The Story of the Flowlight


The flowlight was born of the need for a durable LED glowstick that could be powered by a readily available, affordable and sustainable energy source. While its main purpose was to serve as a lightstick for illuminating flowtoys, it was also developed as a "pixel" of light that could be linked together and have a wide range of uses, including fashion and costuming, parties, safety, task and mood lighting. We use them daily to light up our belongings, to illuminate our child at night-time events, so that we and others can see her, we use our flowlights to find our friends and family.

We set out to create a light where every design feature would also serve a functional purpose. The flowlight needed to look and feel like it belonged and evolved somewhere in our universe, that it had motivation to live and thrive beyond recovering investments and turning a profit. Functionally it had to fit in a 1" tube, be about 5", click together, stand on its own, have 1 button and a battery door that did not require screws. It needed to allow as much light to transmit given an opaque battery and circuit board. We ended up designing a pretty unique circuit board and battery door, and even custom battery springs. We also made the flowlight length backward compatible with the streetlight system, so that our first customers and supporters wouldn't have to change their rigs to upgrade to flowlights.

The aesthetic vision behind the flowlight was that it resemble a deep-sea organism that sentient beings from the future engineered and cultivated as a light-emitting object for decoration and illumination. Our initial mood board included deep-sea creatures, images by Ernst Haeckel and Giger, and that thing that crawled into Neo's belly in the Matrix. After many versions and tweaks, learning what could and couldn't be done with injection molding, ultrasonic welding and our budget, we were pretty happy with the final design. It's been over 10 years, and we're still blown away by its beautiful play of light.

For those who don't already know, the generation 1 and 2 flowlights had breath and a heartbeat. "Breath" (mode 1) approximates the breath rate of a healthy human at rest. "Beacon" (mode 5) approximates the heart rate of a healthy human at rest, with a distinct lub-dub pulse compared to a simple blinking beacon. The flowlight has ribs and many other features that you would find in some of nature's curiosity cabinets. It also has a heart inside that is only visible when the flowlight is broken open.

Click here to get the flowlight-FS :: the latest evolution of the flowlight.

Flowlight :: Special edition - Green

The green flowlight was born of a mission to raise awareness on responsible e-waste recycling.

The world's appetite for electronics is growing and with it, a mountain of electronic "e-waste" and related health, social and environmental problems are piling up. Most "recycled" e-waste is shipped to China, India and Africa, where lower environmental standards and cheap labor make e-waste disposal more profitable, but less responsible.

To help reduce the impact of electronic products on our world, flowtoys donated 10% of all green flowlight sales to e-Stewards, a non-profit doing awesome work to reduce toxic e-waste. Each order of green flowlights also came with a beautiful postcard by our friend and visionary artist Geo Atherton. When we transitioned to the new flowlight-FS, the green flowlight was discontinued, though we continue to support e-Stewards efforts as an e-Stewards Enterprise.

Flowlight :: Special edition - Watermelon

Watermelon flowlights were first released in May 2010, when we launched a special limited run to recognize the contributions of Dan Gordon-Levitt. Burning Dan was a dynamic performer/teacher, who actively fostered community around the artform both locally through his weekly FlowTemple parties in LA, and globally through his travels, teaching and inspiring people all over the world.

Burning Dan was also known as “Watermelon Dan” for his love of the pink and green watermelon color scheme, and the positive effect it has on people.

The watermelon flowlights were very popular and the first run sold out before the end of the summer. Later that fall, Dan passed away and the flow community worldwide mourned the loss of a champion. Dan was a radiant and generous soul, who left an indelible mark in the flow community, touching the lives of everyone he met. Dan had many dreams for the flow arts. Following his passing many wondered how they could contribute to continuing Dan’s vision. His friends at flowtoys came up with an idea to start a foundation for the flow arts, and to seed the fund with the profits from a commemorative run of watermelon-themed flowlights.

Following months of behind the scenes preparation, Fund the Flow Arts launched at the San Francisco Flow Show in April 2011. The non-profit organization serves the mission of advancing the flow arts, and fostering flow communities.

The commemorative Watermelon light can be distinguished by inscriptions on the circuit board:

“Burning Dan: 1974-2010, carpe awesome, the Flow must go on”

We made several thousand watermelon flowlights and donated $12 for every one purchased to Fund the Flow Arts, enabling the funding of Flow Shows around the United States for many years and two Seed Fund Grant programs.

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