When Cory Zwerlein was studying architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute upstate, his dream was to design buildings that would become part of the New York City skyline. Several years into his career, Zwerlein was helping design custom chandeliers for a boutique architecture firm in Brooklyn when his path changed.
Zwerlein discovered that lighting, which many of us think of as simply functional, offers a lot of room for an artist’s touch. That lightbulb over Zwerlein’s head became literal a year ago when he started Still Alive Lights, his Brooklyn-based lighting firm. Zwerlein, 32, will be exhibiting his handiwork this weekend at BKLYN DESIGNS, the three-day expo of furniture, art, jewelry, and textiles at the Brooklyn Expo Center, 72 Noble St., Greenpoint.
From the outset, Zwerlein wanted to make products that are sustainable and socially conscious. He was emboldened in part by the emergence of cost-efficient desktop 3D printing. “I wanted to inspire people to create,” he said. With the help of engineers, designers and electricians who have donated their time to his cause, Zwerlein has created not only art and illumination, but a product that’s made from non-toxic, sustainable materials. He donates a portion of his sales to causes like the World Wildlife Fund.
His first year in business has been spent brainstorming, designing, and engineering. Now that products exist, the challenging part for an artist comes into play: sales and marketing. “It would be cool to have some feedback other than my sister saying ‘It’s dope’,” Zwerlein said. Some of his work has been showcased at Artists and Fleas in Williamsburg and Chelsea Market, but he is looking to make a bigger splash at BKLYN DESIGNS.
So far, the company has been financed exclusively by Zwerlein’s savings. He started a Kickstarter campaign based around a custom-circuit creation called the Solar Flower, which he hopes will become the cornerstone of his product line. The lamp is made of sustainable materials, with 3D-printed petals, and is solar powered. Turning the lamp towards the sun from a window will charge it, allowing for sustainable light during the night hours. The Solar Flower will be priced at $400, but Still Alive Lights offers more conventionally powered products too, including the Small Bear Light at $60.
(Editor’s Note: Readers of The Bridge can get a $5 discount on general admission tickets to BKLYN DESIGNS by using the code BKD-BRIDGE. The Bridge is a sponsor of the show.)