Recycling and upcycling are key words for designer Anu Tandon Vieira, who uses discarded tyres and plastic ropes to create furniture.
Durable and weatherproof don’t quite evoke a picture of beautiful products. But there is a designer who has married these traits with aesthetic appeal in a wonderful manner. Anu Tandon Vieira, who specialises in handcrafted furniture, weaves beauty with old wrappers, plastic ropes, cane, bamboo and discarded tyres.
“It is not that your useful years are over on retirement, in fact it is a time you can utilise to do all those projects that you might have wanted to do over the years, but were too busy to work on,” says the Mumbai-based designer.
Retyrement Plan isn’t just about Vieira’s personal plans but also about what happens to the material after it has been put to use in the conventional sense and has in a way ‘retired’.
Being a textile designer, she has an eye for the right kind of material. “I used to work in an export house and to me the material in the dumpster outside the export house was much more exciting. You can find amazing material, especially in the industrial waste, and it is available at throwaway prices. For example, the material sheets left after bindis have been cut out, make for a very interesting canvas and can be moulded in various ways. So different textiles and materials excite me,” she says.
It was in Gujarat that she found the material she wanted to work with. “These plastic ropes are so readily available and can also be made with discarded wrappers and other plastic material. I also found that tyres are not only durable but also make for beautiful shapes. That led to an amalgamation of the two and the result is these beautiful pieces of furniture,” she shares. She approaches the dusty old tyre in the same manner as anyone would approach an expensive design material.
However, she is quick to add that this isn’t upcycling for the sake of it. “These days people are somehow supposed to like anything that is recycled. But why should anyone be obliged to love a design just because it is recycled or upcycled? One should only like it if the design is genuinely creative,” she says, adding, “I make these designs and try to create something better. The fact that these designs use recycled material is my responsibility and I choose that as a conscious citizen.”
Vieira has also put a lot of effort in finding the craftsmen who work at her studio. “A lot of talent gets wasted in cities. Maybe a person who is a weaver or a potter has to drive a rickshaw in the city just to make ends meet. As designers, it is our responsibility to not let such talent go to waste but we prefer to have cushy jobs, when we can use our skills to help a lot of people,” she opines.
Vieira’s designs have helped train and employ 20 craftsmen and she plans to help more. “These arts will not die if there is proper recognition and respect for these professions,” she shares. She also wants to bring design to public spaces and hopes that it doesn’t remain restricted to elite spaces alone. “These pieces of furniture are suitable to be put out in the open, I see no reason why something like this cannot replace the plain plastic benches in public spaces. Art is for everyone,” she concludes.