Concrete Vases Inspired by Urban Indian Infrastructure

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Courtesy of Tiipoi

Tiipoi draws on both India’s zero-waste design ethos and its architectural signatures to create charming planters and vessels

  1. Who is it? Tiipoi, a London- and Bangalore-based homeware brand founded in 2013 by Spandana Gopal
  2. Why do I want it? Indian-made contemporary homeware and accessories inspired by real stories from modern India
  3. Where can I find it? TwentytwentyoneSCPOPUMOClippings and Such & Such

Who is it? A feeling of restlessness and a desire to talk about her experience of living in London and looking back to India motivated Bangalore-born, London-based Spandana Gopal to leave a successful career in art management to launch the design studio Tiipoi, five years ago.

“India is seen as a nostalgic, romantic place where you go to find yourself,” said Gopal, the founder and creative director of Tiipoi, which launched four years ago. “I wanted to present India through a modern lens and I started to think about the ways in which I could tell stories about everyday life in India. I found inspiration from the way the brand Muji uses everyday products to tell stories about Japan.”

Gopal began her research by studying how the household objects she grew up with were made, and found that their function informed the design. Water is stored in copper vessels, as the metal has a purifying effect, while takeaway teacups were made from clay because it is both hygienic and biodegradable, she explains. “The innovative, holistic no-waste approach to making products comes from problem-solving. The idea of sustainability has always been there, but it has never been articulated in design.”

Tiipoi takes design ideas found in food, craft and manufacturing in India reinterprets them into modern products for the home, which feature a contemporary feel, natural materials, simple, functional forms and colour palette of muted and bright tones. The studio’s Katha range of blankets and cushions, which features kantha stitching traditionally used to make bedding, demonstrates its modern approach craftmaking; instead of being hand-stitched it is made on a machine, ensuring ethical manufacturing and highlighting the functionality behind the craft.

Sustainability is a way of life in India, and Tiipoi utilises the knowledge of the craftspeople it employs to create low-waste ways of working. While designing the bronze and copper storage jars, Gopal said that the maker suggested that they make trivets at the same time, so that they could utilise most of the material at the point of use rather than recycling the off cuts. “The no-waste philosophy is based on the idea of being frugal from the beginning,” she says. “It comes from not being sure how much you are going to get, so you make things go further.”

Why do I want it? Brutalist architecture and nature collide in Siment, Tiipoi’s new range of concrete vessels, which launched during the 2018 London Design Festival at the twentytwentyone store on River Street. 

Modern-day urban infrastructure found in Indian cities is the inspiration behind the collection, which features three mini planters based on water towers and two vases which take the form of Metro flyover pillars.

Providing a truthful insight into the look of cityscapes in India and celebrating the tendency of its people to adorn utilitarian items, Tiipoi reimagined these structures as functional decorative objects, creating miniature versions of the original forms complete with pipework, ladders and structural rigging.

According to Gopal, Tiipoi became fascinated by India’s water towers and started photographing them, struck by how their strange, giant shapes dominate the urban landscape. Built by the Public Works Department, “no two structures look the same and they have been painted different colours,” said Gopal.

“The fact that someone has taken the time to decorate something that was intended as purely functional structure, is an attitude particular to India,” she said. “The level of personalisation in India is unbelievable. Whether it is a wall or truck, it is not left blank.”

It is apt that the collection is named Siment – not just because it is a Hindi word for ‘cement’, which is what concrete is known as in India – but because the material has cultural significance. Concrete was first used extensively in building construction in the 1920s, and today it is bought and sold like a food commodity, and advertised on television and billboards by Bollywood stars and other famous names.

With advances in the technology in water pumping, many water towers are now redundant, and as a result have taken on a secondary function, serving as ornamental objects and even offices for the Public Works Department in some cases. “I can imagine them being turned into public gardens,” she said. “I see the Siment vases and planters as potentially a fantasy of what they could be in future.”

Where can I find it? Twentytwentyone, SCP, OPUMOClippings and Such & Such.