Global Approaches to Upcycling: Plastic bottle lights transforming lives

Upcycling is something natural and something very human. Creativity in a practical sense is not unique to designers. While upcycling has taken of as a trend in many countries, showing people both the value and the beauty of reuse, it is also changing lives. You can find upcycling pretty much everywhere, whether it is intentional or purely practical and out of necessity. Different countries and cultures will take on different approaches to upcycling but ideas seem to be everywhere. Alfredo Moser a man living in Southern Brazil has invented a very simple light using a plastic bottle some water and a drop of bleach. These incredibly cost effective lights are changing the lives of countless people in the Philippines where these ingenious inventions are being installed to save people spending money on very expensive electricity. It shows that sometimes the best inventions are the most basic ones.

Furniture Magpies’ Metamorphosis

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Furniture Magpies create furniture from discarded materials, providing an alternative to adding to landfills. These unique constellations that use a combination of discarded furniture, look more like art than functional objects.

“Furniture Magpies offers an alternative to mass produced furniture, specialising in regenerating old furniture to meet the desires of modern consumers.”

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This coat stand is made with the back of several dining chairs, the design blends different chair styles while retaining the individuality of each component.

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The beautiful visual composition is also surprisingly versatile adding to the atmosphere of a room.

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The ‘Lovely Legs’ climbing wall lamp is made with discarded Windsor chair legs and copper elbows.

Furniture Magpies emphasise the importance of the history and memories carried by the pieces that make up the final product.

“Our work strives to retain the character and story of the furniture we use, allowing the user an insight into their items original identity.”

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‘Hang on to your Drawers’ coffee table made with reclaimed old drawers.

All of these items are also available at moorbi.com.

Profile: Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

Caro with bike cog Photo by Fabiola Torres Alzaga

Caro with bike cog Photo by Fabiola Torres Alzaga

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga’s magnificent chandeliers and lights, made from repurposed bike chains, are not only stunning but hugely innovative.

View from below photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

View from below photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Caro’s work has been shaped by her lifelong movement between spaces and cultures. The results tell a story of her experiences in these contrasting environments and shifting realities, allowing her artistic vocabulary to evolve.

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Before moving to LA, Caro spent her childhood in Denver, Colorado with frequent trips to Mexico City and Rio de Janeiro to visit family. This broad world view influenced her artistic perspective urging her to be drawn to finding beauty and value in overlooked narratives and weathered textures.

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Her belief in the varied functionality of objects and materials is very present in the CONNECT series. She demonstrates that something is rarely doomed to actually being ‘trash’, but that most things simply change their purpose.

“To understand the idea that something that had an original function does not need to have that same function…[you can] transcend that function”

Photo by John Valls

Photo by John Valls

Caro emphasises she is able to express her beliefs through her work, alluding to the strong themes of sustainability and recycling. She seeks to initiate a “reclamation of agency and influence” and by doing so “influencing that path of our future”.

Caro working photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro working photo by Alan J. Crossley

She adds that although she is not out on the street protesting, she is hoping that she will be able to start a dialogue through her work. Her work shows that you can channel creativity with resourcefulness and make a visible impact on how people perceive discarded materials.

“you can make beautiful things out of unlikely materials, and out of trash – because it’s not trash. I mean it’s trash because it no longer serves its original function but that doesn’t mean it can’t have another function altogether. And that’s where our creativity comes in”

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Understandably due to the labour intensive design and production process, these stunning chandeliers do come at a price. However Caro does not only accept money at payment, she also recognises the value of trading goods or services.

“I do barter in exchange for my chandeliers in select situations. The trade has to be comparable to the time and effort that goes into making a CONNECT piece. In the past I’ve traded a two-year membership to a yoga studio and even got a designer to make this website in exchange for a chandelier.”

Here is a short video about Caro and her work.

Handmade Portraits: Chain Reaction from Etsy on Vimeo.

The Third Function: Reclaiming the Discarded and the Invisible

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Photo by Alan J. Crossley

The LA based multidisciplinary artist, Carolina Fontoura Alzaga (better known as Caro), has created the CONNECT Series of spectacular, cascading, and seemingly traditional chandeliers. These chandeliers however, are not made of glass or crystal but have been carefully crafted using discarded bike parts.

