Orchid Lamp by Paul Olvera
Orchid is a lamp inspired by the flower buds of its namesake. My goal was to mimic the float and simple elegance of the flower's petals. Orchid contains only 10 parts including the lighting elements, no adhesives, and can be flatpacked for shipping or moving.
This project started out as a biomimicry lighting assignment I had during my first year of studying Industrial Design at DAAP in 2011 with Matt Anthony. We were to build the lamp out of yupo, which is a 100% recyclable, waterproof, tree-free synthetic paper and weren't allowed to use adhesives as a means of creating something unique that was also environmentally conscious. As the project has evolved over the years, I've held true to the core principals of that assignment.
The timing for this assignment worked out great too; I had just moved into a new apartment in Cincinnati and the lighting was terrible. I'd heard from the older students at DAAP that I'd be moving around a lot in the next 5 years, so I'd definitely need a lamp that I could bring with me as I moved.
In the very beginning, I went to the local conservatory and I spent a few hours sketching and studying orchids and other flowers. When it came time to take the sketches from 2D to 3D, I began to struggle. I quickly realized that the lamps I was sketching based off of my flower studies weren't working with the prototyping material for a variety of reasons.
So, I scrapped that idea and I started to "sketch" in 3D with the yupo. I built lots of little models and the one I moved forward with just seemed to have the most character. It had the fewest parts as a result of some folding techniques and some geometry that was deceptively complex. I remember I'd made a little model I really liked, and then I stayed up almost the entire night sculpting and refining it into the finished product.
I did the entire project without CAD.
The first thing people tend to do is a sort of double take when it turns on. When Orchid is off, it looks opaque. But when it turns on, there's a surprise element as the light begins to play off the underlying structure. I spent a lot of time that one night sculpting the way the light behaves with Orchid; the LED lightbulb creates cast shadows that run from sharp to soft across the exterior 'petals' and that's entirely based on the geometry at the pieces' intersections, and what their dieline/pattern is.
I learned that things are rarely as simple as they seem. Good things don't come easy. And that crazy stuff happens when you stay up late.
Challenges create discoveries.