Plant Explorations: Illumination


As part of our ‘Plant Explorations’ collection, we present the Kabuto Light by Lola Lely.

Plant Explorations Illumination


Whilst examining the objects in the Economic Botany Collection at Kew Gardens, Lola was awed by a lightweight Japanese war helmet called Kabuto. The helmet was made from layers of washi paper using a paper maché technique. Once the rigid shape was formed, the helmet was then painted with a hard wearing lacquer to create a tough yet richly-coloured surface.

Plant Explorations Illumination


Lola also took inspiration from the bold shapes of various palm species housed in the Palm House at Kew Gardens and how they have been transformed by humans over the centuries into many practical items, such as fans, clothing, shelter, and baskets. The leaves reminded Lola of intricately folded Japanese origami paper, with the scale and hang of larger leaves reminiscent of canopies or umbrellas, to provide shade and shelter.

Plant Explorations Illumination


The statement light combines the simplicity and natural materiality of the palm leaf with the precise craftsmanship and refinement of the Kabuto helmet. They are made entirely from washi paper, which comes from the mulberry tree that originates in Japan. Lola begins by layering the washi paper into a large mould, which she leaves for 24 hours to harden. The paper holds its permanent shape when released from the mould, which cleverly resembles the segments found in palm leaves.

Plant Explorations Illumination


In an extraordinary showcase of Lola’s broad knowledge of dye plants and plant wax, she creates a glossy, plant-like finish. The paper is painted on both sides with various layers of natural dyes - the persimmon dye requires no less than fifteen coats to achieve the rich, rusty colour. The shades are then waxed to a semi-gloss finish using carnauba wax, derived from palm leaves, and the undersides are finished with a coat of shellac to create a glossy sheen, illuminating the faceted surface.

The slim fabric cord flex has been colour matched to the light shades and has been specially made by textile artist, Aimee Betts. The cord has a flexible copper core, allowing it to be bent into organic, plant-like shapes. The lights are available in a range of different striking combinations - from a single pendant to clusters of three suspended at different heights for a more impactful statement.

As part of London Craft Week, Lola will be in our showroom on Saturday 14th May, from 12-5pm, demonstrating wax dipping. Visit our Mayfair showroom to see the Kabuto lights on display and email for any further information.