Living Objects

Lena Balderas

See it On Campus: Level 2

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Giving new life to discarded objects by exploring their embodied potential.

Developed from the notion that all objects have unrealized value and that humans can intuitively respond to their affordances, this project is a continuous practice using pre-existing objects that are on their way to landfill as inspiration for new creations.

The process starts with materials that have almost reached an “end”, rerouting them away from their linear cycle. It is a method of preserving and prolonging existing artifacts that no longer hold their intended purpose.

Primary objects often start with a plank of wood, a roll of fabric, a sheet of metal, but I find myself working backwards when it comes to material. I am drawn to secondary artifacts that have already been manufactured, produced, designed, built, and made. There’s an existing framework to build from.

In a world that has been conditioned to over-consume, it is important to care for what we have before wanting more. My goal is to create objects as a means for dialogue and connection.

“Living Objects” prompts people to:

Imagine an object’s potential

Reframe what is useful or valuable

Reveal how we respond to the objects around us

Shift our values around how we consume

Encourage repair and care

Question the relationships we have with our things 


The process is quite simple and intuitive. Going to second hand stores, or anywhere you can find discarded objects. The objects speak to what they could become.

Informed by their materiality, colors, form, and craft, and this is the beginning of a growing relationship with the objects.

Most of the objects discareded are mass produced, machine made, industrial, fabricated objects.


By reimplementing the hand craft into industrial objects, I aim to challenge our narratives around consumption and mass production and enhance the mass produced object’s perceived value.

My making included a lot of intuitive craft processes that came from an imaginative visualization of how the materials could be used and manipulated.


Object 1- Snow Tire Chains

Location Found – Salvation Army Thrift Store

Price Payed – $15.00

Original Function – Snow Tire Chains

New Function – Chandelier

Materials Added – Ceramic, Metal, Aircraft Wire

Processes Added – Ceramic Tile Mold Making, Metal Working

Responding to the way the chains hung and the forms created in the negative space, inspired the shapes for the hanging ceramic tiles.


Object 2 – Knitting Needles

Location Found – Salvation Army Thrift Store

Price Payed – $0.15/ ea

Original Function – Knitting Needles

New Function – Lamp Shade

Materials Added – Acrylic

Processes Added – Laser Cutting, Mold Making, Heat Bending

The abundance of knitting needles viewed as simple, moldable lines, inspired the opportunity for a repeatable form that in combination, could create a 3D shape.


Object 3 – Medical Privacy Screen

Location Found – Mother’s Prop Closet

Price Payed – $0.00

Original Function – Medical Privacy Screen

New Function – Room Divider/ Structure for Hanging Lights

Materials Added – Paint

Processes Added – Sanding, Painting

The medical screen gave a perfect opportunity to prolong it’s original function but in a different context. I saw potential in it’s structure to create something more playful. The white plastic panels and cold aluminum frame inspired the opposite: warm colors and textile panels (not pictured).

*Originally, my plan was to create textile panels for the frame made from free wool I acquired and blue/green scrubs I found. I felted the wool into panels and dyed them (shown on next pages) but a challenge with intuitive making is you make to find out, and sometimes you find out the design isn’t working so I have learned to let things go when this happens. So for now it makes a great structure for my 3 hanging lamps.


Object 4 – Chair

Location Found – Salvation Army Thrift Store

Price Payed – $15.00

Original Function – Chair

New Function – Chair

Materials Added – Wool, Dye

Processes Added – Felting, Dying, Upholstering

The chair already had a lot of visable potential. The frame is what drew me in. Again, an opportunity to prolong its original function. Since moving away from the privacy screen, I still had the panels of wool textile that I felted for the screen and thought the material would make nice cushions for the chair and the colors would pair nicely.


This personal collaboration and conversation I have with found objects inspires my making.

By adding a part of myself to these objects, together we have created a new life, purpose and value to the once discarded object.

Lena Balderas

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I am an interdisciplinary designer Intersecting craft and industry, using material exploration and storytelling to create objects as means of dialogue and mediation for social and cultural connections.

I am interested in rethinking the way things are made and how materials are used to create relevant changes to design processes and culture.

I am a collector of found objects, inspired by their colors, forms, materials and craft. Aside from building off pre-existing objects I also work with flexible materials like clay and textiles. My work is playful and colorful, adding a touch of whimsical joy to everything I create.

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