Life & Style

Cabbage, pineapple and bitter-gourd lamps?

Vaidehi Thakkar’s line of vegetable-inspired lamps finds beauty in the muted, leathery tones of a pear, the scaly texture of bitter gourd and the pineapple’s flowery pattern. What is she planning for the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2020?

Cabbage, pineapple and bitter-gourd lamps?

When it is dark, Vaidehi Thakkar switches on a cabbage. Well, cabbage-inspired light to be precise.

Veggie Lights is a line of lamps created through a collaboration between interior architect Vaidehi and light designer Nir Meiri. Nir’s studio in London launched Marine Light in 2013, incorporating seaweed, and Mycelium Lights 2018, with the vegetative part of the fungus. Vaidehi is lead designer at ‘Spaces, Things, Etcetera,’ a multi-disciplinary design studio in Pune, which experiments with contemporary materials and techniques. The collaboration resulted in red cabbage lamps, which made an impact at the 2019 London Design Festival, triggering conversations on design and sustainability.

“The inspiration was from the form of the cabbage and the lamp was moulded from fibre flats,” says Vaidehi, who hails from Alappuzha, and now lives in Pune with her husband and two sons. Fibre flats, she explains, are tiles that she created from dehydrated fruits and vegetables. The result is a fine, brittle paper-like material, “more like skin”, which is fused with glass when made into a tile and used as veneer with wood. The process focuses on sustainability, as even the adhesives are water-based, adds Vaidehi.

Cabbage, pineapple and bitter-gourd lamps?

The designer was in Kochi recently to plan an exhibition during Kochi Muziris Biennale in December 2020.

She says she was introduced to fibre art while volunteering at Ohio’s Akron Art Museum in 2007. She also did some courses related to fiber art at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia and Cleveland Institute of Art. Watching a friend work with handmade paper at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine was an eye-opener and she began to refine the process. When she returned to India in 2010, Vaidehi did not want to limit herself to being an artist and ventured into manufacturing as well. “I don’t do it as pure art in 2D form, but more for functional objects. With a language of architecture, I relate more to design products,” she says.

Cabbage, pineapple and bitter-gourd lamps?

In 2012, Vaidehi worked with Tony Davlin, the Boston-based glass artist, to create a series of glass tiles for the American design house Ann Sacks (part of Kohler). Called the ‘The Market Collection’, it featured thin slices of bitter gourd, pear, carrot and cucumbers, that were cut with a special mandolin, then pressed, dried and arranged over a white backing to create tiles.

Depending on the application, fibre flats can be moulded, says Vaidehi. A year and a half ago, the product was short-listed for the Hirosaki design competition in 2018-19.

Vaidehi is now working on a table, using the flats as veneer. The process of creating a long-lasting material from natural fibres is a challenge, she says, adding, “We tried different processes to make it fire-retardant and anti-fungal. The treatment differs from application to application.” She explains that each A4 size tile needs around two pineapples or four pears.

Since they are primarily an engaging visual material, Vaideshi says she allows fibre flats to do the talking. Once the application is decided — whether it is lighting, screen or wall art, furniture — she selects the type fiber flat that is to be used. This is critical and needs some time as there are over 40 types to choose from. Then begins the experimentation with the material — whether to use it in multiples; in sheet or a moulded form; how to get the maximum strength from inherent fibres for a particular form and so on.

“Every fruit and vegetable has its own texture, which we may not notice while consuming it. This is highlighted in a dehydrated state,” explains Vaidehi. De-seeded, the pear has muted brown tones, a flowery centre and a slightly leathery feel; the bitter gourd has an attractive snake-like scaly texture; the pineapple’s big flowery pattern and lemony colour makes it pert and interesting and the onion turns lacy. “All these are translucent, so they are good for lighting.”

Cabbage, pineapple and bitter-gourd lamps?

Growing up in Alappuzha, where her family owned a jute business , she says she has always been attracted to natural fibres. Looking back, she recalls the wonder with which she watched women in the village deftly work with jute. “I have always observed how people have try to bring Nature into their spaces. Some hang pictures of waterfalls or flowers or birds; some put flowers in vases; some have nature-inspired prints on their wallpaper... This is my way of bringing Nature into spaces; a way of perceiving it in a different light, with all its perfections and imperfections.”

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 6:25:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/vaidehi-thakkars-vegetable-inspired-lights/article30634049.ece

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