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Saturday , March 20 , 2010
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Cast in metal


His intricately crafted metal screens and installations are the talking point of many homes, upmarket retail showrooms and public areas like prime gardens in Delhi. Indeed, product designer John Bowman has quietly carved a niche for himself in the world of design ever since he moved to India 35 years ago.

The 60-something designer is reclusive and talks about his designs with great reluctance and after much prodding. He leads a quiet but busy life, working away from his farm in the peaceful village of Rajokri, located between Delhi and Gurgaon. When he’s not designing himself, he’s busy overseeing the execution of products by his team of designers and craftsmen.

Bowman says he was always creative — even when he was a young boy growing up in London. By 20, he was much sought after by famed rock stars like Mick Jagger and George Harrison as well as bands like The Allman Brothers Band for the intricate stage costumes that he designed for them. However, he didn’t hesitate to give it all up when he moved to India over three decades ago in the quest for peace and quiet.

Bowman loves working with materials ranging from stone and wood to brass and bronze to create products that are inspired by nature. These cover a wide range of items going from tableware to screens. “I use any material that’s versatile,” says the soft-spoken designer.

Bowman has mastered the ancient art of casting, wherein the metal is first melted and then poured into a mould of the desired shape. This is then allowed to solidify and cool. “The technique is a dying craft,” he says.

He set up Bowman Design, a comprehensive design firm in 2004. The company has done several international projects for corporates including Schwartz Communications, New York & Company, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bose Corporation and Avedis Zildjian Company, which is the world’s largest manufacturer of cymbals and drum-sticks. In India he’s even designed door-knobs and handles for the Samode Group of Hotels’ upcoming high-end safari lodges at Bandhavgarh.

He typically uses recycled metal sourced from the local dealers. Usually, he makes the first piece, which his casters then reproduce in bigger numbers. “I can come up with an idea but the caster is the one who ultimately does the job,” he says.


According to Bowman, minimalism continues to make a strong style statement in the world of home décor. But he says that the concept must be rounded off with elements taken from nature. “Nature is a missing element in modern architecture and design, but now people are keen to introduce it into their designs,” he says. So as a start, many designers are now creating objects in natural materials and fabrics.

Another big trend in home décor is the use of installations. And Bowman should know since his installations adorn many private residences. Many of his installations comprise trees cast in brass and bronze.

“People usually like trees because of the positive vibes they associate with them and because they’ve also become sensitive to natural elements,” says Bowman. Undoubtedly, every client also craves for unique elements. So Bowman often uses rare designs and customises exclusive pieces for them.


If you’ve visited the Garden of Five Senses in Delhi, you must have seen the installation of an inverted metal tree in brass and bronze. That and many other sculptures in this complex are designed by his company.

At the moment, Bowman is concentrating on developing a catalogue of products for the retail market. For private homes, he creates exclusive customised pieces such as giant lotuses or intricately crafted bronze-and-brass screens.

Take a look at his beautifully crafted bowls, platters and diyas shaped like lotuses, chrysanthemums, cabbages, peepal and teak leaves. Nature, especially leaves, are a huge inspiration for Bowman. Though there’s enough natural beauty around his farm in Rajokri, he now plans to visit the INA market in Delhi — ‘the’ hotbed for exotic fruits and vegetables — so he can create designs around them. Apart from tableware, Bowman has also designed door handles and knobs in the shape of leaves and flowers.

Bowman’s products are priced according to the weight of the metal and their designs. For instance, a 189gm diya in natural polish costs Rs 300, while a nickel-finish 7,400gm lotus flower comes for Rs 14,800. Or take the 1,000gm natural polish bowl that’s shaped like a teak leaf, which is priced at Rs 2,000. His customised metal screens or doors, though, can cost more than a couple of lakhs.

Photographs by Rupinder Sharma

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