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It took six years and several drawings/prototypes for Truss-Me—a collection of bamboo furniture—to achieve the finesse it has today. In 2008, Bangalore-based designer Sandeep Sangaru created a set of light but strong chairs, tables and bookshelves using split bamboo poles laminated together. He borrowed the idea from a technique called truss—a load-bearing frame used in construction. Truss-Me won the Red Dot Design Award (Best of the Best) in 2009 and the Design for Asia Award (Gold) at the Hong Kong Design Centre 2011. And this month, Sangaru was awarded the Young Creative Entrepreneurs Awards—Design for Social Impact Award by the British Council in Kolkata for his work on this collection.

The Truss-Me bench system that starts from 1.6 lakh at Sangaru.com.
The Bambike, which costs upwards of 25,000, is available at 6mm Designs and Furniture, Bangalore. Photo: Yolk Studio, Bangalore

He explains why bamboo is his first choice. “I’ve worked with plastics, metals, done injection moulding, die-casting, but working with bamboo needs so few tools. With rudimentary equipment you can do a lot. Bamboo is a labour-intensive material," he says. London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is in the process of putting together an exhibition of modern Indian design, expected to open next year. And curator Divia Patel has shown interest in Hishey’s recycled bamboo table.

The Bo Lamp by Andrea Noronha is still in production.
Recycled bamboo table set by Joshua Hishey at Studio Alaya, Dehradun, and www.designemporia.in, 6,000.
Knock-down furniture prototype designed by the National Institute of Design for the North-East.

Bamboo, however, is limited by the perception that it is used only to make decorative handicrafts. When Sangaru visited Shankela in Tripura, he realized that even though the bamboo products local people used in their day-to-day lives were quite evolved, they sold the same humdrum bamboo products in rundown craft bazaars. “There’s some education that the artisan needs to change this. With a little more design sensibility and better finishing, they can make better products and fetch a lot more money," he says. Reubens believes in making products that urban people would like to have in their homes, “something functional and not too ethnic".

The Wishboo chair by Rebecca Reubens, made from bamboo and recycled chindi rope, available at Bamboo Canopy, Ahmedabad, 7,050.

Sharma has sold only six bikes since production started in 2009, all to foreign customers. Sangaru struggles to sell his award-winning Truss-Me in the domestic market. “People expect it to be inexpensive because it’s made of bamboo. I can’t be justifying its price all the time. There has to be a maturity level to judge the design, craftsmanship, quality and finish of a product," Sangaru says. But while the market and artisans themselves undervalue bamboo, design is slowly beginning to etch the best out of it.

komal.sharma@livemint.com

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