PET Lamp: Ten Years of Weaving Stories
Álvaro Catalán de Ocón celebrates 10 years of the PET Lamp at El Matadero, a former slaughterhouse turned cultural centre in Madrid. The exhibition was one of the main opening events of the 6th edition of the Madrid Design Festival 2023.
When Álvaro Catalán de Ocón launched the PET Lamp in 2012, it was an instant success both commercially and critically. The multicoloured, woven hanging lamps, made with used plastic PET bottles as their primary material and structural support captivated the design world with their bright colours and beautiful basket weaving patterns that reflected the history of the makers and the land where they were made. For the first collection, Catalán de Ocón went to Cauca in Colombia, and with the assistance of Artesanías de Colombia, the team collaborated with two indigenous communities: The Eperara-Siapidara, and Guambianos. These lamps were exhibited in Rossana Orlandi Gallery in Milano. Today, there are eight collections in place with ongoing collaborations in Ghana, Chile, Ethiopia, Australia, Thailand and Japan, each with an impactful story that unfolds among the distinctive weaving patterns. Each collection of lamps is meant to be ongoing. Rather than expanding into new regions with new products, for now, the mission is to maintain a consistency with regular orders, giving a stable income and structure, while also supporting and encouraging traditional techniques and craftsmanship.
The inspiration behind the original series of PET lamps came from the form of a Japanese tea whisk. Catalán de Ocón liked the way that the whisk was from a single material and in one piece, and the vertical slats could be used as a warp. This is the design objective of the PET lamp, which is still in place. Strands are cut vertically from the base of the PET bottle and these become the warp. Indigenous materials, such as straw, bamboo wicker or palm leaves, among others, are then used to make the weaving patterns, such as the hexagonal plaiting from Thailand inspired by the pikul flower, the wicker plaiting from Chile or the coiled style of weaving from Ethiopia.
At El Matadero, dozens of lamps from each collection were hung throughout the large industrial space. It was an immersive installation, inviting viewers to wander amongst the colourful lamps and photographs that feature some of the weavers or the location where they were made. Vitrines presented more images and archives about the process and experience. It was an informative exhibition as much as visual treat, and offered a unique opportunity to better understand this comprehensive project.
PET Lamp: Ten Years of Weaving Stories was on view at El Materdero Cultural Centre from February 15, 2023 – February 26, 2023.