How to Make a Large Genie Bottle for a Stage Play

By Contributing Writer
Basic Genie Lamp

Unusual props and set pieces can challenge any performance production, especially with a limited budget. When faced with the need for unique items such as a large genie bottle, one of the least expensive solutions is to make it yourself. As with any design, the main hurdle to creating the piece is planning. Once you've answered some basic questions about the bottle's specific design criteria (final size, shape and colors), you can start building it.

Plan your design, then make a drawing as your blueprint. You'll want to make note of the design's final height, width and length. Since this will be a stage prop, weight is important. It needs to be heavy enough to stay in place, but light enough to be easily maneuvered. To meet these constraints, the frame will be made of craft wire and the "skin" will be paper mache.

Break the lamp into components. A genie lamp has a handle, a bowl (the main lamp body, which may include the spoutlike wick) and the lid. (Check the resources sections for additional examples of these types of lamps.)

Decide how much craft wire to purchase, and determine what gauge (thickness) of wire you need. The thicker the wire, the more difficult it will be to bend. Thicker wire, however, is also more sturdy. To determine how much wire to get, make a framing blueprint, breaking down your design into "loops" of wire, starting with a narrow circle for the very bottom and progressing into more elliptical loops as you get to the body of the lamp and then more narrow at the very top. These loops will need to be connected with vertical ribs to hold the structure together. You'll need roughly one loop for every 5 inches of vertical height, using medium-stiff 9-gauge wire, and a vertical rib for about every 10 inches of length. This type of wire will hold its shape, but might be a bit too hard to bend by hand.

Cut the wire into individual segments and bend into loops using pliers. Your wire structure should resemble a 3-D genie lamp. Secure the loops to the ribs using small segments of string. Make sure the string is tight.

Make the wallpaper paste into a medium-thick slurry using the water. Dip strips of newspaper into the slurry, removing the excess liquid from the paper by pulling the strip between two fingers. Drape the strips of paper over the wire structure until the structure is coated in the wet newspaper. Keep the surface as smooth as possible, flattening bubbles in the newsprint.

Continue adding layers of newspaper and paste until the lamp achieves a smooth surface. You'll need at least two layers of newspaper. When you are complete the structure should be moist, but not dripping.

Allow the structure to dry. Make sure the paper is not too thin. If it seems like it could tear easily, it is too thin, and needs at least one more layer of paper, maybe two. When the structure has dried completely, carefully add rocks through the hole in the top. The rocks will help keep the lamp from falling over. Seal the hole in the top of the lamp with paper mache.

When the top of the structure has dried, paint the lamp the desired color. Allow the paint to dry.


Paper mache structures are light and easy to maneuver. If the lamp you are building needs to support weight, the structure will need to be built using different methods and materials.