Turn of the wheel
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- Published 11.10.08
How do you take used tyres and turn them into attractive pieces of furniture? Ask Rama Anand, furniture designer and art gallery owner. For Anand, her epiphany came one morning when she was cleaning out her backyard and found a stack of automobile tyres. She was about to call in the kabadiwala but had a sudden inspiration that set her off on a new track.
For the 60-year-old Anand, the idea came at a particularly bleak moment in her life. She was just being treated for an illness that could have been terminal. But she pushed ahead and didn’t let her ailment come in the way of her passion for furniture design. She even developed a new way of treating tyres and rendering them fit for use for the home.
“I have always wanted to do something meaningful in life. Transforming waste into something that’s attractive was a move in that direction,” she says firmly.
Anand never had a formal training as a furniture designer. But as the woman who launched Delhi Art Gallery in 1984, she developed an eye for art and aesthetics.
Thus began her quest for eco-friendly furniture. Today her line consists of a wide variety of pieces including high stools, centre tables and coffee tables with glass tops, planters, sofa sets, office and bar chairs. She even turns out clocks and painting frames — all with used tyres. Her furniture and home accessories are a stylish combination of used rubber tyres and wrought iron, wood and brass.
Being an experienced entrepreneur, Anand knew that if her furniture became a hotseller she’d face competition from cheaper imitations. So, she applied for an international patent for a technology for cleaning and sanitising the tyres after their thousands of miles on the road.
Once she acquired the patent, Anand began selling her items from several outlets in the Capital through her company, R A Environ Innovation. Presently, she also sells her products from her studio in Sainik Farms. Her list of clients even includes the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Horticulture.
Anand chiefly sources her tyres from wholesale tyre markets and requires anything between 200 and 300 tyres a month. It takes about a week to get the tyres, then clean and mould them and turn them into furniture. Her production units are based in Sainik Farms and in Noida, where about 100 artisans work.
She has used both four-wheeler and two-wheeler tyres to create her one-off furniture pieces. The tyres are treated with chemical solvents to rid them of harmful substances that cling to them during their hours on the road. They are also washed repeatedly to minimise the smell of rubber and some are then moulded into the desired shapes.
Anand prefers using clean lines for her furniture and muted colours like black, brown, moss green and beige predominate in her collection. There are exceptions like an all-white garden bench using two-wheeler tyres.
Since most of her collection is weather-proof, garden furniture abound. There are lawn chairs, garden umbrellas with tyre embellishments, planters, outdoor pedestal lamps and garden accessories like a three-tiered showpiece with each tier acting as a planter. Anand’s collection of indoor furniture includes sofas, benches and loungers all upholstered with fabrics like satin, silk and cotton.
An extravagant garden umbrella made with recycled tyres is possibly the piece de resistance of her garden collection. The canopy is studded with lights and edged with tyres. Expect to pay Rs 25,000 for this item.
Then there’s a 12-seater garden bench with white faux leather upholstery. The bench has 12 individual tyre seats mounted on thick iron. Three-wheeler tyres have been converted into the seats and the headrests. This one will cost you Rs 3,500.
Another piece that might catch your fancy is a workstation for kids. This is made to a child’s height and has a chair and a table fused together. The jagged facade of the tyres creates a sharp contrast with the smooth wood surface, imparting a contemporary feel. Be ready to shell out Rs 1,800 for this combination.
Rotating sofas are also a hallmark of this recycled furniture line. Huge four-wheeler tyres are converted into circular seats that can be rotated a complete 360 degrees. Plush upholstery with soft fabrics replicates the overstuffed look of regular sofas. You will have to pay Rs 5,500 for each single-seater sofa.
Photographs by Jagan Negi