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Alien Lamp

The task for our final project is to combine the modular structure with your classmate to create a lamp.


Clara and i decided to work together. Her modular structure is based on the scales of a butterfly wing. The characteristics of her SEM structure are organic and irregular. She created it using string woven together to form a mesh of the SEM model. My modular structure is based on Spumullarian. Some of its main characteristics are uniform conical pores and double spherical layers. I created it using jumping clay.

You can view my work process here: Radiolarian



Clara’s SEM structure                                                                      My SEM structure


We brainstormed on how to combine the unique characteristics of them.  The design we eventually decided upon is to incorporate the double spherical layers from my structure. With the outer layer in an uniform conical pattern and the inner layer is made up of irregular pattern. There will be multiple of such spheres joining together creating like a cluster of tadpole eggs as Clara said. Basically the top portion will be more defined and spherical and gradually melt downwards to an organic form. This is how we combine out SEM structure from a uniform shape melt down to irregularity.





My SEM model was created using jumping clay. However it would not work for this large lamp that we are creating. I was searching through the internet for some inspiration and chanced upon this artist.



Tara Donovan’s installation artwork used plastic cups to form blob like shapes. It looked pretty similar to the image we plan to create for our lamp. Thus i decided to use plastic cups instead for our project. For Clara’s inner sphere, we decided to adopt the same m ethology of using string to woven into a sphere shape. This time we decided to use coloured rafia string to create contrast with the transparent plastic cups.




  • Outer layer

Initially we planned to stick the plastic cups together with hot glue gun but it was too hot and the cups melted. I tried using super glue but the cup ended up looking dirty as the dried superglue caused a slight milky translucent on it. It was too time-consuming to just stick a few pieces so this definitely won’t work for our large lamp. Staples are the only way to go. I thought i would be easy to do it but getting the result we wanted was a lot more work to do. I had to cut off the base of each plastic cup so that light can project through giving a clearer shadow image. I probably cut around 300 over cups with the foam cutter.




Simply stapling the cups would give you a very tight round form, which meant trouble for the more flowing parts of the structure. Clara discovered that by cutting parallel strips in the cups at the point of stapling, the tension is released and we can create a fairly malleable and flat layer of cups to form into the shape we wanted. We made the spherical units separately, following the drawing, and then connecting the pieces together somehow.



  • Inner layer

Clara was in charge of making the inner sphere ball. She made it by tying paper string around a balloon, going round and weaving the form until it look okay. Then she dampened the strings and covered them in white glue, and let them dry overnight.




When we tested both forms together with the light, we realized that the interior shadow was indistinguishable from the exterior. I suggested to use cellophane to cover the units on the string spheres to create a stained glass effect and to allow the interior spheres to contribute to the shadow of the lamp.



After the whole structure of the lamp is up, the final stage is the construction of lighting. we estimated the length of each cable in each sphere. I cut out the length and wired everything up.



A difficult part is to thread all the lights and wiring into the spheres, and trying not to break something, or bust a finger through a stained glass panel (cellophane). Also lots of rearranging of the outer sphere so that it would be just right. I had to ripped out portions of the cups and re-stapling them over and over just so the outer form will look good.




Presentation Day


Peter suggested that instead of letting the lamp hang on the wall, it could hang from the ceiling like a bunch of grapes.That way it could sways and turns slowly the shadows would also change. The wiring could also have been better hidden.





Overall, it came pretty close to what we envisioned our lamp to be. It would be even better if there’s dramatic shards of blue lighting but we still did a pretty good job.

Beauty in Nature

Morphogenesis is the biological process that cause an organism to develop its shape.

I was drawn by the beauty of radiolaria and chose Spumullarian, a species of it for this project.

Before i go into details, i have to show this video. I was blown away by the beauty and how each species of radiolaria is so unique and different from each other.

*This video does not consist all of radiolarians. There is about 3000 species.*

slide2 slide3 slide4 slide5 slide6 slide7 slide8 slide9 slide10



My initial idea was to create the unit using transparent egg shell or jelly cups. I sliced off the base of the egg shells and jelly cups, With the balloon as the base, i pasted the jelly cups onto it with scotch tape. However, it does not resemble my modular structure.

I consulted with Peter and he recommended using paper mache method to do it. I remembered when i was young, my whole family helped my brother to do his art project in which we used paper mache. We spent many hours doing it and i was half dozing while making it. We had a whole lot of mess in our hands. I was traumatized by the experience and try to avoid using paper mache.

I suggested using clay instead because it is much faster and easier to work with.  Clara introduced to me jumping clay because of its easy to mold and give a good result. The harden clay will have a slight spongy effect which fit my modular characteristic too.


As the SEM of Spumullarian has repetitive of circular pores, i outlined the clay around a 50 cents coin. After i realized that clay does not stick on balloon, i lined up the hollow circular molds in one row, placed it round the balloon and  pinched the ends together.


As i was half-way through covering the balloon with circular clay, i saw that my structure is oval not round at all. It turned out that i placed the middle row slated and the subsequent rows that were build upon it became lopsided. I immediately break apart the structure and wrapped it around a bigger balloon.


After i covered up the balloon, i pinched each holes to give them a more obvious conical appearance and patched up the gaps. Due to the transferring of the structure from one balloon to another sized one, the circular holes were squashed at some point. I tried to make up the lack of uniform pattern by making the holes as round as possible.


Constructing the inner capsule from the SEM of Spumullarian is much easier with previous experience. As the scale is much smaller, i used a table tennis ball for the base and a small battery as the size of the holes. After covering up the ball, i separated the clay in the middle to take out the ball and fixed them back together.  The tiny ball is then made suspended in the middle with nylon string.




Jumping clay is really fun to work with. It smell good, not messy and does not stick to hands. However, it harden really fast under aircon environment. I think radiolarian is a theme which i can further explore maybe for my third year final project hahaha!