Paper, Glass & Wire Butterflies


Remember the vintage radio tubes I picked up in Austin, Texas?  I designated them as one of my Artful Ingredients for 2011 – an element/material I planned to include in an art or craft project by year’s end.  Well, somewhere along the line in my brainstorming process I thought the tubes would make great bodies for butterflies.  I think the resulting butterflies are both pretty and unique, don’t you?



These butterflies can be used in a number of ways.  Consider using them for interior decor, attaching one to a wooden skewer and putting it into an indoor planter or a flower arrangement, or attaching one to a headband for a bold wearable art look!



I used radio tubes for the two larger butterflies and an old photographic flash bulb for the smallest, but you could easily substitute something else for the body if you don’t have access to radio tubes.  A glass vial or an old-fashioned, round clothespin would work well instead.



Instructional Overview

I started with the bodies (the glass tubes and flash bulb), and drew the shape for one wing on a piece of scrap paper.  Once I had the size and shape of wing that I wanted, I folded the paper in half along the wing’s inner edge, and then cut the wing out of the folded paper.  When completely cut out and unfolded, I had a template for my butterfly and traced the template onto watercolor paper.  I did this for all three sizes.  If you’d rather not draw your own wings, you can use a template you find online.

Once the three butterflies were traced onto watercolor paper, I cut them out.  Next, I used rubber stamps to create a pattern on the butterfly wings, and used a different stamp and pattern for each butterfly.  For the smallest butterfly I used an O stamp from an alphabet stamp set. For the medium butterfly I used an X stamp from the same alphabet stamp set.  For the largest butterfly I used a stamp I’d made from a wine bottle cork a few years back. I used black StazOn ink for all the stamping I did – it’s permanent and stands up to wet treatments well.  I also rubbed a bit of black ink along the outer edges of the wings on all three butterflies.

Next I added color, and used a paintbrush to apply acrylic inks.  I used orange, purple and pink pearlescent inks from FW.  Once the butterflies were completely dry I affixed the glass tubes to the paper wings with Terrifically Tacky Tape.  I pierced the paper in two spots on either side of the tube with a thick needle, threaded two pieces of wire across the butterfly at the top and bottom, and twisted them together at the back.  This helps secure the glass tubes to the paper butterfly piece and adds visual interest.  Finally, I folded a piece of the same type of wire in half, and bent and wound the ends to create antennae for the butterflies before affixing them to the back of the butterfly wings/bodies.

I hope you like this project and are inspired to create some butterflies of your own.  Please let me know if you have any questions on the assembly process or my techniques.

Warm regards,

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  1. Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:46 am by Beth Nielsen | Permalink

    Wow; really inventive and SO beautiful. Kudos to you, yet again!

  2. Posted April 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm by Diane Chen | Permalink

    Very clever use of the radio tubes, Mel! I love them!

  3. Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:00 pm by Melody | Permalink

    Thank you – I’m glad you like them. It was a lot of fun to plan the butterflies out and then make them!

  4. Posted April 14, 2011 at 9:01 pm by Melody | Permalink

    I’m glad you like my latest project. Thank you for commenting, and for your positive feedback!