Bandana Jain, a Bihar resident, comes from a “conservative Marwari family”. Despite having a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce, she came to Mumbai on a “secret trip”, and did a recce of the prestigious J.J. School of Arts. Later, she came back to the city, engaged a tutor, cracked the entrance exam, and finally graduated from the art school. “Not being from an arts background, I had no idea about what “perspective” was, what 2D design was, or what memory drawing was. All of this was part of the entrance exam,” says Jain. As a new bride, she had a very supportive husband in Manish Jain, who worked as an investment banker. The latter stood by her through the journey, especially the four years of J.J. School of Arts’ gruelling routine.
Bandana, who runs the Sylvn Studio (the name is derived from Roman mythology of Sylvanus, the god of the jungle), creates beautiful pieces of art—like furniture, lamps, murals and wall panels—out of corrugated cardboard. Having tried and tested different materials such as “sleeper wood” and “composite leather”, she firmly believes that corrugated cardboard is an extremely versatile medium. In the other materials—wood, for instance—“you get only one plane”, but with cardboard she uses both the 'flute' side, (which gives strength), and the 'line' side. She can also peel off the top and use the 'flute' part below it; by cutting slants, she can also get waves. “I believe that I am very lucky to have chosen this medium,” says Jain.
Jain says that she started off with a five-seater L-shaped sofa, created out of corrugated cardboard, which she designed for her new house. “There is always a pressure on artists to do something different,” says Jain. Now, she works for some top brands and has also created “reception tables” for the Hiranandani Group, as well as the RNA Group.
After the sofa, Jain moved onto cardboard lamps. She made around 150 lamps, playing with different shapes; this effort was in collaboration with Pepperfry and Amazon. “In fact, Myntra started its lamp collection through Sylvn Studio,” she says.
Then came mirrors for which she did the cladding. “I did frames, and I am working with Brinda Miller, who was so fascinated with the frames that she decided to use them for an exhibition at Tao Art Gallery.
Jain creates heavier pieces also. “I have the liberty to make lighter pieces, but at times people like it heavy, especially if they want to place it at one corner,” says Jain. For the #metoo campaign, her sculpture was displayed at the Jehangir Art Gallery. “That was my first group show at Jehangir,” says Jain proudly.
Jain also works with brands such as Raymond where she does SIS (shop-in-shop). What that basically means is that she designs a part of the store for them in terms of sections with panels, backdrops and everything else that is required for that particular area in cardboard for them. She has also created a beautiful ceiling for the renowned Zorawar Kalra of the Pa Pa Ya restaurant fame for their Colaba restaurant.
One thing is for sure, Jain wants to do quality work. Currently, at her studio, where everything is handcrafted, she has a team of 18 people, who hails from rural areas of Maharashtra. Later on, at some point in time, Jain wants to do something else for women, in order to “empower” them. However, after traveling to foreign countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland, she noticed how environmentally conscious the residents of those countries were, and she decided that she also wanted to do things in an eco-friendly way. That is how cardboard came to be her signature product. “My brand is not just a source to earn money but it must create an impact in society, so that when I am on my deathbed, at least it feels like my work has created some impact,” she says.