Born in a family of coffee planters in Coorg, Bheemaiah KK lived his childhood travelling and exploring coffee estates, green valleys, and abundant greenery.
Inspired by nature and using knowledge passed on to him by his father, the 32-year-old coffee farmer with a degree in journalism now weaves stories into sticks.
Bheemaiah, who currently lives in Bengaluru, is the founder of Bheem Styx, a small garage store on the busy 12th Main Road in Indiranagar.
He collects branches, twigs, sticks- safe to say, anything that one could collect in a forest- and converts them into pieces of art.
Back in 2013, when a local tribal man in Coorg gave Bheemaiah a rattan vine stick for his off-road activities, it occurred to him that he could modify it into something better. He decided to start an "all-purpose" sticks venture and launched his store a year later in 2014.
A nature enthusiast, he took to trekking, off-roading, and visiting government and private construction sites to understand and study how and what could be used for the purpose of making sticks.
His work has been encouraged by his father, who taught him to find the right kind of wood, and passed on to him the knowledge of hardwood trees which grow in rainforests of Western Ghats. These trees, Bheemaiah states, are not planted but grow on their own.
As someone who does not believe in cutting trees, Bheemaiah says he hunts for wood pieces in the summer months from the forest floor near Madikeri.
The process of designing each product takes anywhere between three months to one and a half years. After the sticks are collected from the forest, they are put to dry.
Bheemaiah then cleans the sticks and gives them a shape.
Some sticks are naturally shaped and at times may need some sculpting, whereas some are carved to customize. Following this, the sticks are tanned and handed over to artists for painting.
According to Bheemaiah, the elaborate process allows each design to speak for itself and to tell its unique story.
Bheemaiah says that “the rise of flea market helped his venture grow” and reinventing the old walking sticks has earned him appreciation from both in the country and abroad.
Bheemaiah wanted his sticks not only to be aesthetically appealing, but also ones that could be put to practical use. For instance, he says, a “y-shaped catapult stick has many features- it can help in adventurous trekking, or be used to rest your arm, carry backpack or tie fishing knots. And it comes with a whistle too.”
The store is run by a small team, including the self-taught artist’s friends and family members, that works on the simple idea of “pick, clean, paint, and promote the sticks”.
The “unique treasures”, as he puts it, can be used by hikers and social walkers, or for home decor and can even be bought by walking stick collectors.
The sticks, Bheemaiah states, are helpful, “for stability in each step, protection or simply as a fashion accessory”.
Some of his collections include Y/Thumb sticks, deep river walking sticks, country walking sticks and rattan vine sticks.
“Each of my design is unique as nature provides only one design of its kind, so each piece is different. The price ranges from Rs 500 to 12,000”, he states.