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.
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.
Model E16 by Michel Mortier for ARP, c.1954, on the left with furniture by Geneviève Dangles, Alain Richard and Pierre Guariche.
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.