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In a world that is increasingly enamoured by frills and embellishments, Saif Faisal’s essentialist design comes as a whiff of fresh air. Since focusing on the ‘essential’ is at the helm of his practice, his products manage to remain minimalistic and impeccably designed. Intrigued to know more about his multi-disciplinary approach, CQ delves into his process and products.
When Saif Faisal realised he could pursue design as a career, he enrolled in an architectural undergraduate program, since it was the closest option available in Bangalore; this was as a foundation to pursue an education in automation design. During his time at R.V College of Architecture, Bangalore he became a part of the Mechanical Engineering department’s Formula Student Racing team. The rest was serendipity.
Years later, Saif continues to apply the lessons he learnt there which include highlighting the essential and eliminating the rest. “I focus on sensitive, thoughtful and meaningful design,” he says.
Function and performance are of utmost importance in racing; Saif extends this understanding to his own designs. However, given Saif’s inclination towards a multidisciplinary approach, he believes in looking beyond the material. Often, that results in a harmonious collusion harnessing technology, craft and concepts adopted from sociology and philosophy.
Saif knew he had to go back home to Bidar to pursue the art of Bidriware in a contemporary direction after a conversation with Patricia Urquiola, who was a speaker at India Design 2015. He says, “We were talking about how there’s a rich heritage of craft but designers don’t tap into it enough.”
A metal handicraft, Bidriware is done with a unique and rare mud found in the unlit areas of Bidar fort, in Karnataka. The traditional technique involves inlaying one metal with another, typically gold and silver and later applying the mud which exclusively oxidizes the Bidri alloy. However, in a quest to innovate and experiment with the 700-year-old craft, they arrived at ‘selective oxidation’. This technique involves using heat resistant laminate to mask certain areas, thereby allowing oxidization of only the exposed areas, leaving the rest shiny while also creating ethereal patterns.
Bidriware remains the highlight of the series, borrowing the name of its inventor Abdullah bin Kaiser, it reaffirms Saif’s attention to so many details. The patterns that appear across the series borrow from two different places. While the snowflake motifs reflect Saif’s fascination with chaos theory, nature and fractals, the other motif explores zillij, a form of Islamic art characteristic of Moroccan architecture. The construction of the table too is intriguing as it appears to be resting on a tip, almost defying gravity.
The amalgamation of such elements in the work is synchronous with his inspirations that span the globe. He elaborates, “We have an innate appreciation for traditional Japanese aesthetics, Italian expression and Scandinavian softness.” Translating this line of thought into work, his techniques often draw from Japanese woodwork, while his honesty to materials reflects Scandinavian design principles. There also lies a peculiar similarity to design in Italy in his love for magnified geometry.
Browsing through his website, it becomes clear that each product has a defined language. We were particularly captivated by the Poise Lamp - a seemingly mellifluous combination of play and power. Versatile in utility, the lamp can be used as a floor or table lamp.
The main element, crafted from a single piece of wood comes in two different sizes. The brass or aluminium disc base and locking knob on top elucidate the soft sculpted wood. What adds to its adaptability is the pivoting mechanism that allows the illumination piece to move freely along the wooden column, allowing light to be intensified or diffused. The lamp went on to receive multiple awards including the Elle Decor International Design Awards 2016 and the TRENDS Awards 2016 Commendation.
Using this prototype he plans on refining the structure and design of the Poise Lamp with a slighter, bigger diameter base and perhaps also implement a fabric wire. There is so much more to come from Saif Faisal’s workshop, though he’s already achieved a fair bit of acclaim in the recent years; but like all creative people, he believes there is scope for improvement. Given the diverse ambit of his work – across architecture, cars and even including jewellery – we eagerly await his upcoming experiments and ventures.
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