Arka modular furniture, option 2
Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Jimena with the artisan, Anilbhai

When I first met Jimena at the DICRC office, my first thoughts were not very positive. In my opinion, the very tall and very thin Jimena (from Mexico city, Mexico) would not last a week in India, especially if was going to work with artisans in their workshop. All it took was a week to disprove that fact. She blended in so well and at times, I was the outsider. The artisans took to her instantly and her very positive and optimistic outlook caused this camaraderie.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka modular furniture, option 1

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka modular furniture, option 2

The ‘Arka’ project done in collaboration with Design Innovation Craft Resource Center (DICRC) was the first of its kind. Jimena interning for a month at DICRC worked on developing a modular shelving unit using wood turning and lacquer craft from Gujarat. Inspired by the widespread ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) concept, Arka was conceptualized as the new age application of a traditional craft.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar


We started off with working on paper, trying to make sense of our idea. Jimena made a ton of these little things.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Close up shot Arka

Then as we progressed, we tried various designs and chose the one above.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka-Work in progress, at DICRC with Prof. Jay Thakkar

Towards the end of her internship, the workshop was busy with activity as pieces were being turned, coloured and lacquered. Prof.Jay Thakkar from DICRC mentored Jimena on the design application during the entire process. And we set up the the first prototypes.  For future use, we also developed an entire palette of colours that the buyer can choose from.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka- single unit, hand-turned by artisans from Kutch

Post Jimena too, Arka has undergone some changes in terms of design. We tried a bit with the beautiful Kutch lacquer work mainly used in spoons and other cutlery.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka, at the Garvi Gurjari exhibition

And here is how it looked at a recent exhibition at Garvi Gurjari, Ahmedabad. The product is a collaborative output, the artisania of Mexico joining hands with the karigar in India, bringing about the birth of Arka.

To purchase this product, please write to us at

Over the course of three years, we’ve partnered with some very interesting people. Though I plan to do justice to that list over a period of time, I am starting with someone like me, someone I’ve never met, but someone with whom I’ve worked so much.  Sonali Chand is a designer, craft lover and most importantly, a doting mother.

Co-founder, Turmeric Hands

Sonali Chand, Turmeric Hands

Our association started with an email from Sonali asking if she could collaborate in any sense. Our exchanges led to a collaboration on Pattachitra from Orissa. Being an architect and NID alumnus, Sonali wanted to put it to use in designing for artisans in her home state, Orissa. In a short span, our collaborations led to Sonali working with one our artisans in developing lovely products. Her organization Turmeric Hands is her explorations with Pattachitra, paper machier and paper.

Pattachitra notebook

Pattachitra notebook from Turmeric Hands

Her description for Turmeric Hands is also very interesting! In her words, “One late winter afternoon, the little chirp of the sparrows was occasionally broken by my angel’s little giggles. As I went through my chores of dividing the new pack of homemade turmeric powder that my mom had sent me, I could no longer hear pari’s giggles. My little pari had sneaked a turmeric bag , pulled down my sari,and  had made teeny weeny yellow hand-prints, thereby giving life to it. She looked at me and chuckled showing me the great work of art. The bright sunshine like yellow turmeric hands took me back to my childhood days – to the days of me spoiling my ma’s saree, to the days of much awaited mela filled with clay toys,masks, sugar moulded in animal shape-to the childhood days flavoured with the warmth of my mother. As I hugged Pari – that picture of my memories and the innocent smile on her face gave me my little pack of yellow sunshine – a sudden urge to re-ignite those lost joys. I decided to start my new endeavour and reconnect to my roots, to celebrate the tradition of storytelling, the culture of colors – the rich Indian ethnicity and the most valuable wealth –the Indian craft. Turmeric hands is my little way to celebrate our legacy of rich craft and connect to all those to convey this feeling.”

Pattachitra Coasters, Turmeric Hands

Pattachitra Coasters, Turmeric Hands

Sonali intersperses traditional motifs with very contemporary colours and backgrounds to bring out interesting products. