Pottery Barn Knock Off: Paper Mache Pumpkin Luminaries

16 Oct


Oh, look at you cute little pumpkins! For some reason, whenever the holidays roll around (pretty much from October until January) I get extra crafty. Mainly, because I love any excuse to put up decorations. I saw these adorable little paper mache pumpkin luminaries at Pottery Barn and thought they were perfect for fall and also – perfect to recreate. Especially since they cost between $30 for the smallest orange pumpkin and $40 for the larger ivory one.



If you’ve been near a craft store in the last few months, you’ll have seen the carveable foam pumpkins that let you create jack-o-lanterns for Halloween that are a little less….time sensitive. Seeing as they’re hollow, I thought they would work pretty perfectly for making a luminary. For the size I got (eight inches), it cost under $5. For the bigger sizes, the price goes up a bit.


My biggest fear when trying to recreate this was that it was going to require math. And it did, to a certain extent. I guessed a bit throughout, but it had to start with math. I began by measuring the circumference of the pumpkin (an even 20 inches, thank goodness).


Next, along the middle radius (ish. There was no way I was whipping out a level to get that perfect.), I marked a dot every 2 inches to mark where one of the high or low points of the zig zag would be. For this part, however you divide the pumpkin, it has to be into an even number of parts or the zig zag line won’t match up. I divided mine by ten (every 2 inches) because it seemed to be about the right distance. You might want to play with it a little if you’re using a different size. I used a dry erase marker so that I would be able to fix any little blips without having to mark up the whole pumpkin.


Next, I went around and marked two dots (at 1 inch and 2 inches) above or below the initial dot. These should alternate so that at the first vertical “line” you have two dots above the middle, and at the next “line” you have two dots below the middle.


I then used a ruler to “connect” the top dots of each line. Along the ruler, I placed two more dots (as evenly spaced as possible).  It should look like you have a descending line of four dots and then an ascending line of four dots. Repeat this process for the middle dots of each line and the bottom dots of each line.


You should end up with what looks like three lines of zig zagging dots that should be pretty similar to the original luminary.


To make the holes I was forced to turn to something I TRULY hate – power tools. I don’t like them, and they don’t like me. But here, short of hand carving 100 holes, there wasn’t really another option. I chose a drill with a bit that seemed about the right size. I honestly couldn’t tell you specifics on that. I tried to spend as little time in the “tool zone” as possible. It was slightly smaller than a pencil. That’s all I’ve got.


The drilling began and it was a bit of a learning experience. Because the pumpkin is somewhat pliable (and becomes even more so as you’re slowly turning it into swiss cheese), the drill tried to jump every now and then. I found it was best to hold the pumpkin securely and apply a bit of pressure to the drill. You might even want to pre-drill each hole with a smaller bit, as it may make the larger bit go in more smoothly. It seemed to work pretty well though.


I had to make a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin for the luminary to fit as well as to give me some access to clean up the inside of the pumpkin. I drew a circle slightly bigger than I thought would be necessary to fit a votive, but more importantly, big enough to fit my hand inside.


Using my handy exacto knife, I cut through the bottom of the pumpkin pretty easily.




With the hole, I emptied out all of the sawdust and picked away some of the little bits of debris that were clinging to the holes. It made it look much cleaner.


With all of the holes cut, I wanted to make it look a bit more like the original. If you notice, the original has a rougher, more distressed, aged look to it. I thought I could at least attempt this with some brown and yellow paint and a stain marker. Basically, I had these on hand, so they were what I was going to use.


The stain marker had a greenish tint, so I used that around the stem. Applying it in small patches and then wiping it off with a cloth. It left behind a kind of greenish-brown tint that I liked.


I also used the marker in the grooves of the pumpkin, adding a bit of depth to the sides.


For the paint, I applied a TINY amount of brown paint in the same spots as the marker – the tops and the grooves.  I spread it on and wiped it almost completely off. I used the yellow as a highlight, applying it to the high points of the pumpkin between the grooves (where light would catch). Again, I used a TINY amount and then wiped it almost all off. When I was done, it did look a bit more aged, like the original pumpkin.


And there you go! A perfect addition to my fall decorations.


Adding a votive (or a battery operated candle if you’re worried about the heat/smoke) makes it look pretty spectacular. I’m really happy with how it compares to the original. I may try another version of this before fall is over as I love the original luminaries mixing of the orange, ivory, and green. But for now, this little pumpkin is a happy addition to my fall décor.


Pottery Barn Paper Mache Pumpkin Luminaries

Supplies –

–          8” carveable pumpkin (less than $5 at craft stores)

–          Brown  and yellow paints (on hand)

–          Exacto knife

–          Drill


Pottery Barn cost – $29.50

Total cost for me? Less than $5



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