Having spent a day in central Bristol at bike cafes called Roll for the Soul and Mud Dock, I have finally decided to make lights out of old bicycle parts. It’s a shame that more isn’t done with the good quality metal frames and hard-wearing parts once they are no longer wanted for bicycles. There is a clear presence of a thriving bike culture and enthusiasts seem to have money to spend. Looking at the pricing of kit/jerseys, accessories for sale and cycling equipment for every budget, I believe there is demand for cycling-themed interiors. I spoke to mechanics and staff at both cafes and was delighted to hear their thoughts on reappropriating parts from bikes to make lights. Many said they have noticed an increased interest in decorating the home with fun-looking functional accessories and objects, e.g. placemats made out of welded bicycle chains and clocks using gear cassettes/cogs. While much can be made out of this durable waste metal commercially, it is largely “hit and miss and there’s a tonne of crap on sites like Etsy“. One said “as a keen cyclist, presents with a bike theme are always a winner”.
Apparently, inner tubes are regularly collected by local artists and teachers for use in the studio and classroom but gear cassettes, wheels and chains much less so because they’re filthy and less accessible. In the photo below, there’s a funny mix of found and made light shades, one using wheel rims and rubber tubing and another just out of shot is a bike helmet with a lightbulb where the head would be.
Lighting feels right to me for several reasons. It’s a comfortable merging of my dream job as a 9-year old to work in a light shop and my current interests in cycling and waste management. It has an industrial aesthetic I can really work with and I also think I can add enough value to the discarded material and charge for transforming it into a viable commercial product. There’s lots to learn about working the metals and wiring as well as plenty of exciting contextual research to dig into, not to mention waste and general material reuse.
As I’ve found colour can be quite hard to incorporate without looking tacky, I’ve decided to pursue ideas based on structure, form and line. My experiments using wheel spokes and overlapping segments seem to hold greater potential than I’ve yet discovered. I must now sketch these out in Rhino (3D computer modelling software) and play with multiple light cages and so on. I’ve also settled on a preference for off-setting and using asymmetry to draw the eye towards the differences in shape and size.
The visiting tutor this week was Erin Deighton, who filled me in on some fascinating uses of light in previous times. It was the Georgians who really enhanced light indoors by gilding door handles, plates and tableware for entirely practical reasons so they could be seen more easily by candlelight. Since the electrification of buildings and widespread use of glasses/contact lenses/eye surgery, we have lost the most fundamental need to connect objects with the spaces they inhabit.
Modern lighting means more than just the fitting itself and includes ambient light and users’ interaction with the setting. Erin pointed me in the direction of an excellent competition called ‘Delight in Light‘. In 2015, 100% Design and the LIA (Lighting Industry Association) put together a comprehensive brief for students to come up with innovative and well-thought through designs that also considered the use of sustainable materials and bulbs; safety for the user; effect of lighting on ‘mood’ in a space and aesthetics when switched on and off. The criteria was really informative to read and showed me a number of considerations I hadn’t thought of, and probably wouldn’t have realised until quite late.
Inner tubes, reflectors, wheel rims, spokes, chains, cogs/disc brakes…. I’ve been enjoying playing with so many kinds of bike waste that I haven’t given much time to analysing the work I have made or ways it can be improved. This is not good practice and means I have a backlog of work waiting to be scrutinised from a lighting perspective and refined. Any new ideas and variations I’d like to try are all put on hold until I can get a better grip on what I’ve already got and understand why it works or doesn’t.
In the meantime, I’m making a note of more ideas to try out soon:
- tessellating forms and building in movement
- must employ more sketch modelling with wire to see how ideas might work/fail on a bigger scale, with repeats
Achille Castiglioni – great use of found materials and developing the right finish to reference them. Work about elegance and efficiency
Bruno Munari – applying creative design thinking to all kinds of objects and processes
Thomas Heatherwick and his studies in materials, tessellating forms/repeats
Delight in Light brief – what’s light really about? http://delightinlight.org/get-involved/