Inspired by the flying saucers, rocket ships, and robots of 1950s sci-fi comic covers, Jason Dietz set out to create a little of that magic for his home. He decided to make lamps that depict a classic flying saucer shooting down a giant plasma ray and pulling up an unsuspecting victim into the ship. To get the desired effect, he knew he had to go big.
Dietz’ UFO Lamps stand over 6 feet tall from base to saucer. The 2-foot-diameter flying saucer that crowns each lamp is a sturdy sandwich of parabolic aluminum heat dishes, Edison flame bulbs, and an acrylic disk. The saucer sits atop a giant hand-blown recycled-glass vase that holds 10 gallons of water.
CFL, LED, and halogen lights, in combination with a 110-volt air pump, nail the illusion, as the abduction victim, a lone cow, hovers and twirls helplessly above the grassy pasture from which it was plucked.
With its size, varied lighting, and constant motion, the lamp is beautiful and bizarre at once, not a sight easily overlooked. Dietz keeps one in his living room. “The soft glow of an alien abduction in progress in the corner of the room is quite the sight indeed,” he says. “Staring at it for a while lets your imagination run wild — it puts me into that retro sci-fi world.”
Like many makers, Dietz gains inspiration as much from seeing his visions come to life as from seeing others enjoying his creations. At Maker Faire Bay Area 2010, he displayed six of his UFO Lamps in a half circle at the back of Fiesta Hall, a dark environment that featured only projects that glow. Fairgoers were drawn in by the UFO beams, and thousands came closer for a good look.
“It looked like a small-scale alien invasion in the back of the hall,” Dietz remembers. Apparently he wasn’t the only one excited to see this fantasy made reality, as the lamps were in high demand.
His latest project is wall lights that integrate planets passing in front of each other in the manner of an eclipse. He hopes to display them at next year’s Faire.
“We all have the power to create anything we want to see,” says Dietz, “it just depends on how much you really want to see it happen.”
Interview on Make: Online: makezine.com/go/dietz