THE FESTIVAL OF ILLUMINATION - ONCE UPON A TIME.

A Behind The Scenes Look At How Our Lanterns Are Created.



The Festival of Illumination is returning in September 2022! This year’s theme, “Once Upon a Time”, will showcase the fascinating and forgotten stories of legendary creatures, myths, and fairy tales through the incredible artistry of handmade Chinese lanterns.


All lanterns are custom-made, allowing us the ability to be uniquely creative in the design. Design implementation begins at Zigong Lantern Group facilities, located in Zigong, Sichuan Province of China, and then shipped here to Mendon, MA where the exhibits are completed and installed over the summer months.


Each lantern is handcrafted from silk, and steel, with LED Lighting, utilized to illuminate the lanterns, and range in size from 2 feet to 60 feet or more. The first step after finalizing the creative is to sketch the individual lanterns at life size. The sketches are then used as a pattern to create the steel form of the lantern. By welding and bending the steel wire, the Zigong Lantern Group team of artisans handcraft three-dimensional realistic shapes, or lantern structures; these structures form the foundation of the individual lanterns.


Once the lantern structure is complete, LED bulbs are attached to the steel internal frame. These bulbs will illuminate the structure. The next step is to cover the steel structure with silk cloth. Silk is a very light fabric, that enhances the illumination of beautiful colors. The silk exterior of the lanterns is then hand painted, paying great attention to detail and the meticulous elements that bring forth realistic features. The colors used in the painting process are very important; colorful elements help bring out the beauty in these magnificent lantern structures.


The process of creating the lanterns requires much strategy, planning, and careful consideration. As we continue to create and build the individual Lanterns for the festival, including some of our larger sets, we become more and more excited about the final outcome and the amazing experience we are creating for the Festival of Illumination guests beginning this September here at Southwick's Zoo.


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