Making art from the non-medical grade cane, Rise Design Arts is bridging the gap between art, design and science.
In the ever-evolving world of technology and design, creativity often requires veering into the crossing of boundaries, and bringing together elements that one could possibly not imagine, and hence producing stellar innovative solutions. It was in this spirit of curiosity and innovation that Arun Cherian, a robotics engineer, opened Rise Design Lab in 2015 to make high quality and affordable prosthetic legs using cane. Now, aiming for sustainability, Arun has collaborated with artist Sanjay Kumar to hold the first edition of the Rise Design Art: Inception Exhibit in the city. The exhibition showcases eight functional art pieces made by the non-medical grade cane that could not be used in the manufacturing of prosthetic legs.
Talking about how Arun found stronger, durable, cheaper and eco-friendly material in the furniture stores, as a replacement of plastic for making prosthetic limbs, he shares, “cane can bend and take your weight, so it works like a spring. Turns out, the leg of any animal is a spring too. So, if a human leg is a spring, a cane is also a spring; it was just a curiosity for these questions that made us think whether we can make legs out of cane.” The idea panned well, and not only did he succeed in making prosthetic legs, but his first client, who had lost both of his legs in an accident, was running marathons soon enough.
Although the success of his start-up can be attributed to the digital fabrication technique used by his team, the high medical processing costs posed a problem. Moreover, in the bulk-buying of cane, the non-medical variety, which is better than what carpenters use in furniture, used to lie in the inventory, causing a problem of waste. Hence, looking for options to generate alternative revenue for the company in a sustainable manner, Arun opened Rise Design Art that combines specialized engineering and local craft that achieve zero wastage and create limited edition art. “The goal is to sell these art pieces at a premium and use that money to subsidise the prosthetic legs. Imagine if art can fund innovation in a medical space so we can do social good, which in turn creates a platform for other artists such as Sanjay Kumar.”
Sanjay Kumar, who is known for his innovative and sustainable design solutions, boarded the idea, and his calibre can be witnessed in the eight cane furniture pieces including the chair, table, lamp, bookshelf and much more in the upcoming exhibit. Echoing Arun’s words, Sanjay confirms, “this project bridges the gap between art, craft, science, medical and design, so it’s a beautiful project and a great platform for upcoming artists.”
Even though the art pieces find functionality as furniture pieces, Sanjay does not want them to be called as furniture. “If you look at these installations, you would not want to call them as furniture. They are like pure art pieces, which are functional. We are not designing a four-legged chair, but following its form, which allows people to sit, and that’s the approach I have followed,” he says. It is perhaps why, incorporating the theme of hyper-nature, the installations not only reflect the rawness of the wild but also have titles to them. For instance, Karkadann, which essentially is a chair, is designed to reflect rhinoceros with a brass rhino horn on the top of the frame and the beaten brass on the legs to recreate the rhino skin.
Moreover, Sanjay has also swerved away from the traditional usage of cane, as seen in the cane furniture. “The most challenging part was how to be different, because cane has got a powerful identity in the market, so how to break that? And if you see the pieces, you know they have gone way beyond that. You can’t compare them with traditional pieces, it’s like apple and oranges,” he reveals.
For Arun, who had launched Rise Design Lab with a drive to make a world little better, is amazed how his venture is breaking boundaries between streams, but also spreads the beauty of creativity. “It’s amazing how as a med-tech company, we found a way to use art not just as a charitable cause, but as an integral part of our business model, and there is a lot of love and beauty going around in this too,” he concludes.
The exhibition is open from tomorrow to December 16, at Bombay Arts Society, Gallery 2&3, Bandra.