This Zip Tie Lamp was a real joy and pain to create. It was a joy, because I was so pleased with the outcome, but wrestling this form as it came together proved to be physically challenging.
In 2012, I got to see an art installation by the folks at Swissnex that really changed the way I looked at such a common material like the Zip tie. I was empowered that it could be used as an architectural or design material, and began exploring form generation with thousands of red zip ties.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
For this project, I used:
- about 1200 red 8" Zip ties
- Red Spray Paint
- Lamp Cord
- Quickfit Plug
- Quickfit Switch
- Candelabra Sockets
- Candelabra Bulbs
- some electrical tape
- Some Plywood
- my hands
- Seam Ripper, for prying mistakes apart
- a lighter - I should have used a heat gun, but I didn't have one
Step 2: The Ring.
For this project, I drew a lot of inspiration from crafts that I knew how to do well - in this case, it was crochet.
I learned how to crochet when I was a kid and became super fast at making hats, and had a go-to pattern memorized. It was basically a mathematical increase to a ring. I knew that if I 'crocheted' with zip ties, or applied this principle, I would be able to generate a form that could grow and expand and stretch like a textile.
Based on the way a crochet expansion works, I tackled this Ziptie lamp.
I started by making a ring of 8 zipties.
Step 3: Early Stages: Joining Rings of Zipties
Then I made another ring of 8 zipties, and joined those two rings of 8 zipties together with..... you guessed it! 8 more zipties!
This carries on for a while. I think I made about 10-12 rings of 8 zipties before I began expanding to...
Step 4: Rings of 12!
Just like in a crochet pattern for a hat, I began to expand the number of 'stitches', or in the case zip ties, that went around the outer diameter, so that the shape would become expandable.
I added an extra zip tie every 4 zip ties and allowed the extra slack in the zip tie ring to remain disconnected from its bottom layer. The next ring of 12 zip ties is connected with 12 more zip ties to the ring below it.
Step 5: And Keep Going
This carries on for some time, eventually expanding to 16 zipties. I think at the end of this step i had 12 rings of 8, 12 rings of 12, and 4 rings of 16.
Step 6: The Bottom Hemisphere Is Complete.
Stare at the beauty that is this divine wobbly form. Poke it. Fuss over it.
Take a break, do some stretches, because you have to do this all again.
This really did take hours and hours, put on some Netflix, fire up an Audible book - you're gonna be at it for a while.
Step 7: Begin the Top Hemisphere
I repeated the same process as I began with the top hemisphere, but only made rings of 16, so that it would have a more cylindrical shape. I connected each ring with a ziptie, and made sure that it was 'flowing' the right direction.
Step 8: Connecting the Two Hemispheres
This part was challenging, only because it was unwieldy. I went through and connected the two hemispheres with zip-ties, and tried to match up and adjust the circumferences of both hemispheres as I joined them.
Step 9: Laser Cut the Mounting Bracket
In Illustrator, I designed a 12" circle with 8 holes to attach the zip-tie sculpture to, and 3 holes to run electrical wires through. I then cut it out with a laser cutter, and spray painted it red.
I had easy access to a laser, but this could just as easily have been made with a band saw and a drill.
Step 10: Wiring!
Connecting the lamp ballasts was easy. Working with AC power for lighting is stone simple, just connect the wires to the ballast, and seal with heat shrink.
I used a snap-quik plug and switch - making this the easiest wiring project I have ever accomplished.
Step 11: Wiring! Continued...
I put some stylish red heat-shrink around the outside of the candelabra ballasts, and then threaded the lengths of wire through the top of the mounting bracket. I spliced all the wire together, and connected it to one common junction point that would plug into the wall.
Step 12: Connect the Sculpture to the Bracket
Using zip-ties, connect the sculpture to the mounting bracket, cinching it tighter to fit the diameter of the bracket plate.
I thought I would need to double up on the connector zip-ties, but it was able to support the weight of the sculpture effortlessly.
Step 13: Plug It In, Turn It On.
Yay! It worked!
This sculpture almost went completely forgotten, but a friend saw it in a box in my studio, she decided to buy it from me. It hangs in her mid-century modern apartment and looks great in her office nook. It's a bold statement piece and needs a little bit of breathing room - her minimal apartment is a perfect home.
I would love to see how others get inspired by this material, and will offer up a 3-month pro subscription to the first 5 people that make a zip-tie sculpture and post it in the comments.