First, I need to introduce you to two uber-creative people. Andrew Wagner stands tall in the world of DIY and crafting as the current director of Krrb, founding editor-in-chief of Dwell, and former head honcho for American Craft magazine and ReadyMade. Jen Turner is an award-winning architect and designer who regularly contributes to Dwell and Lucky and whose projects have graced the cover of ReadyMade. With such an unreal track record you know when they team up they’ll develop something eye-popping!
Andrew chronicles their latest team-up in his New York Times column “What You Make of It.” Inspired by The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum’s show “Found” they designed a Noguchi style pendant lamp from bicycle rims. You can make your own by following their tutorial on The New York Times website.
The dynamic duo led a “Trash to Treasure” workshop, and I was fortunate enough to be invited to learn firsthand.
Andrew and Jen's Noguchi Inspired Pendant Light
Bicycle rims come in tons of different sizes. Andrew had to collect a bunch. He removed the spokes from all of them before the workshop. It’s the most difficult part of the project. Thanks, Andrew! He and Jen explain how the pendant lights could be customized just by stringing the rims with different patterns.
Besides two bicycle rims, tools and materials include a pendant light kit, cord grip, screw, washers, nut, about a yard of ripstop nylon fabric, ribbon, one light bulb, clamps, screwdriver, tailor’s chalk, binder clips, and double-sided tape. I made a few modifications so my materials list is a little different. I’ll get to that later in this post.
Andrew demonstrates how to string the rims together in a lateral pattern to mimic the bamboo ribbing of Noguchi’s Akari lights. The light doesn’t have to be perfectly spherical. Andrew slightly flattens the rims to a rectangular shape. Jen uses the binder clips to position a sheet of fabric before tracing the shape of the light onto the fabric. She then cuts the fabric to size.
Jen and Andrew line the outside of the bicycle rims with double-sided tape, before laying the nylon fabric on the light and adhering it to the rims. Just finish the four sides with fabric and tape, install the wiring, and you’re done!
My Boole Bicycle Rim Pendant Light
Their bicycle rim pendant light is so versatile that I couldn’t help but do my take on it. I’m naming my rendition the “Boole” pendant lamp after the creator of string geometry, Mary Boole. My version generally follows Andrew and Jen’s tutorial with some important modifications. I did not cover my light with fabric, because I wanted to showcase the intersecting string patterns. It's all about the pattern of the lacing.
You won’t need fabric, tape, binder clips, or tailor’s chalk. You will need a 1 1/4″ long lamp nipple with 1/8 IPS threading, a 1″ long coupling with 1/8 IPS threading, a 1/8 is lamp nut, two 1/8 IPS lock washers, and 1/8 IPS strain relief cord grip. You can get lamp parts online or at your local lighting store. You’ll also need a drill and step drill bit or drill bits of various sizes.
Find the largest holes in both rims. If the holes are too small for the lamp nipple to fit through, enlarge the holes with a drill. Start with a drill bit that’s just a little bigger than the hole. Increase the drill bit size gradually until the hole is big enough for the lamp nipple.
Screw the lamp nut on the lamp nipple. Slip the lock washer onto the lamp nipple on top of the lamp nut. Align the two largest holes in the bicycle rims. Insert the lamp nipple from the bottom through the top hole. Slip the second lock washer on the lamp nipple and then screw on the coupling. Finally, screw the cord grip into the coupling. The bicycle rims are securely anchored together, and you’ve got a channel for your wiring. Now you’re ready to start lacing.
The pattern curve stitch wraps around the entire inner circumference of both bicycle rims. Each chord stretches the length of a little more than a quarter of the circumference. The closer the chord length is to the diameter of the rim, the wider the curve stitch pattern will be. Wrap the entire rim until you get back to the beginning. Tie the two ends together with an overhand knot. String the curve stitch on the second rim.
Since the pendant light isn’t covered in fabric, I finished it off with a silver bowl light bulb.
Thanks to Krrb for the invite, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum for hosting the workshop, and Andrew Wagner and Jen Turner for originating such a cool upcycling project.