modular “roly-poly” lighting recalls the days of Soviet Hungary
Hungarian furniture and industrial designer Annabella Hevesi launched “Roly-Poly”, a modular system lighting series of enamel lamps sporting a combination of blue, white and red. Users can stack these spherical, glowing objects to create variations of a suspended light sculpture. They can also be separated and used as individual table lamps / floor lamps.
Dating back to ancient Egypt, fire enameling involves coating metals (copper, silver or gold) with a richly colored layer of powdered glass (i.e. tiny particles of glass) by melting it with heat. The result is a shiny, vibrant finish widely used for jewelry and household items.
Roly-Poly Modular Lighting | image © Annabella Hevesi
The origin of Hevesi’s project can be divided into two sources. On the one hand, it was heavily inspired by the conceptual art phenomenon known as the ‘Architectural Enamel Art Camp’ — a series of activities that originated in Bonyhád enamel factory in the 1960s-70s. Abstract painter Kamill Major started the art program before post-war and contemporary artist Ferenc Lantos took over and was joined by Gyula Pauer, Tihamér Gyarmathy and Oszkár Papp, among others. Together, Hungarian artists began experimenting with glaze work to build outdoor totem-like structures that often incorporated everyday objects from the Soviet era.
a series of enamel lamps | image © Annabella Hevesi
On the other hand, as its name suggests, the lighting series is reminiscent of ‘the popular metal-stamped Roly-Poly toy. It evokes both the consolidation of the Hungarian 70s (the Kádár regime) and the Soviet-style previews of the rough and charming world of enameled metal children’s toys. Besides this cultural sociological origin, the luminaire also creates parallels by using the formal gestures and the elementary geometry of the toy,’ writes the designer.
create different configurations | image © Annabella Hevesi
freestanding or stacked: customize your lighting design
The first version of the ‘Roly-Poly’ modular lighting is the floor lamp that can tilt out of its vertical axis and rest on any flat surface thanks to an additional weight hidden inside the sphere. This allows the user to easily operate and rotate the lamp in any direction. Meanwhile, the built-in light exits the funnel-shaped head diffusely, making the overall design suitable for dim ambient lighting. ‘The uninterrupted oscillation is also supported by the fact that the power cord is not connected to the lamp from below but through the funnel,’ notes the designer.
When assembled, the “Roly-poly” transforms into a pendant light evoking the outdoor totem-like statues built during the architectural enamel art camp period. Users can stack two, five, or even ten fixtures to enhance the sculptural look of the pendant. ‘As the individual elements of the lamp always provide indirect light, the strung multi-element “totem poles” also produce an increasingly accentuated and spectacular play of light, reinforcing the plasticity and symbolism of the object,‘ continues Hevesi.
The designer used warm white LED light sources with adjustable brightness. The floor lamps will have an automatic adjustment function, while the stacked/suspended luminaires will be operated via a wall control switch. Additionally, all visible cable chains are woven with a unique textile.
the design evokes the popular toy of the 70s in Hungary | image © Artur Ekler
revive the technique of fire enamelling
Hevesi worked with Hungarian makers and craftsmen to produce his designs at the Bonyhád enamel factory, still in operation as a manufacturer of enamel dishes and boards. First, sheets of metal were spun to form the basic structure: a set of two hemispheres with a funnel at one end. Once the metal spinning is complete, the enameling process begins and each half is coated with a color (never the same). Current color combinations are only available in blue, red or white mix. The funnel, however, remains white on all ‘Roly-Poly’ modules.
Reflecting on her approach to reviving this artisanal technique, the designer says: ‘Fire enameling is a recyclable surface treatment process, making it an ideal replacement for the more common plastic-based powder coating. With the ‘Roly-poly’ family of enamel lamps, we have taken the first step in the rediscovery of this technology. In the future we will look at the new possibilities and sustainable aspects of enamelling which also allows for greater variety in the surface treatment of the lamp.
test a suspended variation | image © Artur Ekler