Designed to Make: Rolling Light

A Journey into Product Design with Marcelo Cominguez

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Marcelo Cominguez is an artist, designer, and collector of old things he can’t throw away… because what if they could be reused? Inside his dusty garage live treasured items that have outlived their moment. They may not look like much to someone glancing in, but to him, they are filled with potential and waiting for new life.

His latest design is this sexy rolling lamp, made with old motorcycle chain and some shabby wood blinds. I would buy this off Restoration Hardware in a heartbeat, but he just put it together because he’s creative like that. And since he’s a nice person, he very kindly led me into his head and shared his design process from idea to illuminated product.

The Design

Me: Hi Marcelo, have I told you how much I love your light? The combination of your materials and how they work together are unique and brilliant. How did you come up with this design?

Marcelo: Yes, you’ve mentioned it, thank you.

First of all, I love nature, and I hate to generate garbage. I do not at all like throwing away things that can be reused. In my garage are lots of things covered with spiderwebs. I had an old Gilera motorcycle that I can’t ride anymore because of a back injury. Well, I could, but the doctor said no. So this is the chain I used.

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And these old blinds were sitting by the window. I didn’t know the real type of wood until I brushed and sanded them. You can see the dust.

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Me: The materials have potential. How much of an image of the Rolling Light did you have in mind before you started sketching the design? Did you know how it would look, based on your materials?

Marcelo: No, not at all. I usually think of designs I would like to do, and then I think in objects that I could reuse. The idea was born while watching a reflector like those used in film scenes. They control the amount and direction of the light with the side panels.

I began to think about making a light composed only of these panels, using the new LED technology. I could design a reflector composed entirely of those panels with an LED strip attached to one side.

Then I thought about how many panels I’d need to have them work — not only as a reflective support of the light source, but also as a structure. I decided it should be a hexagon. In this way, one could make the lamp take different forms. It would give many options for transformation and provide a solid structure.

In the theme of cinema, the lamp could be easily transported, and it would be very simple to hide behind a ledge or a piece of furniture to illuminate particular points in a scene, given its versatility to take different forms.

At that moment I began to make the first sketches in Concepts.

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As I sketched, I discovered:

  • it could be used vertically or horizontally.
  • it had different balanced positions to stand in.
  • the light differed depending on how it was positioned.
  • its real, 3D shape.
  • the proportions and relationship between parts.

At first, I thought I should disconnect the chain and use it as a joint or hinge between panels. Then as I sketched my ideas, I saw I could use the chain to edge the whole light. I also decided the size could vary depending on where I wanted it and what I wanted it to do. I used some of the predefined objects to think in scales, like the human.

Then I went out to my garage and looked for materials I could recycle to make this concept happen. The old chains of my motorcycle would make the hinges, and the disused blinds would be the structure that gave it strength and form.

I did another sketch in Concepts. With this sketch, I defined in more detail how it would work.

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The basic hexagonal form was what gave it the name Rolling Light. I imagined an animation where the lamp walked like a worm or an armadillo, and then rolled up.

The Construction

Me: What was involved in building the light?

Marcelo: First, I had to clean and disassemble the chain.

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I had to remove some of the bolts because I needed to use the holes they occupied to screw the chain to the wood. To remove the bolts was not easy, I used the spinning stone, hammer and punch.

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Next, I had to clean and condition the slats. I used a machine to sand them and discovered I would not paint but simply varnish them. The coloration the manufacturer had given the blind hid a beautiful beta underneath.

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All that was left was to cut the slats to the intended size to be able to assemble the lamp.

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I screwed the chain to the wood in the required places, and it grew into its shape.

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To assemble the LED panel, I bought a self-adhesive strip of LEDs and the appropriate power convertor. I cut the strip into 4 parts of 12 leds each, and welded them together as a series. I thought 48 LEDS should generate sufficient light. I glued them to the wood of one panel.

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The Product

Me: As its creator, how do you feel about your light now that it’s finished?

Marcelo: I am satisfied with the result. This lamp is useful to give character to an environment and fulfills a decorative function.

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At the same time, turning this concept into an actual light helped me to discover what things I would change to make it 100% functional to the idea I’d originally thought. The next light may be bigger. I might make it brighter with a set of more powerful LEDs. I may use other materials. Always, there is room to grow and refine.

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I love the design process. This idea arose through a trigger. I imagined and previewed what the idea could become through Concepts. And then I became one with my hands and built the idea. Think, design, then materialize — I love this.

Huge thanks to Marcelo Cominguez for sharing his design story. For more of his work, enjoy his portfolio.

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Interview by Erica Christensen — Director of Community at TopHatch

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