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Handcrafted Planter Light Fixture

Time Frame

3 months


Meredith Billman


Autumn 2020

Plantern is a hanging planter light fixture designed with classmate Meredith Billman to address sustainability in the housewares market.

Existing plant containers fail to account for caretakers' desire to integrate plants into their home, resulting in some plants being pushed into inopportune environments (such as dark corners) that don’t allow the plants to thrive.

Plantern helps to stylishly integrate plants into peoples’ homes and invites a relationship between plants and the people that care for them.

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Research and Synthesis

Ethnographic-style research was conducted by a pair of my classmates in five different environments in which people and plants interact. My partner and I traded research with them in a way that emulates the research trade-off that occurs in professional practice. It was our job to interpret research insights into actionable design opportunities and concepts.


Research Insights

  • taking good care of a plant requires regular attention

  • plants are better cared for when their care involves an interactive element


Design Opportunities

  • design to connect plants and the human senses

  • design for specific locations

  • design to regulate a person’s attention for their plants

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The research and initial mind-mapping led my partner and I to notice that both plants and humans rely heavily on light, so we set off designing a product that combined plants and lighting.

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Material Selection

During the ideation process my partner and I came across various examples of handcrafted products from around the world made out of dried and preserved gourds. Our decision to use dried gourds for our planter light fixture was inspired by the traditional craftspeople who made these items. The ten gourds that we worked with can be seen to the left. 

My partner and I wanted to make sure that the individual shape of each gourd was celebrated, so we spent time finding the best way for both the plant and the light to be situated to allow for the plantern to stay balanced while hanging.

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Visual Langauge

We developed an adaptive visual brand language that centered around a pattern that blended housewares trends with the natural world. The visual brand language also provided us with a structured system for applying a pattern to all of our uniquely shaped gourds. With the pattern, we were able to create cohesiveness throughout our set of planterns.

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Working in the midst of a pandemic added an extra challenge to the making process, as my partner and I tried to limit in-person contact with one another. I prepped the gourds for carving by sketching the pattern onto the shell before passing the gourds off to my partner, who carved the pattern. Once she finished carving, I assembled each plantern by adding the light bulb and cord, a small pouch with hooks and string for hanging the plantern, and a small tag that I designed with hanging and care instructions.

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It was important to my partner and I to approach sustainability as more than just using recycled materials to make a new product. We made sure that once our users were done with their plantern, they could easily disassemble the plantern and separate its components. Technical materials like the light cord, the light bulb, and the metal hooks used to hang the plantern could be properly disposed of, while biological materials like the gourd, the bamboo string, and any plants the user added could simply be composted.



  • 10 handcrafted planterns sold for $80 each

  • profit of $560 that went towards funding the IDSA OSU student chapter

  • a short video that explains the plantern production process


Personal Development

  • explored the challenges of sustainability 

    • thinking about sustainability as more than just recycling/using recycled goods

  • practiced working remotely with a partner

  • learned the importance of clear communication

  • honed my making skills

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