As It Happens

Colorado nurse crafts stunning chandelier out of empty COVID-19 vaccine vials 

Laura Weiss wanted to shine a little light into the darkness of this pandemic.

The pandemic art project, called Light of Appreciation, is an homage to health-care workers 

Colorado nurse Laura Weiss crafted this chandelier out of empty COVID-19 vaccine vials. (Submitted by Laura Weiss)

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Laura Weiss wanted to shine a little light into the darkness of this pandemic.

The Boulder, Colo., nurse temporarily came out of retirement this year to help colleagues inoculate thousands of people against COVID-19 in her community. 

Then she celebrated those efforts by turning the empty vaccine vials into a stunning chandelier. 

"It's been a very dark year for myself personally, for my friends — for most people, actually," Weiss told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

"And for me, there's something about just bringing light to that, and bringing some sense of clarity and transparency and just something bright. Everyone's just looking for a brighter future."

She's calling it Light of Appreciation, as an homage to health-care workers on the front lines of the pandemic, and all the folks in Colorado who chose to get the vaccine. 

Weiss says the chandelier looks just like any other from far away. (Submitted by Laura Weiss)

Weiss says she and colleagues vaccinated about 17,000 people in February and June of this year. At the height of the rollout, they were jabbing 1,000 people a day. 

As of Thursday, 77 per cent of eligible people in the county had been fully vaccinated — a cut above the state-wide rate of 68.24 per cent.

"It's very comforting to know that people, at least in this community, are really working together to take care of each other and follow the mandates and the protocols," Weiss said.

But the more shots they doled out, the more the vials piled up.

"I thought they were just really beautiful," Weiss said. "I thought, wow, I would love to do something with these vials instead of just throw them away."

But close up, you can see the Moderna vials that make up the bulk of the project. (Submitted by Laura Weiss)

It took some bureaucratic wrangling to get the necessary permission to take the vials home, she said, but eventually she got the green light. 

She cleaned each vial, and then attached them to a beat-up old chandelier frame she found on Craigslist for $20 US.

The final product is now hanging in her living room. It's about 1.2 metres tall and 0.9 metres wide, made up of 217 empty Moderna vials, and finished with about a dozen smaller Johnson & Johnson vials at the very bottom. (Boulder just recently started administering Pfizer and J&J vaccines, she said.

"It's sparkly and beautiful, especially with the light on, especially at night," she said.

Weiss considers it a beacon of hope and celebration of community. But like all art, not everyone sees it the same way. 

The final product is still hanging in Weiss's living room, but she says museums and doctors' offices have enquired about displaying it. (Submitted by Laura Weiss)

"It looks like every other chandelier from a distance, and as you get close, you actually see medicine vials, which for some people are very disturbing, and especially people who are anti-vaxxers," she said.

"It represents something very different for them than for me, who actually sees these vials as, like, life-saving solutions. So it's interesting how it can have that kind of a profound understanding for different people."

Weiss is not sure what she'll do with the chandelier next. She's already fielding calls from several institutions interested in it, including museums and doctors' offices. She's even been contacted by the makers of Moderna.

"I'm giving this a little bit of a pause just to let things settle and be really clear about where it is going to land," she said. 

"It's important to me that it goes somewhere that actually honours the intention behind it."

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview produced by Katie Geleff. 

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