When designer and engineer Sean Kim tore the fabric of his Akari lamp, he saw an opportunity. Instead of throwing away its remaining hardware, Kim decided to use the resources at his disposal to create a new lampshade. As a student at Pratt Institute, he was using a wide variety of machines and software to design products. He used a parametric design assignment in Henry Yoo's "Digital Ideation" course to experiment with making a shade to his own specifications.
"After fixing the lamp, I thought it was a shame to not do something else with the form, having spent so much time on it," Kim said, "so I developed my own base and sourced lighting hardware as well."
Kim's final product was the Wavy Lamp, a uniquely future-forward spin on classic home décor. This fluid, jellyfish-inspired design emits a warm glow with an aesthetic that's both minimalist and experimental. While it retains the papery look of an Akari lamp, both the curvy, asterisk-shaped shade and its base are 3D-printed from heat-resistant corn plastic. This results in a robust product that's not only durable, but sustainable. Kim uses additive manufacturing for extremely low waste construction, and almost all of the lamp is compostable.
While it started as a sustainable answer to a personal problem, Kim was inspired to sell a few lamps after receiving positive responses to his design process posts on social media.
"I sold five very quickly to friends and family, and decided (somewhat on a whim) to try to post a small Instagram ad to see if a stranger would be interested," he said over email. "It quickly accelerated from there."
Kim has produced over 1000 units since, and the Wavy Lamp has appeared in write-ups by Elle Décor, GQ, The Strategist, and Sight Unseen. Thanks to the design's portability, it's been relatively easy for Kim to set up new machines and keep up with the growing demand. He hopes that the success of his fast-moving studio challenges assumptions about the sustainability of at-scale manufacturing.
"My goal, as a designer, is to enable a wider accessibility to 'designed objects' while staying small," Kim said. "We are making use of 3D printing to create molds that would be very difficult to produce traditionally. I think this combination of craft and digital technology has some interesting possibilities, which I have been trying to explore in greater depth."
The Wavy Lamp's eclectic, high-quality design and innovative processes make the product a resounding success. This attractive object proves that with the right tools, independent creators can make high-quality, sustainable products.