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.