Time and again
Ever owned a keepsake that no longer served its purpose, but was too sentimental to put away? We found a design studio that will help give it new purpose.
This started as a hobby," says Abhishek Basak, founder of Absynthe Design, who repurposes watches and radios to create women's jewellery, men's accessories and sculptural pieces. A fashion designer by degree, he started to miss the art of working with his own hands. "I was interested in watches and their minute gears…I felt the history and innovation of watches brought together the best of human abilities in science and art. It used to pain me to see timepieces with intricate movements scrapped away because we had technologically advanced," he says.
By reinventing the old and repurposing the broken, Basak looks at creating keepsakes that the next generation can enjoy, value and pass on as inheritance. "The first piece I worked on was my mum's watch, which was gifted to her by my grandfather. It had stopped working a long time ago, but since her father was no more, she treasured it. Like all sentimental pieces, it was being preserved in the corner of a drawer. I asked her if I could have it, and modelled it into a pendant. The joy I saw her experience was very personal. Three generations of her family came together in that one moment."
One of Absynthe's leitmotifs is reimagining vintage accessories using antique watch parts, like in this miniature car engine being recycled and constructed out of them; Basak working on the Sea Horse. Intricate, prestigious and absolute wearable art, this brooch was a sellout
Significant pieces Basak has restored include an old radio inherited by a Kashmiri Pandit from her grandparents. At the time of being displaced, all they could save was the radio, which in its time, travelled from Srinagar to Delhi before finally making its way to Mumbai; and a radiogram that travelled to Delhi with a family that had moved from Karachi during Partition. "These pieces were not valuable in terms of money, but rich in pride and pain. My designs, while being updated and contemporary, are still timeless—they tell the story of struggle and life through design."
When a client visits him with a keepsake, his priority is to restore it. "If, for some reason, it cannot be, I discuss new ideas to see what they will allow to make it wearable again," he explains.
Abhishek Basak says the first piece he worked on was his mother’s watch, gifted to her by his grandfather. Pics/Nishad Alam
Time spent on each piece depends on the design, antiquity, restoration and intricacy of the work. "I don't set a timeline—if I'm working on a piece and get creatively stuck, I start on another and come back to the first, once I have a better idea of what to do with it."
Aware of the present need for conscious consumerism, Basak focuses on the responsibility of being ecologically sustainable, while keeping every piece unique, using handcrafted techniques. "I always use non-virgin metal, such as reused silver and gold. Ninety-five per cent of the materials we use are recycled, whether watch parts or pieces of wood from discarded furniture. The idea of passing something down the generations celebrates the values of sustainability."
Cost: Rs 900 onwards
Visit: Baro, Lower Parel
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