PET Lamp is a project that mixes the reuse of PET plastic bottles with selected traditional weaving techniques from different corners of 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. Currently it is produced and distributed by the edition brand of his studio, ACdO.
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 taken responsibility yet.
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 right manipulation of the bottle would allow its transformation into a coherent, functional and desireable product for the market.
The starting point regarding how to manipulate the bottles came from analysis of the bamboo stirrer from the Japanese bamboo tea ceremony since both objects had many elements in common: they are both made from a single material and made in one piece. Furthermore, regarding the form they have 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.
Analysing the bottle as an industrial piece, we can see in it traces of its maunfacturing process. Therefore, the lines where the molds meet serve as horizontal and vertical references for cutting and spinning.
PET bottles can have a second life. There are other ways to accomplish this, but we intended to fuse one of the most produced industrial objects with one of the traditional crafts most rooted to the earth.
The bottles changed from being containers for liquids into being ceiling lamps. We took advantage of the bottle top to join the electrical components to the lamp shade, the neck as the structure and the body of the bottle as 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.
One of the principal hypotheses out of which the PET Lamp project emerged is the possibility to approach a global problem (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 works as a vehicle for the transmission of knowledge which facilitates the passing on of the symbols, beliefs and rituals of the culture that developed it.
Used since the Palaeolithic, 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 materializing this concept, PET Lamp has taken a further step in this direction, by replicating the experience in new countries noted for their tradition, handcraft techniques and latticed society.
The objective of this project is not solely the obtainment of an attractive and desirable contemporary object, but also to be able to establish a method of working laden with anthropological tones. The identity of each culture that has participated in the PET Lamp project is evident in each 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 Guambians lamps unequivocally comes from 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 heavy and dense fibres used in the weaving of their baskets can be related to the harsh and rough 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.
Our mission is to make an attractive, desirable and contemporary object by taking care of a global problem as the plastic waste with local action as the use of traditional weaving techniques. Our lamps are intended to be mass produced objects with the harmonic combination of 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. Our mission is to use design as an important tool for achieving a real product and replicate the same experience in new countries.
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 creative design-always transparently- searching for alternatives of production and playing with the fusion of original artisanal and industrial techniques.
Throughout this project, we aim to change designers and artisans’ perspective about plastic waste, as they consider it an opportunity and a functional element harmoniously integrated into their workpieces. Currently, all the 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.
Sustainability: We react to a global problem as 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 and specially 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 the industrial techniques. Moreover, our lamp designs are specificly created in order to respond to the different weaving techniques and natural materials employed.
Quality and product customization: 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 globalization: Our project has a global approach which brings together world-wide visual identities (different weaving techniques, materials, symbolism, shapes), providing customers a huge range of serialised unique lamps.
Service excellence: Having a permanent great stock allows us to guarantee a fast and personalized customer service which takes care of all details, from making a customized selection of lamps for each client to adapting each packaging to the product characteristics and necessities.