Meet Bandana Jain, who uses cardboard to make furniture, sculptures and more

Meet Bandana Jain, who uses cardboard to make furniture, sculptures and more

Meet Bandana Jain, who uses cardboard to make furniture, sculptures and more

What can you do with corrugated cardboard sheets – the ones used for packaging by most e-commerce companies? You can re-use them to pack something for stashing away in the attic, use it for your child’s school project or you can make a sofa for your drawing room out of it. Yes!

For the last seven years, Mumbai-based contemporary artist Bandana Jain has been making sofas, benches, murals, sculptures and a lot more using corrugated cardboard sheets, creating art that combines beauty, sustainability and durability.

Her pieces adorn some of India’s prominent public places, airports besides art galleries, offices and residences. “As a kid, I was fascinated by the intricacies behind pandals set up during Dussehra. I knew art was my calling and I was determined to follow it,” says Jain, who has been working with the medium for the last seven years.

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The Bandana Jain Studio, located in Worli, is India’s first cardboard art studio.

Jain hails from Thakurganj in Bihar and is the first woman to move out of the small village to pursue her dream.

The love affair that began in college

Her artistic journey began at Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai, where she discovered the unusual medium of corrugated cardboards. It was during her college years that she wanted to use it for one of her projects.

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“While contemplating over a college assignment, I spotted a corrugated sheet thrown away on the campus. I immediately fell in love with its texture, beige color, and the feel. I made up my mind to use it even though this medium was unconventional.”

After Jain bought a place in Mumbai, she got a chance to set up the house and work with her favourite cardboard. “I got several corrugated cardboard sheets and designed a sofa,” she says.

Working on a sculpture made using corrugated cardboard sheets. Pic: Facebook/@artistbandana
Working on a sculpture made using corrugated cardboard sheets. Pic: Facebook/@artistbandana

After investing three months of diligence and Rs4000, she managed to pull the strings; the sofa turned out to be great.

“I was amazed by the strength and uniqueness of the sofa set; they are water-resistant to an extent. We hosted several parties, jumped on this corrugated cardboard sofa but it withstood all tests,” Jain says, adding that every visitor to her house was intrigued by the piece.

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Having understood cardboards as a medium, Jain created some lamps and exhibited them before her friends and relatives. Her designs received accolades and the corrugated sheets sandwiched between two flat liners became an integral part of her art. And Jain, who had started as an accessory and furniture designer, evolved into a contemporary artist.

Today, she believes she can create almost anything with these sheets – a chandelier or even footwear. Her creations are priced upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh.

The unconventional cardboard art is intriguing and appealing to the onlookers. Cardboard has a universal appeal as both rich and poor deal with it in their daily lives. Hence, the art provides something very minimal and common, with aesthetic value.

Eco-friendly and sustainable art

“I practice sustainable living and make sure to minimize the carbon footprint. I contribute to the environment through my creations,” says Jain, who uses her art as a medium to spread the message of sustainable living.

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Bandana Jain with bags made from corrugated cardboard. Her works create an optical illusion. Pic: Facebook/@artistbandana
Bandana Jain with bags made from corrugated cardboard. Her works create an optical illusion. Pic: Facebook/@artistbandana

The eco-friendly artworks are created using the layering technique. Hundreds and thousands of corrugated sheets are and stuck together to create a piece of art.

Jain uses virgin corrugated sheets, which have a higher percentage of wood pulp intact, making the sheets equivalent to wood.

They undergo a compression treatment that enhances their durability. But unlike a conventional sculptor, she first carves the sheets and then stacks them together.

She draws inspiration from the minimal things around her, be it her crumpled bed sheet, or needles and embroidery hoops.

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Her artworks create an optical illusion as they sport fabric-like fluidity from a distance while they’re rigid upon a closer look.

Gandhi Sculpture made by Bandana Jain for Raymond Tradeshow. Pic: Facebook/@artistBandan
Gandhi Sculpture made by Bandana Jain for Raymond Tradeshow. Pic: Facebook/@artistBandan

For instance, one might take the deceptive gunny bags for real ones! She enjoys toying with fabric folds; she conceptualised a table from her sari and has displayed several artworks which replicate the delicate folds in her art studio. She is known for her functional art, which she defines as a creation that can be used as a bench, swing, shelves, tables, etc.

Some of her famous cardboard artworks include perfectly imperfect, bust of a naked woman, elephant and Ajanta Caves. She bagged the WADe Asia award in 2018 for promoting sustainability through her artwork while her mural titled ‘perfectly imperfect’ was recognized by EDIDA.

Fusing various mediums with cardboards such as textiles like raw silk or brass, have been her niche. She now plans to experiment with newer mediums like metal, concrete, and wood with corrugated sheets being the soul of her designs. This unusual assemblage makes her art even more tactile and visually stimulating.

“The artwork is capable of creating an influence; people stop and stare, they are eager to feel it,” she chuckles.

She believes in staying raw and considers her initial lack of exposure to be an asset for her. “Even now, I don’t look much into other artist’s work,” Jain says. She has collaborated with several brands, corporates, and with the government in beautifying airports, offices, etc.  

Also Read: A quaint village in Hooghly becomes manufacturing hub for string instruments

Apart from promoting sustainability, Jain has been actively working to empower women by providing them employment. She also plans to go international with her art works later this year as she is keen to explore public and street art. “I want to break conventional patterns and provide global exposure to the corrugated sheets,” she says.

(Rishika Agarwal is a Patna-based writer specialising in art, culture and human interest stories)

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