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Secret life

“The idea started as an emotional reaction to seeing the waste”

London designer and entrepreneur, Yair Neuman, on a collaboration with Cubitts that saw spectacle lenses transformed into works of art

Yair Neuman designs
Mark Cocksedge

The idea started as an emotional reaction to seeing the waste – that horrible feeling of taking this virgin plastic, an almost new material, and putting it in the bin. I discovered quickly that a lot of people within the eyewear industry feel like that. It made it relatively easy to connect with other opticians and collect lenses from them.

Once I started working with the material it became fun and a little bit magical. I began to see all these colours and patterns showing up. That moment where the lenses transform is what made me very happy during the initial stages of making these pieces. It was probably the thing that made me continue.

Lenses are made to manipulate light. The first pieces I created were responding to that – they were lamps. There was a lot of trial and error and experimentation. It took me around a year to see results. You can take lenses, shred them into small pieces and recycle them into something that does not look like a lens anymore. But for me it was important to keep the story within the objects I created. You needed to be able to recognise, at least in context, that these are lenses from many glasses.

Yair Neuman
Mark Cocksedge
Yair Neuman with his artwork at the Cubitts Coal Drops Yard store.

To be able to keep the general shape of the lenses but also turn them into a structure that is strong enough to support itself was quite a challenge. But with every problem, there was a solution. I ended the year with something to show. The project inspired me to go the extra mile and reinject the lenses back into the industry. Now I am working on a new collection that creates frames from lenses.

You can take lenses, shred them into small pieces and recycle them into something that does not look like a lens anymore. But for me it was important to keep the story within the objects I created

 

Working on the Lens Light collection, I handled thousands of lenses. In one sculpture I might work with up to 2000 lenses. It is a big number but it is nothing in comparison with what goes to the landfill on a global scale. The idea is to communicate how many lenses are finding their way into the ground or into the atmosphere when they are burnt.

Spectacles are an amazing thing that help a lot of people but it does come at a cost. Unfortunately, you are creating waste and you need to do something with it. People deserve to know the production chain of the things that they use. I think it will only make them appreciate it more.

  • As told to Selina Powell.