When Spanish industrial product designer Alvaro Catalán de Ocón visited Colombia in 2011, he was asked to solve a problem. “I met Hélène Le Drogou, a psychologist and activist concerned about the amount of plastic waste that contaminates the Colombian Amazon. She asked me to think about what could be done to recycle plastic PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles in the region,” he says.
Alvaro worked with Artesanías de Colombia, with support from Coca Cola, to create a workshop in Bogotá in 2012 with a group of artisans from the Cauca region of the country. His lampshade design was inspired by a traditional bamboo whisk used in Japanese tea ceremonies, the structure made from a recycled plastic bottle. The neck of each bottle becomes the head of the frame of the shade, while the sides of the bottle are cut into strips which become the warp through which the natural fibre (either palm from the coastal regions or wool from the mountains) is woven. Every lamp shade features individual fibres, colours and decorative motifs. “You can see the ancestral Colombian patterns and combinations of colours in each shade,” he recalls.