Ingo Schuppler developed a new use for coal for his Schwarzes Gold series, which sees the material ground up, combined with flour and water, and molded into a pendant shade.

“The process for developing the right consistency was long and sometimes unnerving,” he says of his epic quest.

Once fired, the material has a texture and hardness similar to wood’s.

Soaking the whole thing in water will separate the coal from the brass interior, making the product 100% recyclable.

Schuppler’s motivation was “People are looking for more than just things to buy,” he tells Co.Design. “They want meaning in their lives.”

Check out the moody making-of video to see more behind-the-scenes footage.

Check out the moody making-of video to see more behind-the-scenes footage.

Forming the clay mold.

Forming the clay mold.

The clay mold.

Grindin’ coal.

Grindin’ coal.

The flour, water, and coal mixture.

The flour, water, and coal mixture.

The material requires "less heat in the kiln than a pizza," he says.

Ingo and his creation.

Co.Design

A Lamp Made Of Coal Takes Fossil Fuels Full Circle

Schwarzes Gold, the final project of a German industrial design student, asks users to think about the energy they use in a new way while remaining sustainable and functional.

Consumers in the market for new lighting are increasingly thinking about sustainability, but oftentimes their concern—and knowledge—begins and ends with LEDs. Ingo Schuppler, an industrial product design student at the Coburg University of Applied Science in Germany, wanted to develop a more holistic, cradle-to-cradle approach to responsible design. "People are looking for more than just things to buy," Schuppler tells Co.Design. "They want meaning in their lives."

He developed Schwarzes ("black") Gold as part of his final university project, to expand awareness beyond simply screwing in an energy-saving bulb. Developing a thought-provoking material was Schuppler’s main consideration; he wanted something durable yet refined, symbolic but fully functional, and decided to come up with a brand-new use for coal—by grinding it down, mixing it with flour and water, and making it part of the fixture itself.

"The process for developing the right consistency was long and sometimes unnerving," he says, but the unique result is a composite comparable to wood with regards to firmness (check out the video for a beautiful, moody behind-the-scenes) that requires "less heat in the kiln than a pizza." And while soaking the whole thing in water would separate the coal from the brass interior—making the product 100% recyclable—it won’t scuff, stain, or scratch, and it will still stand up to a little light cleaning. Plus, the form is a consistent reminder to be judicious with electricity usage: with great power comes great responsibility.

Due to popular demand, Schuppler is expanding production to a larger scale and plans to ready the lamp for retail by this summer.

(h/t The Method Case)

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