The PET Lamp Project

PET Lamp is a project that mixes the reuse of PET plastic bottles with selected traditional weaving techniques from all over the World in order to create unique handmade lampshades. This initiative was founded by the designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón after the first experience in the Colombian Amazon in 2011. It is currently produced and distributed by his studio, ACdO.


Issue

A growing quantity of plastic waste is invading every corner of the planet. In many places there aren’t adequate resources for the collection and recycling of this waste and in tropical zones this problem is accentuated in a very particular way. The tropical rains wash the PET plastic bottles into the rivers which in turn wash them out to the sea. Once there, the bottles float on the ocean currents. Despite the size of this problem no country has yet taken responsibility.

Proposal

We believe in reuse as the counterpoint to recycling.

Our starting point is the profound contradiction hidden in every PET bottle: a very short useful life compared to the time it takes for the materials from which it is made to decompose. This is without considering the energy used in its production and, when applicable, in its recycling.

Nevertheless, they are a widely used product justified by their unquestionable effectiveness, price and practicality.

Our objective is to think about the validity of the object over the long term, and to avoid it becoming obsolete after only a few minutes. The thoughtful manipulation of the bottle can enable it to re-enter the market as a coherent, functional and desirable product.


Inspiration
The starting point when it came to reimagining the PET bottle came from an analysis of the bamboo stirrer used in Japanese tea ceremonies, since both objects shared many elements: they are both made from one piece of a single material, their form is comprised of a a structural element (the knot of the bamboo) and a flat surface that can be spun. Weaving on this warp, the piece acquires and maintains its desired form.

Appraising the bottle as an industrial component, we can pick out traces of its manufacturing process. This is fortunate, as the lines where the molds meet serve as perfect horizontal and vertical references for cutting and spinning.

Design

PET bottles can have a second life, and there are numerous ways to approach this, but we decided to fuse one of the most industrially produced objects in the World with a traditional craft deeply rooted to the Earth and nature: Weaving.

The bottles are transformed from being containers for liquids into ceiling lamps: We took advantage of the bottle top and screw as a point of connection to marry the electrical components to the lamp shade. The strong neck becomes a flared structure, and the more flexible body of the bottle is now a surface on which to weave. The principle of weaving is reinterpreted and the surface of the bottle is converted into the warp through which the artisan weaves the weft.

In the same way that the tracking number printed on the bottles neck tells us of its production, where it was bottled and its destined market, the weaving created by the artisan tells us of their tradition by way of its fibres, colours and motifs.

Globalisation

One of the principal hypotheses from which the PET Lamp project emerged is the possibility to address a global issue (the waste from plastic PET bottles) with a local activity (the basket weaving tradition).

Basket making is a traditional craft worldwide that can be found in the popular folklore of every culture. This craft is often a vehicle for the transmission of knowledge, facilitating the passing on of the symbols, beliefs and rituals of the culture that creates it.

Used since the Palaeolithic Age, a precursor of pottery and earlier than the textile techniques of spinning and weaving, basket making was a response to the need for receptacles for storing and transporting food.

With the aim of materialising this concept, PET Lamp seeks to partner with cultures all over the World that possess a rich tradition of basketmaking and handicraft, so this issue can be globally combatted on a local level.

The objective of this project is not solely the creation of an attractive and desirable contemporary object, but to establish a method of work imbued with anthropological tones. The identity of each culture that has participated in the PET Lamp project is evident in every lamp. The freshness of the “Paja de Tetera” palm tree fiber and the coloured dyes used by the Eperara people belong to the festivals of the Pacific coast of the North of South America, while the thick woollen weaving of the Guambian's lamps unequivocally fit with the cold, rainy climate of the Colombian Andes. In the case of Chimbarongo and Mapuche, the sobriety of the wicker and ñocha can be related to the austere and quiet personality of the people from central Chile. Regarding Ethiopia, the robust and dense fibres used in the weaving of their baskets can be related to the harsh countryside of Ethiopia. In the case of Japan the artistic and delicate treatment of bamboo in combination with plastic has achieved exquisite finishes and designs.



Mission
Our mission is to make an attractive, desirable and contemporary object that combats the global problem of plastic waste through the work of localised and traditional weaving techniques. Our lamps are intended to be mass produced objects that harmoniously combine industrial production and artisanal techniques, resulting in a serial production of unique pieces.

At the same time, as part of our mission, we increase awareness of the plastic waste and contribute to preserving basketry tradition. We strive to use design as a tool to create a singular product that can be uniquely replicated across the Globe.


Vision

We aim to create a constant demand for our products. This enables the project to become durable and generate a real long-term social impact.

We would like to establish a new method of transparent creative design, searching for alternatives production methods, and playing with the fusion of original artisanal and industrial techniques.

Throughout this project, we aim to change designers' and artisans’ approach to plastic waste, encouraging them to consider it as an opportunity and a functional element that can be harmoniously integrated into their work. Currently, all industrial designers should bear in mind ecological problems and react to their reality in their work.

Thanks to the project’s global approach and outstanding collection of weaving traditions, we will be able to develop an ethnographic and anthropological study which enables us to innovate and improve our know-how.


Values
Sustainability: We react to the global problem of plastic waste and increase awareness by reusing PET plastic bottles and employing 100% recyclable materials.

Collaboration and humanity: We have a respectful attitude towards the artisans' talent and traditional handcrafts with the aim of preserving them throughout time.

Ethics and transparency: We are being honest with all our stakeholders,  especially with the artisans and local collaborators by carrying out fair trade practices.

Creativity and innovation: We are continuously investigating new methods of production and fusion between the original artisanal and industrial techniques. Moreover, our lamp designs are specifically created in order to respond to the different weaving techniques and natural materials employed.

Quality and product customisation: All our individual lamps and multiple installations include a wide range of custom-made components exclusively produced for us that enhance their unique personality.

Variety and globalisation: Our project has a global approach which brings together worldwide visual identities (different weaving techniques, materials, symbolism, shapes), providing customers a huge range of serialised unique lamps.

Service excellence: Having a permanent stock allows us to guarantee fast and personalised customer service which caters to every detail,  from making a customised selection of lamps for each client to adapting each package to the product characteristics and necessities.