Plastic drinking straws are one of the hallmarks of our disposable society. The little tubes are manufactured to be used just once, then they are discarded to sit in landfills for hundreds of years. And with our love of fast food and iced coffee, there are untold numbers of plastic straws being sent to the landfill every year. The artists and designers featured here all use these ubiquitous disposable items to create objects of unexpected beauty. While these artists use new straws, as opposed to recycled straws, to make their creations, there’s no reason their designs couldn’t provide inspiration for someone who chooses to use recycled materials.
Padlab’s Popoté Lamps
Padlab, a partnership between Dan Gottleib and Penny Herscovitch, concentrates on researching and developing new materials that straddle the border between art and architecture. Their Popoté Lamps are made of a honeycomb material they developed. They were interested in working with a honeycomb-like materials, but the conventional choices were all too expensive at the time. So the partners used the cheapest plastic tubing they could find: drinking straws. Padlab is currently producing lighting fixtures, like the above Column and Hanging Teardrop, from the material.
1000 & 1 Straw Light by Inna Alesina
Inna Alesina‘s 100 & 1 Straw Light consists of – you guessed it – 1000 plastic drinking straws. They are arranged around one inverted empty soda bottle, creating a beautiful fanned appearance. Alesina Design produces them in different colors, both as a floor lamp and a hanging lamp. The grace of the finished products is surprising; it’s hard to believe that these discarded plastic items could be arranged in a way that makes them look like high art.
Clutch Chair and Clutch Light by Scott Jarvie
When Scott Jarvie looked at the structural composition of the capillary tubes in trees, inspiration struck. That inspiration eventually turned into the Clutch Chair, made of 10,000 drinking straws. The exploratory piece is a comment on the effects of our disposable society. Later came the development of the Clutch Light, which again groups thousands of plastic drinking straws into a new configuration. The resulting light has a faceted, jewel-like appearance that belies the very humble origins of its building materials.
Plastic Drinking Straw Sculptures by Annie Varnot
Brooklyn artist Annie Boyden Varnot creates breathtaking sculptures with cut plastic straws and other common plastic items. Her aim is to study how these inorganic items affect our daily lives, and how we in turn affect them. Her sculptures portray invented biomorphic forms and landscapes which explore the relationship between humans and our environment. The artist’s life has been affected by breast cancer, and she has used this painful experience to further inspire her sculptures.
Sturdy Straws Chair and Stool by Promise Design
Promise Design doesn’t offer a lot of information about this delightful chair and ottoman other than the fact that they are made of plastic drinking straws. The series also includes a lamp shade and room partition, and the items were inspired by the making of brooms with natural straws. The straws are put together and partially compacted, so it looks like they would be not only stable pieces of furniture, but comfortable, too.
Nestea Drinking Straw Sculpture by Publicis
This very cool piece of commercial art was created by Publicis Argentina for Nestea. The campaign’s slogan was “Eres lo que tomas,” or “You are what you drink.” It’s reminiscent of those metal pin 3D sculpture boxes that used to be on every office worker’s desk.
Drinking Straw Pendant Light by Addicted 2 Decorating
Finally, a drinking straw project that you can do at home. Addicted 2 Decorating has posted instructions for their DIY project to guide any crafter through creating this eye-catching light. It takes 1500 drinking straws, and you can use different colors, clear straws, or a mixture – bonus points if you make the light with used (but thoroughly cleaned) straws.