75 • Rotaflex


British lamp by John and Sylvia Reid for Rotaflex.

The fabulous world of Rotaflex lamps can be quite confusing since it is the name for the manufacturing process, the material as well as at least three brands which all developed in a quick succession and interconnected via licencing.

Initially, Rotaflex was the method of moulding cellulose acetate into lampshades, patented in 1946 by Danish civil engineers Bent Højberg Pedersen and Bent Panker. In 1960, after years of licensing the manufacturing process, Pedersen and Panker founded a Danish company called Rotaflex.

The thermoplastic bioplastic cord is spun on a mould by hand while an acetone mixture is brushed on as the mould spins. Cellulose acetate is an early acrylic with various trade names, known as Rhodoid in France and the UK, Tenite in the US and Cellon in Germany. Cellulose acetate is lighter than glass, less fragile than paper, and it allows a great variety of shapes in many colours at a reasonable price and, moreover, it gives a beautiful light.


Ceiling light by ARP for Disderot.

 
The first lamps branded Rotaflex were manufactured as of circa 1952 in France by Charron and Disderot with early designs by André Simard and René-Jean Caillette. Then, Pierre Guariche, Joseph-André Motte and Michel Mortier designed numerous lamps during their short-lived collaboration as Atelier de Recherches Plastiques (ARP) from 1954-57. The lamps by ARP were manufactured and sold by Disderot, distributed also by Airborne, Meubles TV, Huchers Minvielle, Steiner and Luminalite.
 
Model R8 by ARP in its natural habitat as an ambient light and on the cover of Journal de l’Ameublement Meubles et Décors, February 1958.
 
Two other Rotaflex ambient lights by ARP.
 
Model E16 by Michel Mortier for ARP, c.1954, on the left with furniture by Geneviève Dangles, Alain Richard and Pierre Guariche.

French ceiling light.

Floor lamp by René-Jean Caillette, c.1952, for Charron, manufactured by Disderot.

Rotaflex stand at the Ideal Home Show 1957, London.
  
In 1953, the British company called Rotaflex was founded by Bernard Stern, painter turned industrialist, who commissioned John and Sylvia Reid to design lamps which received several awards. In addition to the spun cellulose acetate, John and Sylvia Reid enhanced the range with the ‘Christals’ series, made of cellulose acetate sprinkled in countless of tiny lucite bits. British Rotaflex lamps were distributed in France by Disderot and vice versa.
 
  

As of 1955, the US company Heifetz led by Yasha Heifetz (not to be confused with the famous violinist Jascha Heifetz), sold Rotaflex lamps of his own designs as well as others but also served as the Amercian distributor of the British Rotaflex lamps, all of them labeled Heifetz Rotaflex or Heifetz.

 

 

 
   
 
   

In addition, the name Rotaflex had been utilised by other companies, either using the manufacturing process or distributing the British Rotaflex lamps in their respective countries such as Plastex and Stockman Orno in Finland, Sompex Licht und Form in Germany, Verplex and Lightolier in the US, Kempthorne in Australia where the material was named Spunlite, and Bergboms in Sweden where the material was named Rotoflex.

   
Advertisements by Plastex and Verplex.

 
Advertisements by Kempthorne and Stockman Orno.

 
   
   


Chandelier AR41 by Janine Abraham and Dirk Jan Rol made from Rotaflex and rattan for Disderot at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, 1959.

10 Comments

  1. does anybody produces these lights? In Greece in the 1960’s and 1970’s my father Elias Caracassis had a production line in collaboration with Rotaflex Denmark – and I still have a few lamps in my possession.

    1. To my knowledge, Rotaflex production was stopped circa 1970 or early 70s. Despite their obvious charm and diversity, these lamps had one disadvantage – they were not exactly heat resistant. I assume that the evolution of plastic lead to the decline of Rotaflex and similar (bio)plastics. However, if you own a few originals, you’re lucky as they are valuable collectors’ items.

  2. Hello. Would you be able to contact me.? I also have some of these lamp shades . Thank you. Gerry.

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