Flowerball, Heath Nash’s bright idea

Posted on 21 January 2016.

The South African artist and designer Heath Nash upcycles plastic waste to make lamps. His flagship design is a ball decorated with hundreds of recycled plastic flowers.

What does an empty milk bottle make you think of? Certainly not much – at best plastic waste… but Heath Nash sees all shapes and sizes of colorful lampshades in the very same empty milk bottle.

The young Cape Town based designer has been passionate about origami - the art of paper folding - since he was a child. After years of trial and error experimentation using different materials and methods, he finally developed a technique for making lampshades, not out of paper but polypropylene panels, a recyclable thermoplastic. The result was a success, but his designs were lacking that special little something - local roots. Heath Nash then began thinking about his country’s identity and the things that best represent South African art. What makes a lamp a South African lamp?

In 2005 he met Richard Mandogwe, another South African artist, who sells beautiful flowers made from recycled plastic bottles and wire. It was a lightbulb moment! Heath Nash decided to abandon polypropylene and replace it with plastic waste. He began collecting hundreds of used milk, shampoo and detergent bottles. In his workshop, they were sorted, washed, carefully cut and folded by hand to form petals, leaves and butterflies attached to a galvanized steel wire frame. This new approach gave Heath Nash a definite South African style which combines contemporary design, typical materials used in local crafts and traditional methods - such as working with wire and reusing materials. Orders flowed in from all over the globe!

The tedious work of collecting bottles has now been entrusted to Poise, a South African company that collects, cuts and folds the various small plastic parts Heath Nash needs. He is proud: he provides employment for local workers, creates economic opportunities and also promotes recycling. Lots of people in South Africa think that creativity will fuel the country’s economic revolution. Heath Nash and his creations prove they are right.