German designer Ingo Schuppler has created Schwarzes Gold, a lamp made using FSC-certified charcoal and copper.

Watch the ‘making of’ video – here

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From the designer:

One material, one form – one story.

To me, a product should not attract attention through overloaded design. Instead, it’s about the thought – the idea – coupled with intelligent design, which helps bring the product into existence. The product’s final design should be about elaborating things more deeply and understanding the world around us better. In short, it’s about designing a better future.

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An example of this is the product development of “Schwarzes Gold:”

“Schwarzes Gold” does not begin with its material nor end with its form. The lamp wants to bring light into the darkness by making people think. Its story is about responsibility, conviction, and sustainable design.

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Today lamps with energy-saving light bulbs are titled as “eco-friendly.” For granted, saving energy is a fundamental principle for sustainable design, but it is only a fraction of the whole. In a time characterized by vanishing natural resources, climate change, and toxic waste, the eco-friendliness of a lamp depends on more than just its light bulb. The materials used, the production process, the packaging, and its disposal must be considered.

As a designer of the future, it is my responsibility to pay attention to all of these aspects. This is why “Schwarzes Gold” transforms words into action and calls for shifting to whole-system thinking within the industry, economy, and consumers.

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Material & Production:
During the material selection for “Schwarzes Gold,” much consideration was given to the materials’ simplicity and their compatibility with nature. The black lampshade is made out of 100% natural materials. The binding agent consisting of flour and water is mixed with FSC-certified charcoal.

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Next, the liquid substance is poured into the form and baked for a few hours at low temperature, which keeps the ecological footprint of “Schwarzes Gold” low. During the baking process, the copper form is baked into the black charcoal mix, which creates a solid bond between the two elements. After the baking process, the now firm and non-staining material is removed from its mold by hand. The pressed copper sheet serves as a reflector for the energy-efficient LED-bulb and gives the light an inviting warm reflection.

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Even though the burning of coal emits climate-warming and polluting greenhouse gases, to this day, this fossil fuel is still currently Germany’s number one energy source. Given this problematic issue, the used charcoal is not burned, but its application was deliberately not foregone. The lamp’s thought-provoking deep black coal material wants to remind customers that they also carry a responsibility.

When looking at “Schwarzes Gold,” consumers are reminded to also think about where their electricity is actually coming from, since this is another vital part of a lamp. When “Schwarzes Gold” reaches the end of its life span, the charcoal material can easily be dissolved in water. Thus, the 100% biodegradable organic material is given back to nature and the rest can be recycled separately.

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Form:
The modern yet timeless design of “Schwarzes Gold” reflects my philosophy of sustainable design. For timeless design obtains long-term consumer acceptance, which minimizes future market assimilations as well as associated development and resource expenditures.

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Even “Schwarzes Gold’s” final form promotes sustainable practices in industry and society. Its black coal lampshade and the vaulted bell-shaped lamp complement one another; and together they symbolize the challenges of our time to create a sustainable society.

“Schwarzes Gold” rings in an era of rethinking and change.

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Designer: Ingo Schuppler