Upcycle Final Report: Water Bottle Lighting


I wanted to get real use out of the artifact I made for this class, so I deliberated for a while on what I could make that I would use daily. Unfortunately, my apartment came with no overhead lighting fixtures, so the only light in my room comes from a lamp in the corner of my room; I decided to remedy this by making an overhead light. My roommate collected ~50 plastic bottles for a recycling project that never actually happened, so my main material was clear.


  • 40 Plastic bottles
  •  Utility knife
  • Hot glue gun
  •  4 Glue sticks
  • Needle & thread
  • Lightbulb
  •  Lightbulb to wall socket adapter

Design Process

I originally formulated the following design, where I would form rings with the whole bottles and stack them on top of each other, forming a cylinder. After some testing, I realized that this would make the fixture very large while leaving very little room for a lightbulb at the center.

It was at this point that I browsed the internet for other people who have made overhead lighting out of plastic bottles, and came upon the following design(link) where an artist made a chandelier out of a semicircle of the bottoms of plastic bottles,

I liked the way that the bottoms of the bottles looked when grouped together like that, so I decided to make a sphere out of the bottoms of the bottles I had.


I intended to make a fashionable lighting fixture that would emit the right amount of light for my room. I intended to make a perfect sphere, and endeavored to make a fixture that could be used in a trendy industrial-chic restaurant.


I started by cutting the bottom 2 inches or so off of each of my bottles.

I initially planed on making strips of these bottle bottoms and then combining the strips, but I realized that I need each bottle bottom to flex in two different directions to form a sphere, so I ended up gluing each piece on one by one, trying my best to form them into a sphere as I went.

I left a portion at the top of the sphere open so that the lightbulb could be changed, and considered for a while how exactly to secure the covering to the lightbulb. Since the enclosure was quite light, I decided to have it hang from the lightbulb with thread. I came up with a design where two sets of parallel threads would each be criss-crossed over one another to form a secure hold on the light bulb socket.

Final Product

The final product didn’t come out exactly how I wanted, but ultimately I still think that it is quite interesting visually.

It is somewhat oblong, some of the bottle bottoms stick out more than others, and it doesn’t occlude very much light. However, the bottles still form an interesting “bubble” effect that I quite like to look at, and I learned a lot about working with thin plastic and hot glue.

Looking Forward

Time permitting, I may redo this project from the beginning. If I did, I would glue 2 half spheres using a basketball as a framework for each, and then glue the two halves together. I would also probably spray paint or sandblast the bottle bottoms so that they don’t let through quite so much light.

Presentation Video

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9 Comments. Leave new

  • Rhys,
    I liked the use of simplistic slides that relied heavily on images.
    I also enjoyed that your project was created to fill a functional need.
    Statement of meaning:
    I like how you created a project to fill a functional need.
    Have you considered using a lightbulb that puts off less intense light such as an Edison bulb?

  • I have a similar problem with my room. The only light if a tiny bulb in my closet, so the idea of improvising your own light is interesting. It seems like if you were to iterate on your project you’ll have a much more polished result.

  • Justin Engbrecht
    February 19, 2020 11:42 am

    I like the “crystalline” nature and translucence achieved with the current arrangement of unaltered plastic bottles. Do you anticipate that adding an opaque finish will result in this “crystalline” visual effect being lost?

  • Isabella Colosimo
    February 19, 2020 11:42 am

    – Would you ever paint it to refract different color light?
    – Where did you get the light bulb adapter?
    – Did you notice weird defractions from the water bottles?
    – Could you use an older light bulb to get a more yellow color?
    – I like the freehand shape actually

  • As someone who also spent a good amount of time hot gluing materials into a somewhat circular shape, I appreciate the challenge that you faced when manufacturing your final product. I think that the shape, while not 100% what you were going for, is actually really interesting. To me, it looks like a cloud in its asymmetric form.
    Would you consider using colored bottles in a second attempt, such as a 7Up bottle which is green?

  • Do you think you will continue to display this in your room? Would you ever consider adding different colors? Or making more of different colors?

  • Davis Robertson
    February 19, 2020 11:39 am

    I really like your method of connecting the fixture to the light bulb. I think maybe it would have been more usable if you had used some sort of diffuser on the inside of the bottles. Did you consider using a mold to build around, to ensure that the piece maintains a consistent spherical shape? I like that you chose to do you project based on satisfying a functional need that you had.

  • Miles Radakovitz
    February 19, 2020 11:38 am

    Do you think if you remake this that you would incorporate colored bottled?
    I really like that you were able to create a functional object for this project.

  • Benjamin Robles
    February 16, 2020 8:44 pm

    In-depth critique by Benjamin Robles:

    Hey Rhys, great work! I am going to do the in-depth critique following more or less the critique process used in our presentations.

    1. Statements of Meaning: I personally really liked your project as my project also involved making a light source and I enjoy lamps. I like how you took plastic bottles as your primary material. I recently watched the documentary on Netflix called “A Plastic Ocean” and plastic is a huge problem in the ocean. So I love that you found a unique way to take all of these plastic water bottles that would have ended up in the ocean and you gave them a new purpose in life. I also think you method of attaching the light bulb to the water bottle bottoms is very clever and minimalist, and it totally works!

    2. Artist as Questioner: Here is where you would ask me a question. If you do, I will be sure to reply.

    3. Neutral Questions: You said you had 40 water bottles to your disposal, and it doesn’t seem from the pictures that you used all of them. What was the decision behind using the amount that you did? Also, what is the particular aesthetic you were going for?

    4. Permission Opinions: Here, I am going to assume permission but won’t be harsh about it haha! I think that this is very well executed as far as planning and telling the story in your post, but I was unclear of your chosen aesthetic, so I would make it more clear. Also, I particularly didn’t like how “white” the light source was, and how transparent the bottles were. But, you did address this in your going forward section. Overall, loved your project!



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