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Cocoon | The making of

Few people know that at the origins of the Flos founding there was a small company in Merano called Cocoon International. Its founder, the inventor and producer Artur Eisenkeil, managed to import a new spray-on coating polymer from the United States, called the “cocoon”

Photography Ramak Fazel, Flos Archive

According to some historians, this plastic material, which was obtained from a liquid resin, was originally used as a protective packaging by the US Army, during the Second World War, for shipments by sea.

Eisenkeil started looking for ways to utilize the cocoon in a creative way, and suggested the material be sprinkled around a steel frame to determine the shape of innovative lighting fixtures. The aim was to give a sense of magic to the light it emanated, which shined warmly through the cloud-like material.

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Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni and Tobia Scarpa were called to experiment this new technique. The first Cocoon lamps were named: Viscontea, Taraxacum and Gatto by the Castiglioni brothers and Fantasma by Scarpa. The result of this lucky cooperation was the founding of Flos in 1962, and the production of a number of lamps that were to become classics in Italian industrial design.

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Most of the Cocoon lamps from the early years continue to be produced by Flos and are nowadays ranked as classical. In the new millennium, Flos has entrusted younger talents of design to add more creations to its Cocoon series of lamps. The results are new lighting masterpieces, such as Zeppelin and Chrysalis by Marcel Wanders, and the recent Overlap suspension by Michael Anastassiades.

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The newest lamps still utilize exactly the same material and spray-on technique like in the old days, consisting in two layers of cocoon, the first thicker, the second much thinner, applied through a spray gun while the frame twirls on a spinning base. A final transparent paint is then applied to add a sheen to the entire structure. The resulting skin is very similar to a real cocoon made by a silkworm, hence the naming.

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Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni showing the lamps Viscontea, Taraxacum

and Gatto to Marcel Breuer, Milan, 1962

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The cocoon material is extremely strong and flexible, almost impossible to tear. It requires very little maintenance and is not flammable, making it an ideal piece of lighting to decorate any space with.

Photography Ramak Fazel, Flos Archive