Álvaro Catalán de Ocón marks the PET Lamp anniversary at the Madrid show

Spanish designer Álvaro Catalán de Ocón has created a Madrid Design Festival installation that shows the results of a decade of collaboration with artisans around the world to transform plastic bottles into woven lamps.

Exhibited at Matadero Madrid, PET Lamp: 10 Years of Weaving Stories featured designs created with local craft makers from Ghana, Ethiopia, Chile, Colombia, Thailand, Japan and Australia.

The facility presented different versions of the PET lamp

The installation included lamps in a range of shapes and sizes, showing how different regional communities each have their own unique weaving styles and traditions.

The PET Lamp project first started in 2012 and arose from a method developed by Catalán de Ocón to convert a used plastic bottle into a basket weaving loom.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
Eight versions of the PET lamp were presented

Skilled basket weavers then apply their own weaving techniques over the plastic frame, creating a woven shade for a pendant light.

“We take local bottles and cut them into strips like a loom, and then the indigenous communities of weavers intervene with their local fibers,” Catalán de Ocón told reporters.

“We create the method and then they choose the colors and patterns to apply,” said the designer.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
The first version, created with weavers from Colombia, incorporates pre-Hispanic motifs

The first version of the PET lamp, called Eperara Siapidara, emerged from a workshop of artisans in Bogotá, Colombia.

Together, they developed a design that cuts dyed “paja tetera” fibers, obtained from palm or yucca plants, around the PET plastic frame. Each lamp was different, but all incorporated pre-Hispanic motifs.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
A 2019 collaboration with weavers in Ghana produced a large twisted design

From then until 2019 – after which the pandemic made it impossible to detect new laboratories – Catalán de Ocón started a new collaboration every year.

In 2014, he collaborated with craft makers in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on a collection of lamps using a winding method, while a 2015 project in Kyoto, Japan resulted in intricate bamboo creations.

Two collections were made in Chile, following workshops in areas with distinctly different traditions, while a large dome incorporating multiple lights was made with Aboriginal makers in Ramingining, Australia.

The most recent collaboration, in Bolgatanga, Ghana, produced a large twisted pattern woven in ivory.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
The starting point for each lamp is a recycled plastic bottle

The PET Lamp has been presented in many exhibitions around the world, in galleries such as Spazio Rossana Orlandi in Milan and 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo.

For the exhibition at Matadero Madrid, the aim was not only to celebrate the different design styles that have been created over the years, but also to shine a light on the makers.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
Catalán de Ocón has made lamps with basket weavers in seven countries

Lamps from each of the eight collections hung from the ceiling along with previously unpublished photographs of the weavers.

This is in line with Catalán de Ocón’s current PET lamp strategy, which is to stop creating new partnerships and focus on maintaining existing partnerships.

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
The exhibition marked the 10th anniversary of the project

With transportation costs rising, the business has to work harder to make the business viable without price hyperinflation.

“Covid made us rethink,” Catalán de Ocón told Dezeen. “We have the B Corp seal, which certifies that we pay well, use materials responsibly and keep our carbon footprint as low as possible.”

PET Lamp exhibition at Matadero for the Madrid Design Festival
The event was part of the Madrid Design Festival

“We’ve already been to every continent,” he added. “Is it valuable to keep collecting more? Isn’t it better to focus on what we already know?”

“That’s why we decided to go back to our existing communities, to treat them the best we can.”

Other exhibitions presented as part of the Madrid Design Festival include totemic designs by Los Ánimas and playful wooden furniture by Inma Bermúdez, Moritz Krefter, Jorge Penadés and Catalán de Ocón.

PET Lamp: 10 Years of Weaving Stories was presented at Matadero Madrid from 15 to 26 February as part of the Madrid Design Festival 2023. See the Dezeen Events Guide for more architecture and design events around the world.

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