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Carolina Fontoura Alzaga Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro professes that she became inspired to create the series when she started exploring the “third function” of materials. She describes the lifecycle in three stages of discarded materials being transformed and reclaimed into something new –

1. they serve their original function
2. their original function becomes obsolete and they become ‘trash’
3. they cease to be ‘trash’ as they are transformed into something entirely new

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Through this process she seeks to transform objects deemed to be excess waste by “effectively reclaiming the ‘discarded’ and ‘invisible’ to create something far more powerful and commanding.”

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

As a result the “chandelier itself becomes a metaphor of reclaimed power.”

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Photo by Alan J. Crossley

The CONNECT Series chandeliers are influenced by both modern and Victorian styles, as well as by bike culture, and a strong belief in the concept of sustainability and environmental preservation.

“The idea for ‘The CONNECT Series’ began from seeing pots and pans hung from a makeshift pot rack made from a bicycle rim. It inspired me to make a mobile made from a bike rim, bike tube, and bike gears. The result was lovely but too simple and it was the semantic mistake of calling it a bike ‘chandelier’ and not a mobile that led me to make a proper chandelier.”

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Photo by Alan J. Crossley

Caro has a unique gift for recognising value and functionality in unwanted objects, allowing these to serve a purpose even if it greatly differs from their original use.

“In her art and her life, Caro works to find beauty in the discarded, and challenges the necessity of the new.”

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Photo by Caro Fontoura Alzaga

Repurposed Bicycle Chain Chandelier by Carolina Fontoura Alzaga

Yes take a closer look, these stunning chandeliers are made of bicycle chains draping down in elegant swathes. Carolina Fontoura Alzaga uses old discarded and broken bicycle chains to create these fixtures using her artistic talent and skilled craftsmanship. The result is astonishing, proving that the gift is in the quality and composition of each piece.

Bicycle Chain Chandelier by Carolina Fontoura Photo by John Valls

Bicycle Chain Chandelier by Carolina Fontoura Photo by John Valls

Photo by John Valls

Photo by John Valls

HighLights of Clerkenwell Design Week

NUD Collection Annons

NUD Collection Annons

Here is a selection of some beautiful lamps, lampshades and chandeliers on display at Clerkenwell Design Week today. Among my favourites are lamps from the NUD Collection, Fred & Juul Raffaele, MacMaster Design, Holloways of Ludlow, Deadgood and Luminosity.

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Fred & Juul Raffaele pendant lamp

Fred & Juul Raffaele pendant lamp

MacMaster Bloom Pendant Light Natural Birch

MacMaster Bloom Pendant Light Natural Birch

MacMaster Bloom Pendant Light Natural Birch

MacMaster Bloom Pendant Light Natural Birch

Holloways of Ludlow Jielde

Holloways of Ludlow Jielde

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Holloways of Ludlow Coco Flip CDW13

Holloways of Ludlow Coco Flip CDW13

Holloways of Ludlow Augustin

Holloways of Ludlow Augustin

Deadgood EXTL Lights

Deadgood EXTL Lights

Luminosity Banksia

Luminosity Banksia

Luminosity Aperture

Luminosity Aperture

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Fred & Juul Petrona chandelier

The Wingin’ It Floor Lamp: Pianos, Nuts and Bulbs

BRC Designs features modern studio built furniture by Benjamin Rollins Caldwell made from sustainable materials. Their latest pieces include the Wingin’ It Floor Lamp .

Wingin' It Floor Lamp

Wingin’ It Floor Lamp

Inspired by the numerous defunct pianos collecting dust at second hand stores and charity shops, Caldwell sought to use these piano parts as a material for his furniture.

Wingin' It Floor Lamp close up

Wingin’ It Floor Lamp close up

After creating the Korobeinski Chair and the Hammer Chair from the piano keys and the hammers, the Wingin’ It Collection incorporates the wood planks on the back end of the piano keys.

Wingin' It Floor Lamp close up

Wingin’ It Floor Lamp close up

The Wingin’ It Floor Lamp shows how versatile lighting structures can be, instead of a conventional single bulb and lampshade, several bulbs are wrapped around the wooden structure to emit a unique lighting effect. The lamp also uses 15 energy efficient LED bulbs, altogether consuming less energy than one 70 watt incandescent bulb.

Wingin' It Floor Lamp

Wingin’ It Floor Lamp

Each plank is attached to the other using wing nuts and bolts, and dubbed the Wingin’ It Collection which refers to not only the wing nuts used in the structure of the piece, but also the haphazard manner in which the whole collection is pieced together.

Wingin' It Floor Lamp close up

Wingin’ It Floor Lamp close up