Year-End Special: The man who recycles time
Absynthe Design’s Abhishek Basak on mending an old object and giving it new life
Even a dysfunctional wristwatch can be immensely valuable—as a custodian of memories. For fashion-design graduate Abhishek Basak, a watch that his grandfather had gifted to his mother triggered a journey to a whole new vocation. “I made the watch into a piece of jewellery (in 2010). My mother was ecstatic and for me life came full circle when I connected three generations in that one piece,” says Basak.
After a stint in fashion design, followed by packaging design, Basak established Absynthe Design Studio in 2014. “It was not easy to leave the comfort of a salaried job. But I took the plunge and gave myself three months. I started selling what I created with the very second piece, and, in less than six months, I was averaging an income higher than my salary,” says Basak, who today offers 15 product categories, and promises to add a new category every year.
Watches converted into cufflinks, pendants or rings allow an entire historical emotion to be carried into a functional and wearable accessory. A 70-year-old radio that once provided entertainment to a family has been converted into a Bluetooth speaker—for phone conversations and to listen to songs. A typewriter has been converted into a lamp base with a letter inserted, family photographs displayed on the table around it, as though the patriarch is watching over them.
“I deeply missed making things with my hands. We were too dependent on computer-aided tools. When I crafted the pendant using my mother’s old watch, I knew I had to take this up more formally,” he says.
At the core, the philosophy Absynthe follows is to keep intact the spirit of the product and its intended function, without compromising on the creativity, and the original story of what is being repurposed. It is a complicated balancing act, so it can take several months to complete a piece. People bring all kinds of things to the studio; from old typewriters and watches to telephone sets and table fans, which may be in working condition but have lost functional purpose in modern-day houses. “I spend considerable time to understand the story. It is a vintage object for me, but for the client it usually has deep associations, history, and memories. This becomes the most important directional guide for me. I see it as my responsibility to keep the value intact. The next step is to translate these emotions into design. This is the most interesting aspect, and where I consider myself an artist, converting sense into something tactile,” says Basak.
Often, pieces need restoration and they have to be converted into usable objects in the current context. “Each piece must create a three-way conversation between the owner, the viewer, and I—the creator”, he says.
Absynthe Design, Greater Kailash-1, New Delhi (by appointment only) or Absynthedesign.com.