Animal Farm is part of a continuing series of explorations centered around the twin themes of craft revival and the repurposing of used objects. This first set of upcycled bottle lamps visualizes six animal forms featuring the wood and lac turnery craft of Channapatna in Karnataka, India. With minimal intervention from the designer and the craftsman, objects that would otherwise have met uninteresting ends in the recycling chain have been born again as playful, usable products.
Six unique bottles that were, really, six characters waiting to be born. Meet Peeves, Porky, Gerry, Flo, Humf and Ellie, the stars of our little story. It all started with the gradual accumulation of glass bottles in our household. Beer bottles, mason jars, wine bottles, pickles, preserves and sauce bottles, ad nauseum. Soon it became difficult to ignore and the bottles in the growing pile took on a life of their own. Shapes started to emerge- animals, things, people I’d known and possibly even a cloud or two! From such trivialities are ideas born.
Somewhere in the middle of giving form to these shapes- sketches and models, a casual visit to Channapatna, the craft district located just outside Bangalore, made my heart skip a beat. Here was a sizeable community of craftsmen churning out playful animal toys by the hundreds! There was synergy I would’ve been hard placed to ignore even if I had wanted to. Before I knew it, I was collaborating with these craftsmen in a back and forth of ideas, sketches, mock-ups and study models.
The real challenge was to achieve a fusing of attitude and approach between the designer and craftsman, with give and take on both sides. How do you get them to look at objects from a wider world view when their entire world has always been their community? How do you get them to understand design intent, with the interplay of materials, when they’ve only ever worked with one material all their lives? How do you get someone to pay attention to the details and finesse when they’ve spent generations earning money by producing hundreds of objects a day, so what if the curve doesn’t turn out just so?
Our worlds collided. From this collision came Animal Farm. It is as much craft as it is art. It is as much chance as it is design. It is as much a finished product as it is a work in progress.