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The story behind George Nelson's Bubble Lamps

Apartment Therapy has a great post up featuring of my all-time favorite designs, George Nelson’s collections of bubble lamps. The lamps are timeless, the light quality from then attractive. And the story of how they came to be is a case study in design process.

AT had a great quote from Nelson:

It was important to me to have certain status symbols around, and one of the symbols was a spherical hanging lamp made in Sweden. It had a silk covering that was very difficult to make; they had to cut gores and sew them onto a wire frame. But I wanted one badly.

We had a modest office and I felt that if I had one of those big hanging spheres from Sweden, it would show that I was really with it, a pillar of contemporary design. One day Bonniers, a Swedish import store in New York, announced a sale of these lamps. I rushed down with one of the guys in the office and found one shopworn sample with thumbmarks on it and a price of $125.

It is hard to remember what $125 meant in the late ‘forties … I was furious and was stalking angrily down the stairs when suddenly an image popped into my mind which seemed to have nothing to do with anything. It was a picture in The New York Times some weeks before which showed Liberty ships being mothballed by having the decks covered with netting and then being sprayed with a self-webbing plastic … Whammo! We rushed back to the office and made a roughly spherical frame; we called various places until we located the manufacturer of the spiderwebby spray. By the next night we had a plastic-covered lamp, and when you put a light in it, it glowed, and it did not cost $125.”