This quirky, tilting lamp is built like the human knee

It’s wood. But it bends.

Wood turning is a captivating technique. It’s essentially like wielding a pottery wheel for timber, in which a block of wood is spun while a sharp blade and a steady hand slices the sharp edges away into sculptural curves. You’re left with a solid block that is anything but a block.


While much of this sort of woodworking is being lost to technology, the contemporary design studio Studio Sain has released a new line of home furnishings built with this time-honored technique. Called Bulbous, the pieces look almost like segmented caterpillars. Some are made of a single piece of wood. Others are actually jointed, and thereby posable, angling in a ball-and-socket joint much like the human knee.

[Photos: L. Hilzensauer/courtesy Studio Sain]

The two socketed pieces are the desk light ($1140) and the mirror ($1650), and it’s easy to see their appeal. The round forms feel both whimsical and organic at the same time. Yet the jointing allows the same flexible ergonomics of architecture lamps and beauty mirrors with overtly mechanical, metal springs and arms. The nonmoving models include a bookshelf ($790) and a hanging light ($1775).

[Photo: L. Hilzensauer/courtesy Studio Sain]

Studio Sain didn’t develop the line on its own. It actually collaborated with the Austrian wood turner Hermann Viehauser. “We never worked with the woodturning technique before; however, we spent some days at the workshop to get a better understanding of the possibilities and limitations of this technique,” write studio cofounders Martijn Rigters and Namuun Zimmermann over email. “We created many many silhouettes, like you would usually do. However, we were unsatisfied that it stayed in this 2D concept. That’s when we came up with the idea to make perfectly fitting components that can rotate over one another, somehow inspired by joinery and human joints to create more 3D objects.”

The team also learned that wood turning is fairly green—the material in these pieces is locally sourced Linden wood. Other than that, they need just a bit of minor wiring and glass. The bending pieces also feature a metal ball joint you don’t see, which makes the posing possible.

In the future, Studio Sain hopes to expand the Bulbous line, and perhaps even work their way from handmade goods into mass production with Viehauser’s help.

“We fell in love with the smoothness and roundness of the objects and will continue this,” the team says.


About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach