Interdependence: A Circular Design Installation at SPACE10 Delhi

19.12.194 min read

Written by Lauren Grace Morris

Six textile panels sweep over the high ceiling of SPACE10 Delhi, our newly-opened lab in Chhattarpur’s Dhan Mill Compound. Together, they comprise Interdependence, a site-specific installation by artist and IKEA designer Akanksha Deo Sharma. The centrepiece feature goes beyond aesthetics. The project combines traditional Indian crafts techniques with a circular design mindset to physically manifest our core goal in Delhi: to learn from India.

As a child growing up in Delhi, Akanksha Deo Sharma dreamt of becoming a creator. But the older she got, the more being a designer started to seem like a ‘pragmatic’ decision. Today, she’s managed to grow into both roles. After studying fashion design in her home city, Sharma was offered an in-house position at IKEA. It’s there that her democratic design sensibilities have taken shape.

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Portrait of Akanksha Deo Sharma

Form, function, quality, sustainability and affordability are common denominators in her work — because leaving a positive impact on people and the planet is her driving force. Inquisitive by nature, Sharma seeks to understand — and address — the ways in which society is evolving.

‘Design is one of the important tools we have for addressing changes in behaviour — to create more sustainable ways of moving forward on this planet,’ she says.

Designing For a Purpose

Sharma’s commitment to circular and sustainable design is long-standing; a major theme of her work at IKEA. But it’s also an ongoing reaction to her background: Delhi is one of the most polluted urban environments in the world.

In fact, as our team was preparing to open SPACE10 Delhi, a public health emergency was announced. Air pollution in some areas of the city was 20 times over the level which the World Health Organization classifies as safe.

Burning Rice Straw After Harvest
Burning Rice Straw After Harvest

It’s no coincidence that Sharma is one of the designers behind FÖRÄNDRING: the collection was born from an IKEA initiative to create raw material out of rice straws, a highly air-pollutant byproduct of harvesting in India when burned.

Upcoming Collection FÖRÄNDRING – Rugs and Table Mats
Upcoming Collection FÖRÄNDRING: Rugs and Table Mats

Message to Manifestation

Sharma had the freedom to create anything for SPACE10 Delhi. ‘But I knew from the start that I didn’t want to make something beautiful for the sake of it being beautiful,’ she explains.

‘What am I doing and why am I doing it are always the initial questions I ask myself. Circularity and sustainability are at the forefront of the project because of the city and times we’re living in. They’re also a reflection of the values embodied by SPACE10, IKEA and I.’

Small reclaimed silk fabric scraps
Small Reclaimed Silk Fabric Scraps

Sharma chose to work with textiles, specifically leftover pieces from local fashion house 11.11/eleven eleven, with whom she partnered up with for the project.

‘They make beautiful fabrics and are conscientious about how they use their leftover materials — they’re very clear about terming them as ‘reclaimed’. This word, to me, connotes something positive rather than negative, as ‘waste’ often does.’

Four of the panels have been made with larger pieces of reclaimed cotton silks, khadi cotton and muslin curated and embroidered together by Sharma. The other two panels were made by attaching small scraps of habuthai silk to muslin. ‘One panel is made with bandhani, a form of tying and dyeing done in Gujarat and Rajasthan. Blue is the dominant colour of the work — a result of natural indigo dyeing — accented by complementary shades of pink and white.’

’11.11/eleven eleven does a lot of work with different ‘clusters’ of craftspeople specialising in different techniques. When you look at the panels, you’re looking at bandhani, clamp dyeing, mud-resist printing and natural dyeing done in different parts of India.’

Meena joining the reclaimed fabric pieces together
Meena Joining the Reclaimed Fabric Pieces Together

In Sharma’s eyes, democratic design comes down to respecting craftspeople and empowering them to share their knowledge.

‘I worked extensively with craftspeople in India during my education,’ she says. ‘That’s when I became driven to integrate the beauty of handicraft into mass production processes. This way, each product breathes its own life.’

close up process photos of stitching
Stitching Process

Sharma opted not to work with 3D renditions in order to get a better understanding of how the textiles would behave and evolve over time. ‘Even if I had done renders, it was never going to look the same,’ she explains. ‘It’s textiles we’re talking about. So, instead of spending a lot of time working digitally, this was an opportunity to design in real-time.’

Interdependence in Action

‘When beginning the process for Interdependence, I asked myself what the empty space gave me — what its expansiveness made me feel. I considered what emotions I wanted to communicate to people inside. I wanted the environment to feel warm, welcoming and evocative of curiosity to advance a holistic agenda like SPACE10’s,’ Sharma reflects.

‘Delhi is quite a hard city to live in this time. Delhiites miss a connection to nature — they miss the embrace of a clear, blue sky. So, that is what I created.’

SPACE10-Delhi-Process-Web-16

The designer loves that the piece covers the whole space. ‘When people are sitting down and listening to a talk, it’s above them. When they’re dancing, it’s above them. It’s always there, as a constant; a shield.’ Interdependence is dynamic, changing depending on a viewer’s vantage point and the lighting at certain times of day. The fabric itself will adapt as it ages.

 ‘We all rely and depend on the people around us, and the planet we inhabit,’ Sharma says.

‘In a similar manner, the small, reclaimed textiles build on each other to form a larger composition. This reliance on one another is a symbol of our existence: our communities, the global society and the planet we live on. We don’t exist in isolation and are part of an ecosystem where everything is intertwined.’

‘The whole point of the installation is to prompt people to think about the ways we depend on each other,’ Sharma says. ‘Recognising this is the only way of moving forward; it’s a very crucial time. There have been many such times in history, but this is one if we’re speaking environmentally, politically, economically and socially. Interdependence reflects this by addressing the immediate surroundings.’

the installation as a ceiling piece at SPACE10 Delhi