In 2010, Plumen set out to create the world’s first designer low energy light bulb. They believe that the best way to encourage people to adopt low energy light bulbs is to make them beautiful. When the team set out to design their second product, the Plumen 002, they took a radically different approach. To help them make it, they solicited the help of talented neon artist Tony Greer to further explore the medium of glass and better understand how they could shape it.
The team was also deeply inspired by artist Barbara Hepworth and her sensual sculptures. The result is a product that lives up to the symbolism of inspiration traditionally held by light bulbs. Whether it’s energy efficient (which it is) or not, the sculptural transforms the tired notion of a naked bulb on a cord. It’s inspiring but also emblematic of the power of design to encourage change: it just looks so damned good you want to use it. And more than just a pretty face, its good looks are helping create to a healthier planet.
Retelling the Journey
The creative process is just that, a process— the final product is only the finale in a longer story arc. We wanted to give Plumen the opporunity to share that process. Below is their recount of the journey.
Our first bulb design, the Plumen 001, is world’s first designer low energy light bulb. We launched it in 2010, and shortly after, we started working on the concept for the Plumen 002. We realized just how broad the scope is for creating ‘low energy designer light bulbs’ and we were really excited to get back to the drawing board.
We started investigating glass-blowing and were very eager to find out if this process could be applied to energy saving light bulb production. This new approach had not yet been used for CFLs, but we were confident it was possible. We took advice from Texan neon artist Tony Greer, who explores light in his illuminated and animated blown-glass forms.
We finally settled on the idea of blowing the glass tube, to give us the freedom to create a much more fluid and sensual shape. We worked closely with French designer Bertrand Clerc to develop the form and he was not short of ideas! This photo is a just a snapshot of a few early sketches out of hundreds. This was still two years away from the launch…
Our main source of inspiration came from the work of British sculptors, in particular Barbara Hepworth. Her work consists of very basic forms but engender an incredible, sensual complexity. By sculpting the bulb, we wanted to capture this sense of infinite, richness and subtlety that emanates from her sculptures.
Like our existing bulbs, it [the Plumen 002] was designed to be an interesting object whether turned on or not. Off, it’s a discrete yet dynamic sculpture, where clear geometry resonates within the space it inhabits. On, the object metamorphoses into an intriguing light source, as different light textures and intensity play within the glass envelope.
The Plumen 002 made its big entrance at the London Design Festival last year, in the Glowing Oak installation that involved a real oak tree, laced with Plumen. Since then, it has picked up the coveted Best Sustainable Design in the Elle Decoration British Design Award and has been displayed in the Design Museum Tank in a striking Light Wave installation that used 96 bulbs.