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From weed to wonder

Plant lovers hate to see weeds in their plants. But this brand capitalised on the strength of lantana weeds and used them to make innovative lighting fixtures. Gaurav Rai, Owner, Oorjaa, throws light on his brand and how his team of designers convert a weed into wonderful lights…

Tell us about your brand Oorjaa and what makes your lights so special?

Oorjaa uses lantana to design lights. Lantana is a weed, an ornamental flower, grown in the forests of the Nilgiri belt in India. This weed has caused animal and human conflict in the region where it grows. Due to its expansiveness, animals are not able to move through the jungles. They also make the jungles dense and because of which, animals come into human conflict. Oorjaa works with non-governmental organisations and tribals in the region to de-weed lantana weeds and use them to design lights.

How are these weeds used?

These weeds come in the form of sticks. After we source these weeds, we remove their thorns and boil the sticks in hot water. Once they get boiled, they become softer. It then becomes easy to bend and mould them into different shapes and structures. That’s how we skull interesting designs and lighting fixtures out of them.

Why did you choose lantana as your go-to material?

Not many people know but almost 40% of India’s forests are infested with lantana. They hamper the biodiversity of the area. Lantana weeds create problems for animals, especially elephants, who are not able to eat this weed. Since their sticks have thorns on them, they curtail the movement of elephants and cause scratches on their skin. Lantana is also a hard weed, which makes it a waste material that cannot be fed to animals. We chose it because these flaws make it a sustainable material. It’s a lot more sturdier than bamboo. Bamboo is grown and then its cut, whereas since lantana is a waste material.

Since you are using a weed in designing, isn’t there an issue with the product's longevity?

Longevity is not a concern. However, these fixtures are best to be kept indoor/semi-indoor (like balconies and other semi-covered areas). We suggest not to place them outside for a long period. This is because they tend to dry up like a stick, which may break them.

Lantana has been available in India for a long time. Why are designers exploring this material now?

Lantana is a sustainable material. Designers take up sustainable materials when there’s a market for it. People now-a-days are a lot more conscious of what they buy and that’s why there is a market for such products.

Besides lantana, what other sustainable materials do you work with?

We use banana fibres in lights. We buy these fibres, boil them and make a pulp out of it. We then roll sheets of paper from it. Each sheet of paper is hand-made and hand crushed, which makes it a labour-intensive process.

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