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Stephen Pikus: Repurposing Discarded Materials to Craft Enduring Treasures

Forgotten and unwanted objects are the core of Stephen Pikus’ inspired way to light up lives in Johannesburg and spaces around the world.

The old adage about one man’s trash and another’s treasure has been given new legitimacy in a small patch of Johannesburg, South Africa, called Stephen Pikus Design. It is an unusual lighting company headed by designer, philanthropist, and conscientious objector Stephen Pikus.

 

Stephen Pikus is keenly aware of the problem of trash, and the tragedy of the single-use product. Next to design, Stephen’s most apparent talent is taking discarded objects and turning them into desirable fixtures. His inspiration is a vision of a more equitable future where waste and imagination combine to provide jobs, beauty, and light.

 

A childhood in and around Johannesburg, accompanying his contractor father gave Stephen Pikus an abiding respect for the results of craft and determination. Pikus spent many years working in Limpopo Province with NGO’s, beautifying spaces on minimal budgets, and the experience gave him a love of challenging work and repurposed material. An awareness of our interconnected, problematic world gave him a strong sense of social justice and environmental responsibility.

 

All these themes coalesced early one morning on a journey to Jeffrey’s Bay, when Pikus chanced upon a truck air filter in a pile of scrap. In the dawn, this bulky, simple, and unwanted object became the grain around which the TRuK light crystallised. It took him some trial and error, but the results speak for themselves.

 

In 2014, TRuK won first place in the Eskom Energy Efficient Lighting Design Competition, which judges by efficiency as well as design quality. It must be noted that some of the filters are from heavy machinery used in the mining industry.

 

Since that time, the line has been expanded to five sizes and five finishes, built by Stephen Pikus Design, the firm he founded in 2015. The Protea flower features prominently in TRuK branding, a carefully chosen symbol as it represents South Africa as its national flower, as well as change, and transformation across cultures.

 

TRuK is constructed from the cages of salvaged truck air filters. The design is robust and industrial, yet casts a warm and welcoming light. It generates a sense of intimate coziness, belies its humble roots with regained stateliness. Since they are derived from salvage, TRuK lights are variable in size and purpose, allowing for flexibility in use and placement: for example it can hang as a smaller pendant light or be stood up as a large floor or table lamp.

 

TRuK fixtures are available in four sizes and five finishes. They are electroplated or powder coated, then finished with lacquer to ensure resilience and aesthetic quality. Stephen’s team breathes new life into these discarded objects, and extending their life far into the future that would otherwise have forgotten them—and spared resources in the process.

FIRE+ICE was Pikus’ next creation, a chandelier design that is a testament to reused material. Made of rose quartz and recycled glass, it calls to mind an inverted three-tiered cake made of stained glass, a unique and impressive vision of beauty. As an inversion of waste material, it illuminates both a space and one’s conscience.

 

Stephen Pikus Design has begun collaborations with architects and interior designers to create ecologically friendly lighting installations which elevate commercial and public spaces. It is interesting to note how this is a triumphal return of transformed and repurposed materials to the sort of places whose construction and operation generates them.

 

“Giving back is not merely an act of kindness or compassion but of necessity,” Stephen Pikus is careful to run an operation that is not just ecologically progressive: benefitting the social environment is an equal imperative to outstanding design and imaginative recycling.

Pikus’s time with NGOs cemented his dedication to improving the lives of the disadvantaged, and he works closely with the New Beginnings Care Centre to ensure that dedication is matched by results. His team is composed of a myriad of people, from tradesmen and designers to the survivors of substance abuse and working poverty. Pikus also works closely with the micro-recyclers of South Africa.

Stephen Pikus Design offers a refreshing and especially purpose–driven interpretation of lighting design, a case of twofold beauty, and a way forward for product design that is socially and environmentally beneficial. With such provenance, and so much to admire, Stephen Pikus Design casts light where once there were only shadows.

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