India Today

Crafting a Legacy

Marrying style with substance and material with texture, these designers are setting a trend

- By SHELLY ANAND

VAISHNAVI WALVEKAR, 32

Founder, Vahe, Pune www.vahe.co

During a trip back home to India while doing her masters from the Academy of Art University, San Francisco, Vaishnavi Walvekar happened to visit Dilli Haat in Delhi. “I met an artisan from Srinagar who held these little papier-mâché trinket boxes that were stylised with intricate paintings. It reminded me of a vase I bought years back. My first thought was holding it and realising how lightweigh­t it was,” says Walvekar. So began her journey and interest in the craft form, which she followed it to Kashmir, with a belief that she could reinterpre­t this age-old craft with modern abstractio­ns. Vahe, started in 2021, is a manifestat­ion of this journey.

Material World

They work with papier-mâché, the technique that predominan­tly uses two raw materials—waste paper and natural binders. “All the stages of production involve handmade products and follow the tradition of indigenous, slow practices,” she says. At the very core of this craft is the ability to convert waste into something so spectacula­r.

Retail Therapy

From sculptural objects to furniture and lamps, the collection envisions the craft’s potential by way of a set of objects, all arising from the same material into one frame or space. In line with the practices of the technique—reusable moulds, natural binders and waste paper as the predominan­t raw material— the objects are painted so as to reveal what’s beneath. No lacquers or varnishes are applied whether it’s the main product or the brass fixtures.

Latest Range

Bearing the mark of its materialit­y, the ensemble draws its name from the coordinate­s of Srinagar, Kashmir 34° N, 74°E, where the craft originates. A series of hand-sculpted objects and luminaires constructe­d from paper infused with brutalism, revealing what’s beneath capture the moods of paper—smooth, crumpled, crushed and stained.

What’s Next

“To play with another material and paper,” she says. Textures remain a constant at Vahe and they tend to lean towards materials that allow for exploratio­ns.

Price `16,000 to `3 lakh

SHREELEKHA LAKSHMIPAT­HY, 31

Founder, BeatRoot Co, Chennai www.beatrootco.com

While pursuing a masters course at the Industrial Design Centre, IIT Bombay, a brief design stint at Khamir (an organisati­on that works with creation and the preservati­on of culture, community and local environmen­ts in the Kutch region of Gujarat), nurtured in Shreelekha Lakshmipat­hy the love for the design of a product and its ecosystem. That led her to start BeatRoot Co, a product design studio.

Material World

“Every material has a language of approval and disapprova­l and we love trying to understand that, and are therefore, open to multiple materials,” she says. For them, it’s been a constant experiment, and their products are a reflection of the materials they often come across.

Retail Therapy

They start by selecting a unit/craft cluster and then research and understand the products being made, the skill of the artisans involved and the process being used. They then go through a series of product ideations, design and prototypin­g before approving them. They have a collection of stationery, tableware, kitchenwar­e and furniture pieces. Their most popular product is Kaapi, a south Indian style filter coffeemake­r in stoneware that has received EDIDA 2019, Lexus Design

Award 2020 and IBDA 2020.

Latest Range

‘That Chair’ is their range of sculptural seating options with an interestin­g formwork, designed as a natural extension of a stool to function as an extra seat or dining chair. They have four options in the collection at present.

What’s Next

“Our big picture for ‘That Chair’ is to have a 100 chairs exhibit,” she says. And also to have a stone collection based on and made in Mahabalipu­ram besides Udayagiri wood wall objects and trays from Nellore.

Price `99 to `21,999

SAPNA MATHUR, 31

Founder, Savana Living, Jaipur www.savana-living.com

Design was an integral part of Sapna Mathur’s childhood and she grew up with it all around her; her parents have been exporting furniture all over the world for almost three decades. Though not trained in design, she used to interact with furniture products and found a sense of connect with them. That’s how Savana Living, which roughly translates to ‘one with the woods’ in Sanskrit, was started in 2017.

Material World

They primarily work with wood, not because it’s something that craftsmen who work with them specialise in, but also because it’s a versatile medium. “We also use iron in some of our products and are gradually working to experiment with and expand our list of raw materials,” says Mathur.

Retail Therapy

The product line covers the entire home, but the concentrat­ion so far has been on furniture items for bedrooms, the dining and living spaces. They specialise in cabinets and storage or display units.

Latest Range

Their latest collection, Bohemian Summer, explores laidback themes, and the product range consists of a variety of offbeat colour finishes varying from indigo blue and distressed black to a rustic grey. She says, “We wanted to create a collection that customers could interpret in fun, unique ways. The products have a strong impact on a space and are versatile pieces that can be used in a variety of ways.” The Katherine daybed, for example, with its carved, rattan headboard and subtle beige finish, is the collection’s showstoppe­r.

What’s Next

In addition to their present line of furniture, they are developing a more experiment­al and premium collection of products, which is currently in the developmen­tal stage.

Price ` 1,500 to ` 2 lakh

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