Trash to treasure

A crafty object "refitter" turns a broken fan into a Noguchi-style lamp.

  • After

  • Before

  • Isamu Noguchi with Akari Light Sculptures, late 1960s

  • Noguchi Museum


Photographs: (Fan: before and after) Rodney Trice; (Noguchi; Exterior View) Courtesy The Noguchi Museum

The item: Old, broken fan cover

Found: St. Johns Place and Washington Avenue, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

The process: “As with all of my projects, a good degreasing was necessary,” says T.O.M.T. designer Rodney Trice (who was just named one of Time’s Green Design 100). “Next was to make sure it dried out well, and then I moved on to the removal of unnecessary parts. There was a handle that needed to be sawed off and the center ring with the logo was also removed.

“I was inspired by the very famous and beautiful Noguchi paper lanterns, so I decided to create a hanging lamp with a fabric cover stretched over the fan cage. This particular cage separated into two pieces, making the job of fitting the fabric a lot easier. I chose a stretch wool because it offered the kind of flexibility I needed without looking cheap. The fabric was measured, cut and then sewn to fit the shape—and then was pulled tight with a simple drawstring inside so as to give it a nice, taut appearance.

“I wired the lamp with three candelabra bulb sockets and screwed in small soft fluorescent bulbs with a candelabra attachment.

“The two halves of the lamp were put back together, and voil! My tribute to Noguchi!

“Now that I made this, I’m on the lookout for more of these fan cages, because I am going to do more and hang them in groups of three in different shapes.”

The materials: Stretch wool ($14 per yard) at Mood Fabric (225 W 37th St between Seventh and Eighth Aves, 212-730-5003), and lamp parts: gold fabric wire ($5), brass chandelier canopy ($10), candelabra sockets ($3), threaded tube ($1) and bulbs ($5) all at—Collected and salvaged by Rodney Trice (

If you are interested in purchasing this item or taking a class to learn how to create your own, e-mail Rodney at

The inspiration: Trice riffed on legendary sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s Akari Light Sculptures, and New Yorkers can see the Japanese-American artist’s work all year long at the Noguchi Museum in Queens, where thirteen indoor galleries showcase his organic, undulating works in granite, marble, bronze and wood. Adjoining gardens offer a natural setting for some of Noguchi’s granite and basalt sculptures. But nothing impresses so much as the room dedicated to Noguchi’s illuminated Akari sculptures—in situ, the lamps take on the appearance of spectral moths. And, if you hurry, you can catch “What Is Sculpture? Akari from the 1986 Venice Biennale,” a special exhibit dedicated to the light sculptures (on view until May 31). Want one of your own? The museum shop sells Akari table lanterns for as little as $75. The Noguchi Museum, 9-01 33rd Rd at Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, Queens (718-204-7088)

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