It’s when ordinary people rise above expectations and seize the opportunity that milestones truly are reached.
And Sandeep Sangaru has so far achieved many such milestones making a distinct mark for himself in the furniture industry. His free-spirited approach towards design has won him several accolades including the prestigious Red Dot award for his bamboo system “Truss me”. With this system Sandeep had upgraded the status of Bamboo as material – it’s no more a make-do option for furniture. With his path breaking initiative towards Indian crafts and the belief of ‘why look elsewhere for inspiration when so much lies unexplored within’, has pinned India’s craft industry on the global design map.
Sandeep believes that glory for Indian crafts is still a far-fetched dream, but he has set the ball rolling with his manufacturing company Sangaru Design Objects Pvt. Ltd, which brings together traditional knowledge and skills in crafts combined with design and technology. This maverick designer has a passion for filmmaking and photography and continues working on several documentaries. Read on to know more about Sandeep, who by defying conventions is actually redefining them.
What about furniture design excites you most?
The challenging aspect of any furniture design is to make it inviting, as it is an object that supports and holds the human body giving it comfort and dignity.
Second is the appropriate use of material and methods to achieve all of the above.
Indian crafts have yet to see design highs? What should be done to empower India’s diverse craft culture?
Crafts in India have stopped evolving long back and haven’t kept up with the changing environment and needs. It is used more for decoration than being utilitarian. The crafts have been showcased as ethnic practices and objects made are frozen in time. This has made the practice of craft not very popular with the younger generation.
Design needs to delve deeper than just form giving. It has to innovate, collaborate and empower artisans with newer skills and tools to deal with the challenging and competitive market, and at the same time make them realize the value of handcrafting and sustainable use of resources to make the craft viable and available.
Can you name one craft which is underexplored, and something you would like to work on?
Utilitarian stone craft and traditional pottery are two least explored crafts in India. These were at one time the most practiced crafts in India. Both stone and clay was used in architecture and utilitarian objects and the characteristics of these applications and products were very unique to the diverse regions and the local natural resources.
What’s a design constant with you when you conceptualise any piece?
Trying to be as minimal as possible in form, structure and use of material.
Bamboo in spite of its sustainable nature and structural properties is still not the first choice for furniture. Why?
Bamboo was never portrayed as a valuable material. Wood from a 50-year-old tree is more valuable than bamboo that only takes 3-5 years to mature. Bamboo as a raw material was not experimented and developed for use in large-scale production methods. So it remained as a poor man’s timber. The general perception of any product or furniture made from bamboo has to be cheap.
Any designer or artist whose work you admire the most? And why?
Designers Hans J Wegner and Charles & Ray Eames – Hans J Wegner’s minimalism in building furniture and classic craftsmanship; and Charles Eames & Ray Eames for their multidisciplinary talents in stretching the limits of craft and pushing the boundaries of technology has inspired me immensely.
A favourite work tool you can’t do without?
Apart from a pencil and paper the camera is one of my favourite work tools.
Tell us something about your passion for filmmaking and what kind of documentaries you generally work on?
The passion for filmmaking was sown back at the National Institute of Design by a group of like minded friends with a common interest for special effects and movie making. After working in the film industry for a good 3+ years I had gained the experience needed to understand the film making process.
Later, when I started to work with the craft sector, it took me places I could not have imagined. This triggered the bug to document through photography and video.
The documentaries I like to make are mostly to do with recording ways of life, crafts and travel.
What are you currently working on?
It’s been 2 years since I started my own manufacturing setup to make furniture and objects using bamboo and other crafts. It is a challenging task to run you own business, which takes most of my time.
I’m also working on a very interesting project with artisans in Zimbabwe in the area of Basketry with Sisal fibre.
With another group I am working with Bamboo.
Tell us something about the award winning system ‘Truss me’…
It started off as personal exploration with the material. Through the process of exploring and experimenting with bamboo I went on to develop a range of furniture. The range is based on a construction technique I call “Truss Me”. This technique uses solid pole bamboo and split bamboo in a typical way and these laminated modules act like a truss, a very light load bearing structure. The brief I gave myself is to develop a range of functional products and furniture using this principle of construction.
“Truss-Me” uses Bamboo’s inherent property of high tensile strength and the various mechanical properties it has to create a structure system that is light, strong and formally pleasing. This system can be used in various applications from furniture, lightweight shelters to modular systems for various needs. The furniture designed and prototyped demonstrates the practical feasibility with a fine form language.
“Truss-Me is Handcrafted and Sustainable” and the winner of the Red Dot Design Award – Best of the Best 2009.
It also is the winner of the Grand Award and the Gold Award at Design for Asia, Hong Kong Design Centre, 2011
Is there any adventure which you always wanted to embark on?
Yes, a very ambitious one indeed…a bike trip around the country. I want to observe different ways of life and meet people from various regions, and record whatever comes my way.