When Sahil and Sarthak started their multi – disciplinary studio in 2009 they stepped in with different design backgrounds but a common belief – “Ethic, Ethnic and Ecology can be interwoven with the contemporary culture.”
Explorers at heart they scout the country to discover a new craft to work on and re-interpret it in modern context. Sahil and Sarthak’s product portfolio provides a dose of regular household things, albeit in an artistic manner. Their Katran and Long pi collections are already a sensation in both Indian and international markets, moreover the Katran collection has been showcased at various international platforms such as the Victoria & Albert Museum London as a part of the “India Now” Exhibition 2012 – 2013.
The studio’s “Zero Kilometer®” Design concepts evolved through the belief that “designing beautiful and functional products and projects should be combined with the efforts to involve and preserve local traditions and local craftsmanship specific to that locality”; a concept which was successfully put to use in the Lakshman Sagar Resort project in Rajasthan that involved the local community for the entire execution of the development.
In just 4 years the duo has established a new design module that sets out to cater to all bodies of the design system.
Here’s an insight into what drives them to ‘craft’ a creative balance.
How did the collaboration come about? What are the common (and uncommon) factors that bind Sahil and Sarthak together?
From 2006 to 2008, both of us were perusing our Masters in Design from Politecnico di Milano, Italy.
Coincidently, we were a part of the same program and we soon realized that although we came from different design disciplines, we work perfectly together as a team. Soon after, we both got the opportunity to work for the same Italian furniture company in Milan. In 2009, we decided to come back to India and start our own design studio in Delhi.
As for the common factors, both of us wanted to create a multi-disciplinary studio in India that could generate design solutions for innovative projects as well as product development.
We wanted to design and fabricate products that are handmade and of high quality with an international appeal, that’s why we choose to call our products Glocal products (Global yet Local). We were excited with the idea of bringing crafts and indigenous products into the mainstream by using sustainable systems.
Both of you have convincingly put Indian craft on the global design map. Is there a medium/material/technique you wish to explore in your designs in the future?
Not one particular. We are always on a look out for new materials and techniques.
Can you name one country (not India) whose cultural heritage charms you and has great design potential?
We find the Scandinavian design approach very fascinating and it can become an interesting case study for Indian designers who are exploring traditional crafts for the contemporary. For example in Swedish Design one can see a conscious effort to balance the artisanal and the Industrial. There is no clash between the two; in fact they complement each other beautifully.
You have done some wonderful work under your concept venture ‘Zero Kilometer’. Are there any future plans to develop and diversify the concept?
We first introduced the concept of Zero Kilometer Design for the Lakshman Sagar Resort in Rajasthan. The core idea was that every element of the interior including the colour palate has to be sourced or fabricated locally, using local materials and imbibing local cultural references. This not only reduced the carbon foot print of the whole project considerably, it also connected the rural community with the resort, giving them a sense of ownership and pride.
This model can be used for any project in any locality. Even in a metropolis like Delhi, we have artisanal localities like the old city, Begampur, Gari etc. Therefore its use is quiet diverse.
How is the experience of working with local craftsmen? Can you share a special episode?
One has to be very patient and accommodating.
Once we wanted to work with an artisan from Chhattisgarh. We wanted to create human scale installations using his craft, on a prominent Government building in Delhi.
It was a well commissioned project and it would have been a great platform for the artisan to display his craftsmanship. Unfortunately, the artisans disappeared with the advance amount paid to him in the beginning of the project. It is such pity that for a mere amount of Rs. 50,000 a talented artisan like him would feel compelled to flee.
Today, design in India has only managed to crack the surface with the upper crust of society. What will it take to instill the idea of good design being a practical and aesthetic requisite for all objects and classes?
Yes, the awareness is definitely increasing; at least we hope it is. Usually, design is perceived as a value addition for the rich.
However, factually a good design solution ensures maximum utilization of all resources and skills involved in the process. This in turn insures that a product is beautiful, functional as well as affordable.
For example, if a small living space is designed well, it can become much more diverse than it appears in its innate form. By an intelligent mix of colours, products, furniture and lighting, the same space can be used in a different way for the different needs of the client. For our fast track lives, it’s a onetime investment that will yield benefits for days to come.
Therefore, we are definitely seeing a rise in awareness towards good design.
A product/design by another designer that you like and why?
Dutch Designer Marcel Wanders. We feel his work is a great example of how tradition and contemporary culture can be balanced in a beautiful and functional product.
Your products enjoy an extensive global presence and your work has been acknowledged by international publications, do you think Indian designers are finally seeing a breakthrough in the international scene?
Yes, we feel the international businesses are not viewing India as only a cheaper destination of production anymore.
They feel India, Indian designers, Indian materials and techniques can become strategic value additions to their catalogue.
Your firm dabbles in several design mediums, what’s a design constant with you?
A balance between Ethics, Ethnic and Ecology.
A sustainable design to you is…. use of eco-friendly materials, shelf life of a product or the ecological impact it has?
To call a product eco-friendly it should be sustainable in all or most of its Product Life Cycle, i.e., from the time it raw materials are extracted or created till the time it has to be disposed. If a product is made by eco-friendly materials but due to binders or a complex production process, it ultimately adds to the landfill it’s not sustainable. Of course it is not possible to do justice to all the phases of a product life cycle all the time, but we make an effort to do so.
What are you currently working on?
We are designing a very exciting project for the Neemrana Group of Hotels. It is a hotel cum health resort, which is designed 3 levels under the ground level. We are designing the interiors as well as customising all the furniture and products for this property.
On a lighter note – a hobby that you would love to pursue…
A common cliché in designers that you have noticed and you think the fraternity can do without…
We have seen some socialites who have never been to design school, who open stores and call themselves designers. This worries us the most.