Getting Crafty: How to Make Rice Glue and Paper Lotus Lanterns

Korean paper lotus lantern and rice glue

I’m a craft-o-holic. When I travel I am usually only able to craft in my journal, but when I am settled down somewhere I am constantly making stuff. Especially paper things. I love it. There’s something so relaxing and satisfying about making something with your hands.

When we were at the Lotus Lantern Festival a couple weeks ago, we stumbled across a tent where you could make your own paper lotus lantern. I jumped at the opportunity of an impromptu craft session with paper on the sidewalk in Korea. For those of you curious about what the significance of the lotus lanterns are, here’s an explanation I found on Visit Korea:

According to Buddhist belief, the lighting of a lotus-shaped lantern symbolizes a devotion to performing good deeds and lighting up the dark parts of the world that are filled with agony. The lantern-lighting practice was developed throughout the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties and has been preserved through public demonstrations such as the lotus lantern service (a Buddhist memorial service held nationwide) and the lotus lantern parade.

paper lotus lantern crafts on the streets of SeoulWhile we were making our lanterns, I noticed that the glue we were using was very gelatinous and glutinous. I thought it might be made from rice, and sure enough, it was! I know this doesn’t seem like something to get excited about, but I really like arts and crafts. I was made fun of for my interest in the glue and for the fact that I asked the lovely man who was helping us how to make it, but I really had to know. I love the idea of an easy to make, non-toxic, and cheap glue for paper crafts. All you need is a little left over rice and water. I imagine it would be a fabulous glue to use with kids, there’s always that one kid who wants to know what glue tastes like.

This last weekend I tried my hand at making rice glue and to see how well my own concoction turned out I made a lotus lantern from materials laying around the house.

photo compliments of David Domagalski - using rice glue on a paper lotus lantern

Rice Glue

I looked up rice glue recipes before I got started. I found one on Wiki How and used it as a guide, but didn’t follow it exactly. I figured that I probably could just eyeball the amount of water to add the rice. Basically I added some cooked rice to a pot with water and boiled it for around a half hour until it was really mushy and the liquid around the rice was very starchy and viscous. The website gave two options for the final step. You can either strain the mixture through a sieve or put it in a blender. I decided to try both since I had cooked plenty.

I liked the one I processed through the blender better. I put a little extra water in it and it came out smooth. Putting the mixture through a sieve was more time consuming and the glue came out lumpier. If you put it in a blender you will save time and come out with a glue that looks like Modge Podge or Elmers. Both versions worked fine, the biggest difference was how easy it was to make the blender version. The glue can be put in a jar and refrigerated for later use. I read that it lasts one week in the fridge, but I haven’t tested this yet.

Lotus Lantern

At the festival we made our lanterns with small paper cups and light, but stiff corrugated colored paper. At home I had a paper cup, tissue paper and a ribbon,  so that’s what I used. It definitely has a different look in the end, but I think it works.

Materials for making a paper lotus lantern, rice glue included.
the materials: rice glue, tissue paper, small paper cup (preferably plain), scissors, ruler, ribbon, a paintbrush

First, I cut a small incision in the bottom of the cup. Then, I folded my ribbon in half, knotted the ends, and slid the folded end through the hole.

Attaching paper lotus petals with rice glue

Next, I cut up the tissue paper into about 3.5 x 1.5 inch pieces. At one end of each piece I twisted the paper together to make a small tip. Once I had a handful of petals ready, I turned the cup upside down and started applying rice glue to the part of the cup which would usually be the base and attached the pieces of tissue paper. I worked my way down the sides up the cup until I made it to the rim. To make the flower a little more full and look like it’s blossoming I pulled down on the sides of the paper when I attached them to the cup (a tip I picked up at the festival). Once it’s dry, hang it or place it somewhere special. My new white lantern has found a nice little home next to some of our plants.

Finished paper lotus lantern.

15 thoughts on “Getting Crafty: How to Make Rice Glue and Paper Lotus Lanterns

  1. Do you know where I can purchase the tissue paper used in the original ones that we made in Korea? I have a daughter-in-law who lives near Seoul but she has been unable to find the paper. Can you recommend anyplace?

    1. Hi Lola,

      Apologies for the delay. I’m not sure where to buy it in Seoul. I made mine with some tissue paper I had lying around. And I have no clue about the one we made on the street. I bet one of the craft stores might have it.

      1. If you get out of Anguk station near insadong. There’s an entire street where the Dunkin donuts is that sells the petals. One pack should be sbout $7-8.

  2. You can buy supplies for lotus lanterns near Jonggak stn/Insadong on the same street as Jogyesa (Temple).

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