Eames, Nakashima or Juhl? Who inspires you the most? If you recognise those names, then the world of furniture design is not a mystery to you. I have now heard these names, and many more for the last 5 years, ever since I started my design education. Even now, as a professional, examples of their ingenuity and simplicity of design never seem to leave my mind.
I graduated from the National Institute of Design (NID) last year and have since been working for a startup in Bangalore called Furlenco, a home furniture rental company.
My foray into design was a very intentional and somewhat inescapable journey. I had a flair for all kinds of art as a kid. My earliest memory of this was when I was sitting at the dining table and colouring while my grandmother prepared lunch. My parents were always proud of the fact that I coloured within the lines.
I guess my love for neatness and accuracy began there. Over the years I dabbled in a variety of arts including painting shoes, T-shirts, even my bedroom wall. I also enjoyed doing embroidery and paper crafts. After undergoing an aptitude test in the 10th grade, I was advised that design might be the right career choice for me. I spoke to a lot of people and did my own bit of research before I decided that it was indeed something that I could spend the rest of my life doing.
In June 2011, I started my design journey at NID. Over the course of the foundation year, I was exposed to many different ideas and skills, and I soon fell in love with wood. The most obvious choice for me at the end of the foundation year was to pursue furniture design. Over the next few years however I realised how delightfully diverse that stream actually is. It does not limit itself only to wood or chairs.
That is only the beginning. I designed lamps, installations, clothes hangers and my dream home among other things. I discovered bamboo, a material I adored for its sustainability and versatility. I designed and crafted a bamboo coat hanger which went ahead to win an award at the Pune Design Festival.
Another interesting project I worked on was a stretcher for dogs, as part of the design for special needs course. Here too, I was able to delve into a very different field of veterinary sciences and animal care. I tried to understand the behaviour and needs of pet owners while trying to keep the dog’s welfare in mind. Unfortunately the project did not advance to a prototype stage and is still just a concept.
I went on a four-month exchange to Germany, which provided me with a very different view on how design works in the west. The facilities and machines that students have access to, opens a number of doors to experimentation and innovation. I attended courses on wood carving, product design and exhibition design there.
One of the larger milestones of my design journey till date is winning the Briccole Design Award in 2014. I designed an end table that was selected from over 100 entries from India, and was given the chance to travel to Milan for the award ceremony, where also I had the opportunity of attending the Salone del Mobile fair, one of the largest furniture fairs in the world. I was left spellbound by the opportunity that furniture design had to offer. It is an experience that I will never forget.
For my final design project in college, I worked with a small enterprise in Bangalore called Esthete. The brief was to design a sofa for modern technology and lifestyles, and Technopod was created over a five-month period. The asymmetrical sofa has plug points to charge gadgets, a lamp to facilitate reading and storage drawers to keep books, magazines and newspapers.
It even has an ottoman that can be pulled out to create a lounger. It turned out to be the perfect living room solution for the new-age generation which also created a lot of buzz, and shaped up into a well-rounded project from which I learnt a lot.
During my current one year stint with Furlenco, I have designed Mili, a range for newly married couples. It is a compact and lively furniture set to create the perfect nest. I have used a combination of materials like rubberwood, metal and upholstery in Mili. Besides furniture design, I have also learnt a lot about marketing and understanding the customer’s requirements.
Over the years, in the process of making prototypes and models, I realised I enjoyed working with my hands and creating things myself. I never shied away from using machines in the workshop and made sure that the product was perfect to the last detail. It will possibly be this passion that will propel my future.
Text By Vanessa Horig