While some designers may be relatively limited in terms of what inspires them, others can find inspiration in the most unusual places. One such man is Fabio Antinori, who since the mid-1980s has created many one-of-a-kind exhibits and objects for the home.
“One day, I entered a large sporting goods store, where a large number of wheels were displayed in the bicycle department,” recounts Antinori. “As a daily cyclist, I was fascinated by that vision, so I decided, almost instinctively, to take three (wheels) of different sizes.” This was an example of an impulse buy with a creative purpose that was not fully formed. At first, Antinori had no idea how he was going to repurpose the wheels, but felt like there still must be some way he could use them. Then something happened that had nothing to do with cycling that gave his creative instincts a clear direction.
“A few years ago, the first high-capacity LED strips began to appear on the market, so the idea of associating a known object — a wheel — with a new emerging one — the LED — led me to the first experiment,” he adds.
When you bike to work everyday like he does to his studio, you form a personal connection to it — or at least more so than you would to driving or taking public transit. This closeness is undoubtedly another part of the inspiration that helped Antinori realize his vision.
“I have always loved (Marcel) Duchamp’s art, so perhaps it was my subconscious that guided me there,” he reveals. “The fact remains that all the people who came into the house and saw this strange object — an illuminating wheel — hung from the ceiling, were struck by it.”
The positive feedback that he received from friends, family, and associates soon got him thinking more in commercial terms. He recounts: “I understood the potential of the idea, and so I started to think of it as not only an extravagant object — a unique but approximate piece in the realization — but instead as an object that had all the characteristics of a product to be reproduced in series, of high quality, which could be part of the large family of lamps.”
To go from having an inkling of undefined inspiration to thoughts of productization is the path that many successful entrepreneurs take. It is proof that a simple idea born on a day that you were not expecting can quickly put you in front of customers all over the world, like at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) in New York, where I had the pleasure of meeting with Antinori in May of 2019.
It took Antinori two years to develop the technical aspects of the lamps. In case you were wondering, the wheels themselves are stationary and cannot spin. He also came up with the marketing campaign for the lamps, which in turn got him thinking about his idea in broader terms. “I created an image and a communication strategy, (which included) conceptual films, the website, and graphic design,” he explains, “until I found myself creating a brand that could contain these curious objects, named CYCLAMPA.”
A trademark brand of his company Kaleideas, CYCLAMPA resonates with customers because of its relationship to the environment. It would be wrong to create a product that blends energy-saving LED technology with a zero emissions bicycle, only to wrap and ship it in an excess of plastic. For this reason, Antinori only uses plastic for a few components, but the majority of the packaging for the lamps is recycled cardboard. “The bicycle (and the light) become a cultural object,” he explains. “Watching it stimulates us to return to environmental issues, where sustainability can marry beauty.”
Along with their environmental significance, these lamps also carry an emotional meaning for Antinori. He says: “These lamps represent for me the desire to look beyond (the usual), and to discover everyday objects, like a banal wheel, that can still suggest something new.”