Saturday, May 5, 2012

Prototype: The Moody Lamp

Ok so, a departure from the realm of chairs this time with my first lighting prototype. The idea for this came from an unusually tall lamp that reminded me of Beaker from the Muppet Show. From this it bacame apparent that personality could very much be imparted on lamps. Though this prototype is made from eh... wicker I guess, the actual product would probably be better off made of clay. Unfortunately I have no kiln in my apartment though so this is going to have to do for now.

Right... onto the making of things. Below is the initial sketch I made when I had this idea. The intention was to have the mouth cut into the ceramic and to create the eyes with 2 layers of fabric, the top having the eyes removed from it. This will not be the case with the prototype for reasons that will become apparent later.

As with most prototypes it began with gathering the materials. This involved a trip to the local hardware/gardening centre where I picked up the very odd plant pot you see in the middle here. I was interested in this mostly because of it's unusual construction method. I inadvertently found myself now with a very patriotic collection of planters adorning my window sill. The orange pot now has an out of control chive plant in it. Anyway less gardening more glue and papercuts.

Below is the reason I chose to buy this particular planter. As you can see it is made by wrapping one strip of wood around a plastic inner. This material was removed in (pretty much) one piece which required a lot of scraping, scalpeling and patience.



Huzzah! With the material removed it was time to build something new to wrap it around.

And thus returns the vast amount of heavy cardboard left over from the good folks of Ikea. I fashioned this rather rudimentary cross brace with the sides rounded off to act as a form work for the wood spiral. The thickness of the card really helped maintain the shape of the final finished object.


For rigidity and a flat base to start from I taped the cross brace to a piece of chipboard. Much stretching and twisting and a cup of coffee later I had the body of a lamp.

Then after tightening the seams and gluing the ends I tentatively removed it from the base board. I was slightly worried about this perilous operation though the sheer girth of the cardboard was enough to maintain the shape of the lamp body easily.


Next step was to make the shade for the light. This part had me stumped for a little while. Luckily I had bought some canvas for painting from an art shop only a little while back and the canvas caught my eye. While I was slightly worried that primed canvas may be too flammable for such an application I reminded myself that well... eh... basically I figured screw it. If it works it works, if not, I'll set a pot of water aside.

The frame for the shade was made out of chopsticks and some of the leftover wood spiral from the pot plant. The curved parts fought against maintaining this shape vigorously and thus the chopsticks had to be fitted very tight and glued absurdly densely. The resulting pieces are shown below.


Next the uprights for the frame, again from chopstics were added and glued up. These parts had to be held upright while drying and had a tendency to want to fall over. Though utterly frustrating the eventual result, achieved by much glue and a lot of diving off the couch to save the falling structure, was very satisfactory.

Now for the first fitting of the two pieces together. Pretty much exactly the proportions I was looking for!

And now to the canvas. The canvas was stapled to a wooden frame at the back so the first step was to remove the staples while causing as little damage to the canvas as possible.


Once removed it was time to cut the canvas to size. In a rare bit of providence the length of the canvas was precisely equal to the diameter of the lamp shade with about a centimetre overlap.


I glued the canvas at each of the three corners of the frame initially


Next with a great deal of nipping and tucking I wrapped the excess canvas over and glued it neatly around the frame with any excess material tucked away.

Next for the light bulb and workings. I bought a very cheap but rather nice little lamp in the hardware store for the purposes of cannibalism. It was a fairly cute little thing and I was rather sad to take it apart but in the name of progress alas it was to be.

Donor and recipient...

After a bit of awkward finagling and eventual release of two hidden clips the innards of the lamp were successfully removed. The base of the electrical fitting caused the light to sit up too high in the prototype so it was used to mark the inner brace for a bit of material removal. This would also help to hold the light in place a bit more firmly.


And with the groove removed the light fitting sat perfectly.

LET THERE BE LIGHT!!! It worked perfectly. The canvas also lent itself well to diffuse light and the brace structure even created some rather cool shapes underneath the lamp.

This is as far as I'm going to go with this prototype for now. I think the addition of the face elements might be slightly difficult with the wicker body of this lamp. Particularly because cutting into the body would weaken it too much. I'll probably try rebuild this in clay at some stage.

Below are some of the faces I experimented with quickly in illustrator. The triform bracing of the lamp did however give me a further idea, that is, to put 3 faces on the lamp. Perhaps a happy, sad and the inital disgruntled face from the sketch above. That way by turning the lamp you can tell people what kind of mood you're in. True mood lightling!

In other news I took another trip to the local hardware store and have gathered together material for building my first full scale prototype for this blog. More on that soon.

John O'Shea 2012

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