Upcycle Final Report: Bottle it up!


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 –

  1. Hanging photo frame – For this, I would need to print photos and find a way to suspend them and provide enough light.
  2. Night lamp – I would need to find a proper bottle and secure lights inside it properly.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Assembling the lamp was another challenge. However, this was an easy solution – duct tape.
  4. 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’.
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.

Night Lamp 

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!



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19 Comments. Leave new

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  • Ryan Forsyth
    March 3, 2017 12:41 pm

    This is brilliant! What a cool idea. People have already said it, but the bottle, with its very angular edges, diffuses the light much like a diamond would. This would be a cool product to do with a one of those Kahula buddah bottles, or any strange bottle. The soft yellow light fits this aesthetic well, white light wouldn’t look as good.

  • Ethan Rejto
    March 1, 2017 2:52 pm

    This came out really well! I really like the bottle that you chose it’s unique and aesthetically pleasing by itself and even more so after you added the light to it. This looks like something you could definitely sell to bars!

  • The lamp is beautiful! The pattern in the glass diffuses the light really well. A very extensive presentation of the design process shows every step you took to make it. The section on construction challenges was very interesting. The presentation style, I think their called prezi, was pretty distracting from your speaking IMO.

  • Excellent presentation and final result! I am impressed by how you converted the wall light to a battery powered device. A row of bottle lamps would look really cool as home decor. Your project is something that I’d love to have personally as well.

  • I really like the ‘fireflies in a bottle look’. It’s soothing to look at and props on the selection of the bottle. Looks great!
    I really like your lighting choice

  • I like your presentation, using Prezi was a good choice! Your functional approach really steered the direction of the project and now you have something you can use every night. The creative destruction process is great, I’ve never seen it outlined before even though it is so widely used. The final product looks really nice, it is very cool to look at and has many uses.

  • Very classy look, you’ve definitely achieved your industrial-chic design goal. I would love to see several of these done up as area lights or even continuing with your proposal of chandelier… imagine 3 or 4 of these at different heights dangling from the kitchen ceiling over a mini-bar area. FYI it’s “duck” tape (after the hydrophobic coating of duck feathers), not “duct” tape… the tape is not meant for ducts and in fact the adhesion breaks down in thermal ventilation environments.

  • Interesting concept. I like how you identified an issue, and set out to solve it. You were very thorough in explaining your challenges and manufacturing steps. It would have been nice had you removed the label: I don’t think it adds to the aesthetic, and it would make the light brighter (no shadows).

    • Awh, I like the label! It gives it a significance beyond some random bottle, I think it’s quite classy.

    • Siddharth Nigam
      February 15, 2017 8:03 pm

      Thanks for the comment Sofi. I decided to keep the label on because I wanted it to be a little dark and dim since I use it as a night light. I was considering removing the label and might try it out but I think I am happy with the light output for now.

  • Gautham Govindarajan
    February 15, 2017 12:20 pm

    Nice idea to make a hand held night lamp. Can double as a flash light too, especially when your roommates are sleeping as you mentioned. The diffusion effect produced by the bottle looks really cool.

  • You have a very well thought out design process. Your presentation is a bit dark. Was this a choice you made to follow the aesthetics of the project? It’s interesting that you thought of several possible night lamp options and how your constraints brought you to one of those solutions. I also like how you used the best possible bottle as a constraint for the light implementation. What a great idea for repurposing old beverage bottles! I really hope you go through with pursuing this design in one of the ways you talked about and share it with the class.

    • Siddharth Nigam
      February 15, 2017 8:04 pm

      Thank you! Yeah the effect was to add to the aesthetic. I am excited to extend the project and hopefully decorate more of my living room.

  • Awesome Prezi! Always neat to see something different from PowerPoint presentations. I remember seeing your lamp with the Christmas lights, and I really like the progression to the battery powered firefly lights. Great job setting a budget and sticking to it; it can be difficult to stay within a price range on a project with such a vague and interpretive topic.

  • Alexandra Rivas
    February 15, 2017 12:18 pm

    I like that your project was a solution to a personal problem you encountered. It is also interesting that you put your own constraints on this. Its an extra challenge; good for you!
    I too LOVE the industrial chic aesthetic.
    Heres an important question: was the alcohol in the bottle good? 😉

    • Siddharth Nigam
      February 15, 2017 8:06 pm

      Thanks Alex! Yes, the alcohol was quite good! It’s a popular one in India, but unfortunately not as common here.


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