Fabripod: Lighting Your Home While Treading Lightly on the Planet

Fabripod started in 2011 as a collaboration between husband and wife power duo Chris Chalmers and Amber Bieg. Chris is an architect and Amber consults in sustainability, multimedia communications and whole systems design. Together they create sustainable, custom crafted design objects. Their goal: to make beautifully designed objects for the home that are affordable, environmentally sustainable, while supporting their local economy.

The Urchin lamp, currently live on Kickstarter, is particularly inspired by the ways in which digital design can replicate natural silhouettes. The epiphany to create the urchin lamp came while Chris was in the designing process of the massive and exquisite 'Aortic Art' canopy installation in the California College of the Arts.

"During the designing and installation process I thought, wow, this would make a great lamp!"

The canopy (below) arcs over an existing concrete beam and is topped by three cone-like openings. Much like some of the Fabripods designs, these panels of the canopy are shaped to direct natural light down into the space during the day and become a playful colorful surface when artificially lit at night. I spoke to Chris recently about his work as a designer, father, as well as his goals and accomplishments in founding Fabripod.

First of all, I just have to say that I love the idea of Fabripod producing high quality design products that ships as a kit — allowing the consumer to take ownership in the design and creation of their pod.

"I see it as a beneficial side effect and I think in the future it would be great to invite the consumer to the design. Primarily we have three goals: (1) to create a high quality product that is accessible to people within average economical means; (2) producing our products as environmentally sustainable as possible; and (3) to do as much manufacturing within the United States and California. Those things are not only essential but make for an interesting product for both us and the consumer."

What’s the best feedback you've received from clients and friends regarding your designs?

"People say that the lamps look like all kinds of stuff, '...Oh you call it an urchin but it looks like a raspberry.' I get a lot of user feedback regarding the assembly, which has helped a lot with my revisions on the instructional kits. It’s especially important to fine-tune the process. Getting feedback helps tremendously."

Do you have any tips while assembling?

"The process of assembling the lamp is quite repetitive. I suggest that people put them together while watching a movie, listening to a podcast, or while spending time with a friend. It’s actually quite fun to put together with another person. Also, make sure that you read the instructions."

Tell me more about your background and how that speaks to Fabripod and your current projects.

"By day I am still an architect. At the moment, Fabripod is a great side project but ultimately I’m designing a lot so it can expand. The current design for the lamps are inspired by sea urchins found here on the Pacific coast and on beaches everywhere. Like living things, the urchin lamps take a variety of forms, while always being derived from the same basic pattern — their 'design DNA'. The design also speaks to mid-century modern style with clean, basic shapes and a reliance on the intrinsic beauty of high quality materials. I’m currently in the process of designing the new object that are based on the natural shapes of dahlia flowers."

What are the other inspirations that fuel you.

"I got my undergrad at University of Oregon and my Masters CCA. I was focused on programming and computer algorythms and their designs. Using those tools and that background I chose to make designs that are energy efficient and also designs that fit. I think we will find that this is the common theme as designs move forward and continue to progress. There’s something interesting that goes in nature. There is this theme of repeating parts. I find inspiration in the variation in a response to a need — for performance or by chance. My designs process tends to work with the tension between repetition and variations.

I’m looking forward to making new designs. I’m stepping towards some designs that are a little simpler. We have been live with Fabripod for about a year. We have a good time together — it’s fun working with Amber. I'm working towards making Fabripod something bigger than just lamps. That way, I can create a system where we can produce more quality and fun objects for the home while giving me more time to be with my family.

To get your hands on one of the many designs from the Urchin line, take a look at Fabripod's Kickstarter campaign where their lamps are available for 25% off!