Glowing Crystalline Lights Are Grown From Purified Salt (Video)

© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson

From clothing grown from bacteria, to farmed bamboo bikes, we love the idea that everyday stuff can be grown rather than factory-made (and shipped from far away).

Inspired by a childhood visit to Yellowstone National Park, Seattle-based designer Daniel MacDonald has combined the slow formation process of purified salt with light, resulting in "otherworldly," crystalline lamps that he calls shio (Japanese for salt). Watching these lamps grow is wonderful:

© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson

MacDonald mimicks the same conditions of Yellowstone in his studio/salt nursery, where each lamp is painstakingly created by pouring purified salt over pre-made forms, requiring up to a week to form the crystals evident on each unique sculpture. Different forms are categorized as different species like "Orbis," "Chyrsalis" and "Occulus." Says MacDonald:

The idea: let beautiful physics create beautiful objects. The manifestation: living crystal beings, frozen in time, and filled with light.

© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson
© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson

MacDonald's method and approach is interesting as he envisions each lamp not as a product but an organism having its own evolutionary genesis:

Every shio is unique, but growing many from a similar form allows them to be grown more easily. Species are families of individuals grown from similar skeletons. The individuals shown here are merely exemplars of their species.

There is no prespecified limit on the number of individuals of any given species that might be grown, but because species change and differentiate over time, each individual is a physical snapshot of a unique point in a larger evolutionary history much as it is also a physical snapshot of unique point in a continuous crystal growth. Each individual is identified with a universally unique identifier (uuid) which links the individual to its maturation records and allows it to be placed precisely in the phylogenetic tree of shio.

© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson
© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson

MacDonald is now hoping to expand his studio and upgrade his ad-hoc nursery beyond "Shapelock and zipties" to bring more of these lamps into the world, starting with a Kickstarter campaign:

Growing shio sculptures reliably and without unsightly birth defects requires precise and stable control of the mechanical, thermal, and chemical properties of the growing environment. Zipties are wonderful, but they just don't cut it for everything.

To do shio right, I need to better growth chambers, and I need to build more of them.

© Michael Cobb and Jerad Knudson

This project posits interesting questions of what our material culture might be in the future if products were grown instead of mass manufactured. With a fascinating birth story behind each one (which you can read on MacDonald's site), these living lamps are truly gorgeous, and we're hoping that they will be fruitful and multiply. More over at Daniel MacDonald's website and Kickstarter campaign.

Tags: Lighting

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