How do you turn waste into a design object? This is one of the key questions pondered by designer Álvaro Catalán from Ocón. And it’s answered by his PET LAMP project, which combines plastic bottles with traditional basket making techniques to create unique lamps.
Find out how this amazing project came to life and discover its key features in the video.
The origin story
The project began in Colombia, before traveling to various countries and imbibing local basket making techniques every time it stopped. “Our background is in industrial design, so we knew nothing about the world of textiles. We created some very archaic prototypes without the least idea of what we would actually be able to create, then fortunately, we met some incredible craftspeople. We spent two months with them, and gradually, collectively, the design for the lamps was born,” Catalán explains.
Although the project team have returned to their homes in several places around the world, the process they follow to create the lamps is very similar at every destination. Each maker collects plastic bottles from around their region, slices them into thin strips and uses these repurposed plastic bottles to create a warp. This forms the basis for their lamps, which they then weave following the patterns and colors of their own textile tradition. This allows you to see the influence of their various home territories. And gives every PET Lamp a unique design. Each is infused with the maker’s ancestral knowledge and the style of their traditional basket weaving techniques.
When the lamps are ready, they’re shipped to a Madrid workshop where all the electrical components are fitted. Then they’re packaged and distributed.
“Increasingly, products are becoming objects. And this is an indication of contemporary concerns,” notes the designer. The PET Lamp finds a new purpose for plastic waste. “Plastic is one of the outstanding 20th century materials. Its vast array of applications is incredible. But there’s a big contradiction between its cost and its value. Plastic bottles are used for a few minutes. But they’re made from a material that lasts hundreds of years,” underline the project team.
While forming the backbone of this environmental commitment, the plastic bottles are also an essential part of the lamp design. The makers use this waste as their inspiration for the final design. Sometimes bottlenecks give the lamp a specific shape, while at others shiny plastic adds a particular brilliance.
Much more than a design object
In the words of the designer: “This product represents infinite stories and experiences and is now almost more of an anthropological study than a pure design or craft project. Every one of these lamps tells you a story that’s a journey through time, and around the world, waiting to be read.”
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