah, shopping for cheese, found the perfect lights! Dimmable LEDs with clear globes. They suited the octopus so well, with its big glass domed eyes.

Rob helped me wire all three sockets together to be suitable for the existing wall location, and they were nearly completed. The last thing I hadn't really figured out was how they were going to mount to the wall itself. Because these were just meant to hang, there was a fabric cord moulded into the back to hang on a nail. Obviously, that wasn't going to work. I thought we might have to install some sort of keyhole hanger, but after looking at how my previous lights were mounted, we figured it out. It was going to involve drilling right between the eyes.

Octo Lights: Acorn Nut Mount
That acorn nut right in the middle there.
This made me very nervous! Rob found some nice small, and appropriately colored, acorn nuts, though, and after testing out how it looked, not only was I not bothered by the exposed hardware, I decided it really added to the overall look! So Rob took them to his drill press (no way I was doing this with a hand drill), cut and slotted some threaded rod to be deep enough to accommodate the rather thick material, and we were good to go!

Now came showing the contractor.

I told him this room really depended on these lights. All the colors in the room were based on the lights. This whole project was planned around them! (That's not entirely true — the foundation of the room was actually the big-as-possible Jacuzzi tub, but still.) He was pretty tickled by them, which made me happy. I was concerned there might be a moment of "what kind of hack job lights are these, you can't expect me to put something like this up!" But no, he was all for it, even though it was going to mean moving everything on that wall over a few inches to keep the much wider new lights out of the shower.

At least, he was all for it until 3 weeks into the 2 week project, when he messaged me at work to say, "The lights aren't going to fit." I got up out of a meeting and said, "I'm on my way." No way had we made it this far to quit. There was no Plan B.

He was just reluctant to move the sink and the wiring over further than he thought he was going to have to, because it turned out the new tub was a couple inches wider than the previous one, which meant the whole room already shifted. (And I now have an entry door that's a couple inches narrower than normal. You'd never know.) I talked him in off the ledge, and he did an excellent job moving and centering all the necessary elements.

Octo Lights: New Bathroom


So, this is the new bathroom! I won't bother with pictures of all the other stuff, the new floor, tub, shower tile, etc. Because this is aaaaalllll about the octos. Even the wall color was chosen to highlight the copper shading, and the narrower wall cabinet was also a compromise to get them in there. Yes, that big abstract thing between the lights is a mirror; no one needed to see me standing there with my camera.

Everyone who has seen pictures asks the same thing: "Where did you get those??" Which is my cue to say my favorite thing in the world: "I made them myself."

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