The first time I heard about the opportunity to upcycle something in class, I was ambivalent. Google defines upcycling as reusing something for an end product with a higher value. To my mind that is conditioned to think in terms of engineering, my mind starting think of machines and how small elements come together to create something functional. However, the part that said to use discarded objects threw me off. That required creative thinking. Knowing that my artistic and creative skills have always been suppressed in favor for practicality and pragmatism, I was a little skeptical of my ability at first. But I was really excited because it was the first opportunity in a while to think creatively.
As an avid packrat, the thought of reusing something into a functional and/or artistic object was really enticing. But as an engineering student who is often told to confine with the constraints and think from a purely solution oriented approach, it was a little daunting. I wanted to have a good blend of form, function, and design. I wanted something that would serve a practical purpose and also be aesthetically pleasing.
My inspiration was to answer three simple questions. What do I want? What materials do I have? How can I employ an aesthetic to it? Trying to explore the answer to these helped me realize that I wanted something for my room. Looking at the materials, I was able to narrow that something into three feasible objects.
The process was one part that I felt comfortable with. As an engineering student, I knew that if I wanted a good product, I would need to iterate. And I did just that.
I tried to brainstorm some ideas but I knew it had to revolve around my collection of empty glass bottles. I try to collect one of each kind, and so I have a pretty decent collection, but I wanted to take it one step further.
I also had a small string light that I had got for Christmas and was not using anymore. So I narrowed it down to three objects –
- Hanging photo frame – For this, I would need to print photos and find a way to suspend them and provide enough light.
- Night lamp – I would need to find a proper bottle and secure lights inside it properly.
- Chandelier – Through Pinterest and Alexandra Rivas’ recommendation, another idea was to create a chandelier. The challenge with that would be finding a way to suspend all the bottles in a structurally sound manner. Bringing it to class would also be pretty challenging.
I finally selected the night lamp idea because I thought it was a good outlet for my practical and artistic sides to work in tandem. There were a few challenges though.
- The bottles I had were either too translucent or too opaque and it was hard to find the balance. I wanted to employ an industrial chic aesthetic. Finally, I found the right bottle that diffused just the right amount of light.
- I also set a limit for the cost of this project. Since the main idea was to reuse old and discarded materials, I set the limit to $10.
- Assembling the lamp was another challenge. However, this was an easy solution – duct tape.
- Finally, the bottle didn’t have a twist off cap, it had some sort of a weird contraption to allow controlled outpour of the beverage. So, the creative destroyer within me awoke and used a plier, my teeth, a knife, and a screw driver to clear enough way near the neck of the bottle for the lights. I call that process, ‘Creative Destruction’.
Once I had addressed all the challenges, I set out to finish the product and make sure it met my goals.
Functional and Aesthetic Goals
I wanted something that would allow me to express myself artistically while also allowing me to channel the functional inclination of my design process. Through the night lamp out of old beverage bottles and Christmas lights, I was able to create something that is functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Conclusion and Future Plans
I want to try and add to the lamp. I can create a wall light structure for my living room to improve the mini bar decor by putting lights into the empty bottles.
Overall, I was pleased with my attempt and I think this got me thinking in the right track for the final project. I am excited to build on this and I cannot wait for the next project!