Introduction: Zip Tie Lamp

Picture of Zip Tie Lamp

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

Picture of Materials & Tools

For this project, I used:


  • 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.

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Picture of 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...

Picture of 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

Picture of 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.

Picture of 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.

Happy zipping!


quantic.foam (author)2015-11-23

hmmm, I like it! now I'm thinking of a X-mas tree made with green zip-ties...

That would be so cool!

AnubisAndIsis (author)2015-11-22

There are three materials that are the magic of the modern day tinkerer - duct tape, velcro, and zip ties. Interesting application!

Per your comment on "prying mistakes apart" - should you ever attack a zip tie project again, there is an easier way. Take an X-Acto knife and gently slide the tip between the lock in the head of the ratchet and the locking teeth. It will slide right out, the life of one zip tie saved. :-P

BrianJewett made it! (author)2015-11-17

They can be combined well with other materials as well. Here is one of my baskets coiled with plastic tubing lashed with cable ties, both trimmed and untrimmed. The center is an old valve handle with waxed linen wrapped into the spokes.

True, I just used what I had fast access to - your project is beautiful! I love the way you started it and the way the pattern swirled outwards.

wobbler (author)2015-11-17

Awesome end result, especially as I like wobbly forms. However, I'll bet it was very cable tie-rsome to make.

BrianJewett (author)2015-11-17

An easier technique for a similar effect would be to just make loops (O's) and connect them with more loops. Instead of the plywood, you could also use the top ring from an old lampshade or even a bicycle wheel and lash your lamp wires to the spokes where you want them.

Yonatan24 (author)2015-11-15

Well that is definitely one special lamp!

From what I think I understood, Does the lamp hang from the ceiling? If yes, can you see the shadows of the zip-ties in the room that is is in, or does the light blur it out?

It might also be pretty cool to make this but in a smaller version as a reading lamp too...

audreyobscura (author)Yonatan242015-11-16

the shadows are pretty severe, when we photographed it with flashes, it overpowered a lot of the shadows that the lamp throws.

here is a gif of it installed somewhere

Greenman2 (author)2015-11-15

This would be one of the things I would want to buy instead of make. Well done.

David Catriel (author)2015-11-15

Thx for the inspiration! I've so far enjoyed working with wood and copper, and recently expanded to concrete. I think adding zip ties to the mix will be an interesting experience :)

headslant (author)2015-11-14

Wow, that looks super cool

OogieMustBoogie (author)2015-11-14

This is super wacky! I love it, I'd love to see multicolored ones

Kaustav Nandy (author)2015-11-14

well done!! :)

lgooms (author)2015-11-14

This is super cool.

Joekevdv (author)2015-11-13

So pretty! Very interesting how you used a new material in combination with the crochet technique.

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