Upcycle Design Report: Pastoral Nightlight and Dealing with Disappointment

For my upcycling project, I intended to create a piece that follows a pastoral aesthetic. This aesthetic is essentially meant to capture the feeling of springtime with softer colors and the portrayal of green fields during sunny days. My main inspiration for the palette of my piece was this photo that I found on the website depositphotos:

Cottagecore Farmcore Countrycore Aesthetics Fresh Air Countryside Slow Life Pastoral — Stock Photo, Image

In the end, I decided on creating a depiction of some grass around a wooden plank that would simulate a fencepost. On top of this, I wanted to play with lighting, so I added blue flowers that would incorporate yellow LEDs which would light up when the room the piece was in was dark enough. The thought was to create an image similar to fireflies in a grassy field. The initial drawings for this are below, where the LEDs are on or off depending on how dark the environment is.


When it came to physically making the piece, I made the mistake of not putting a lot of thought into the materials I would be using. I wanted to use green paper to make the grass, but decided to paint white paper green instead of just using green paper. This led to the paper curling in on itself while the paint was drying and sticking to the surface I was working on. I even went through the trouble of making a timelapse of me painting the paper, so this was very frustrating. I would have put this video on the post, but apparently it isn’t a supported file type on the website.

For the electronics, I wanted to make sure I was sticking with the upcycle specification of the project, so I decided that using an Arduino to control the LEDs would be cheating. Instead, I used the combination of a photoresistor board and a cheap relay to control the power to the LEDs, which worked pretty well.

The final circuit was fully battery powered. On the left side of the picture is the relay and the photoresistor board.

When I cast a shadow over the photoresistor with my hand the LEDs lit up.

The final build of the artifact looks like this:

I had to use my camera flash to turn the LEDs off since my apartment doesn’t have a ton of light, so apologies for the harsh lighting.

The LEDs are nice and bright, and I think work well with the piece. I came home from work the other night when it was dark out and saw this in my dark living room, and was pleasantly surprised.

Now it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room: the piece doesn’t look great. I am very aware of this and embarrassed to present something that looks so rough and unfinished. My primary reason for the quality of the piece is my lack of enjoyment in the process of making it. You might notice that I don’t have very many process photos/videos, and that is because I was not having fun making my piece and rushing through the steps. It didn’t help that I had made some poor decisions and decided to document those early in the process – they aren’t in this post because I was not able to get the files to work on the website for some reason.

After talking with members of my pod during my presentation, I have decided to try making this piece again so I can walk away from this project satisfied. Having learned a lot about working with these materials, I feel better about being able to make something I am happy with, and I have a clearer vision of what I want to create and how to create it. If you’re interested, stay tuned for posts about attempt #2 in the future!

Here is the video for my presentation. It went a bit longer than planned since the fourth person who was supposed to present today was absent.


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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Abigail Schefer
    March 21, 2023 8:48 pm

    I love this! Even though it deviates from your initial goals, I think your end product still communicates the aesthetic in a fun way! Did you consider any other materials for the grass element?

  • This is a very cool project! I really like the extra commitment to upcycling by not using the option of an Arduino. The curled paper actually has an interesting effect that is less uniform and gives a bit more depth, although using green paper would have probably been an easier option as there is one section that curls a bit too much, leaving gaps. Especially considering the project is composed of upcycled materials, I would say that this artifact seems to be a success. I’ll be very interested to see what you do differently the second time around!

  • HI Alex! Very interesting piece of work! While it didn’t turn out as expected but I find that it really encapsulated your aesthetic well. I fully understood what were trying to accomplish with that aspect of the project. I personally think with the materials you used, this piece looks pretty fantastic! With redoing the project, what do you plan on changing between now and then?

  • Heider Iacometti
    February 26, 2023 4:40 pm

    While your piece didn’t turn out as well as you would’ve hoped, I still think it’s pretty good. When I saw the LEDs, my first thought was “are those fireflies” and I was excited to find out that I was correct. Plus the electrical work you did was rather impressive, especially since you restricted yourself without an Arduino. When it comes to your grass, I think that its shape is just fine. Minus the blades around the edge that curl downward, I thought they looked good. If anything I would have “sharpened” them to make them more realistic but I like the chaotic curl element. I can’t wait to see attempt #2!


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