LIGHT WORK

So my new thing is lamps. Lamps are lit. Actually, I’m into plants, but it’s a whole thing and someone said recently “like, isn’t everyone into plants now? But lamps are underrated”. I think you once told me—or gushed, most likely—that you had plants. I don’t remember, but I can recognize the presence of plants by plant-shaped gaps in my memory, but I can’t remember the actual instances of plants themselves. Plants were something that I did not pay attention to at all until I was beguiled by their verdant wiles. But I think it was fated. When I was 6, my parents had given me my first disposable and I ran outside into the sunny Stanford afternoon and took, in rapid succession, 26 blurry photos of a bush; I wanted pictures of it growing.

Plants are beautiful, delicate, and mute repositories of life and they absolutely bustle. Quitely, they bustle. Sometimes I look at them and imagine how imperceptibly they are growing, with fragile inevitability. Even if I can’t see them grow, they are, without doubt, growing. They even represent sort of perceptual paradox for me: having observed them quite often, I am required to conclude that they are growing day over day, but I can never see them grow. Only when I am not looking. It fascinates me.

What’s cool about plants is that they act as a reciprocal canary-vessel for self-care. Vessel: as they bring me oxygen and joy, taking care of them benefits me, and in the time I set aside to tend to them, I am required to chill the fuck out for a second. Canary: if I don’t chill the fuck out and tend to them, they wilt, which gives me an easy visual representation of my fraying sanity. In this way they embody and promote good vibes all around, which is dope. Plus, girls love plants. Basically, plants are lit.

But plants take like fooooorever to grow and while, yes, the last paragraph is all about the mindfulness of the green goobers, didyouknowplantsgodormantinthewinterwheretheymightnotgrowatall? That’s dumb. After some careful questioning of the local college kid who staffs the overpriced ~vibey~ nursery by my house, I figured out that the dormancy of the plants is only dependent on 3 factors: heat, humidity, and light/dark cycles. It wouldn’t feel right to engage in mindfulness without a little bit of optimization, right? And that’s how I got into making lamps. Plants need light. Loads of it.

Design

So the commission for this was a rescue grow lamp for a Pothos stranded in a corner of a sterile-lit house my friends built themselves. Their house includes a lot of warm tones, light wood, and minimal design accents. Therefore the key aspects of the lamp were: minimal, modern, super-warm bright but indirect lighting (plants love bright-indirect) in the >800 lux region with a >1 foot light dispersal area.

I’ve seen a lot of halo lamps for grow lights; the circular arrangement is actually quite efficient for even light dispersal over a large area, but they always look a bit Christmas-kitch to me. I needed something to break up the IG lowest-common-denominator design and root it solidly in minimal post-modern, so I slapped some emergent complexity on the halo with easy-to-fab rectilinear slats.

Conceptual render

My major innovation in this space is using an infill-only slicing (0-wall gyroid infill support block @ 11% infill, thanks to Cura’s easy slicer interface) to create a fully solid yet translucent PLA shade.

Cura slicer preview

I paired this with the very warm-toned and very exciting fully compostable NonOlien PLA from Filamentum, printed hot (189°C) on the Ender 3 V2 (super affordable entry-tier printer, very easy to use). It came out smashingly, although at this temperature, the flow compensation and print accuracy was poor, so I had to undersize the zero-clearance interfaces by a whopping 370µm on each side. 5 hours of printing later, though, I had exactly what I had hoped for:

Test fit

The slats are 3 strips of 1×5″ poplar with the middle slat cut down to a 1.5″ relief, laminated longitudinally and then cut in 8mm strips transversely. I finished the poplar with 4 coats of Waterlox (soft wood is super thirsty) and a finish coat of semi-gloss Polycrylic, slapped some super warm high density 2700k LED strip lights in there and added a 2.1mm barrel connector for an easy 12V connection to an affordable 2A power supply (due to the 1.5m of installed LEDs). The results:

Stunning
Installed with the happy owner and happy plant—easy style!