The making of a Rosebay Willowherb lamp

Rosebay Willowherb in Old Town

As we were walking up a lane in Old Town the other evening we bumped into some friends who said "Are you going camping?" We must have looked like we were on a mission trudging up there with our rucksacks on. 'No' I said 'we're going drawing'. 

Rosebay Willowherb and Foxglove silhouette

We were going to find some Rosebay Willowherb to draw. It is just beginning to flower in the lanes and when I saw some last week with all it's spiky little buds waiting to open I got a flash of how it could look on a lamp. A tall lamp, like my Foxglove.

Rosebay Willowherb

I wanted to catch it at the point of being half open and half in bud as I love the silhouettes.

Rosebay Willowherb flowers close up

And I wanted to look up close at the structure of the flowers so I could figure out how to stylise them. How many petals? What shape are they? How do they sit together? What are their key characteristics? 

drawing rosebay willowherb

I got straight to it. I just started at the top and worked down and remembered what I love about drawing outside. The sounds of the evening washed over me, butterflies danced, bees buzzed in and out of the flowers, birds wings fluttered overhead and all those questions got answered half in words but mostly in shapes and lines and spaces, as I drew. 


drawing fireweed

Dean often draws outside in nature, much more than I do. "I'm just off to my hill" he says and comes back with pages full of the landscape. He doesn't usually concentrate so much on the tiny details like me, but this evening he challenged himself to draw the Willowherb too. It was nice to have a drawing companion.

drawing rosebay willowherb

When I turn something into a design for a lamp I have to think about how to express the essence of the subject, simply, in three layers of light - I have the cut out bit which shines the brightest when the lamp is lit, I have the darker silhouette which gives definition and texture when the lamp is switched off and possibly an engraved layer too.

And there are other rules  - no very large shapes cut out or stuck on as they can distort the shape of the cylinder when it's laminated. I also have to think about what the light bulb inside will illuminate the most.  

stylising rosebay willowherb

Here I am preparing my drawings to be scanned and then traced and turned into something that my laser cutter can interpret. The bits coloured in black will become the silhouette (but they may be too big yet, I have to experiment). The flowers will be the shining bright bit which will be a separate file. Hopefully I can get the silhouette to be one whole shape - this makes constructing each lamp much easier.

designing a Rosebay Willowherb lamp by Hannah Nunn

I'm working on my light table here so I can trace elements of my drawings. I create the silhouette in bold black, scan it into the computer and then trace the outline digitally so I can create a file which tells the laser cutter what to cut.

Rosebay willowherb cut out for lamp

 This is the first laser test. Much potential but not stylised enough yet. Next I needed to simplify the flowers and make them more like a pattern.

rosebay willowherb lamp design process

This was the first attempt at simplifying the flowers. Even that is quite rosebay-ish on its own.

Rosebay Willowherb lamp experiments in the laser cutter

Then I tried to create the darker petal details. Laser engraved or laser cut? 

Neither worked for me!

setting up the laser files

This is what it looks like as a laser file. The red lines cut. Black shapes engrave, orange lines (the holes that popper the lamp up) kiss cut. The stem is currently green but when it comes to cutting it out I will create a red outline to cut.

Rosebay Willowherb lamp by Hannah Nunn

The results of another experiment. Flowers top heavy - not enough leaf. Just still not quite right. So I made the leaves reach higher, and took away a few flowers at the bottom.

digital Rosebay Willowherb Fireweed design

I worked in pink and green on the computer to cheer things up and when I started adding the stamen in the flowers that's when it started to come together.

Rosebay Willowherb flower stamen detail

I loved making them cut across the petals. They are so delicate.

Rosebay Willowherb lamp by Hannah Nunn
Rosebay Willowherb lamp by Hannah Nunn

And then she was done! Rosie W as Ffion calls her. She snapped one up, the very first one, for her new flat.

Fireweed & foxglove lamps

She sits well with her buddy the foxglove.

Fireweed lamp with notes on summer book by Julia Ogden

So there we are. That was the making of a lamp. From idea to reality. 

Here she is on my website.



I love the detail and complexity of how you create

Louise Vaughan

really, really beautiful; you have captured the statuesqueness (if that’s a word) of rosebay willowherb which stands taller than me on Popples Common. I love how you have depicted it.


Must find out if my old friend Norwegian artist Anne Tove is still with us. She made a gorgeous print of the RBWH, which I have a copy of. If I can trace her I will buy and send her a lamp!


I really enjoyed reading this! The process you go through is much more intricate than I had imagined. Thank you for sharing xx


Hi Hannah, another beautiful plant that I can’t wait to see as a lamp. Your drawings are also so beautiful.

Rachel Phillips

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Hannah Nunn

Welcome to my blog

I'm Hannah Nunn, designer/maker of papercut lamps, wallpaper, window film and laser cut 'treasures' all inspired by the beautiful details of nature. Find out what inspires me and join me for walks in the woods and other adventures...


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