Earlier this year, we featured the Plumen 002 bulb, another dynamite design from British company Hulger that completely changes the game of the light bulb industry. Long gone are the days of the typical boring bulbs, with bulbs becoming just as stylish as the lamps they light up. Have you ever really sat down to think about what goes into creating a light bulb? I know I hadn’t, so getting just a taste of the extensive design process is pretty mind-blowing. Take a look at the years of research and development it took to launch their latest sculptural bulb, the Plumen 002, in this month’s Deconstruction, as told to us by Nicolas Roope, Co-founder and Creative Director at Plumen.
The design process for the 002 started in 2010 after the launch of the Plumen 001. We were really happy with our first bulb, but over the three-year development process, we’d realized how many potential routes we could take with a “designer low energy light bulb”. Our approach is pretty balanced between the design and engineering foci. We like an idea, do some research into its ‘doability’ and then get back together and map it out. We probably threw out twenty design ideas before we arrived at the 002 concept. We fell in love with the 002 idea and as we delved into the engineering research we kept on getting yesses rather than nos and so, four years later, a finished design emerged.
We started investigating the glass blowing process early in 2012. We took advice from Texan Neon artist Tony Greer, who creates flowing and enigmatic illuminated blown-glass forms. We commissioned Tony to make all kinds of different blown glass elements, coat them, fill them with gas and then send them over to us in London. We’d excitedly (and carefully) unpack them when they arrived, wait for darkness and then plug them in and sit back and watch. When you move away from a uniform chamber (like the tube of the 001) it’s very hard to predict what is going to happen. So you need to test and iterate, test and iterate, and step slowly towards something really pleasing. Tony’s “test tubes” showed the effect on luminosity, light color and texture.
We settled on the idea of blowing the glass tube, like a bottle, to make a much more fluid and sensual form, whilst still completing the loop. As you can see from just a few sketch examples (taken from hundreds) there’s no shortage of variations. As a trained sculptor, I found it really fascinating seeing how nuanced changes to the form completely changed the effect. It’s a real thrill feeling around in the dark for something and then you find something that grabs you and just works. I really looked forward to our regular meetings with Bertrand Clerc when we’d review everything and then start pushing things this way and that.
The process hadn’t been used for CFL production before which created a lot of delays as various parts of the production process needed to be established in preparation for mass production. It’s painfully slow!
The work of Barbara Hepworth came naturally as an inspiration – Bertrand Clerc and I both having backgrounds in sculpting.
Her work concentrates on very basic forms that hold incredible depth and intensity. Hepworth manipulates the forms with incredible subtlety, using interplay between positive and negative space to create strong dynamics.
Sculpture communicates an immediate sense of life – you can feel the pulse of it. It is perceived, above all, by the sense of touch, which is our earliest sensation; and touch gives us a sense of living contact and security. […] That has nothing to do with the question of perfection, or harmony, or purity, or escapism. It lies far deeper; it is the primitive instinct, which allows man to live fully with all his perceptions active and alert, and in the calm acceptance of the balance of life and death. In its insistence on elementary values, sculpture is perhaps more important today than before because life’s continuity is threatened and this has given us a sense of unbalance.
With the freedom to create any three-dimensional form with our new glass blowing process, we wanted our bulb to capture the sense of the infinite and the richness and complexity present in Hepworth’s sculptures.
The 002 design has a clear geometry that makes it resonate with the usually square and oblong spaces that it will most commonly inhabit. You forget that most bulbs are completely spherical and symmetrical. The 002s create directional fields within a space, which we’re really looking forward to seeing examples of as people start picking them up and finding interesting ways to apply them.
They work beautifully in series, either neat and regimented or loose and organic and the low brightness means the cozy intimate light requires no shading.
Not only will the Plumen 002 draw far less energy than conventional bulbs, (especially the energy hungry Edison style), they will also require replacing far less often too, making them the more cost effective over their lifetime.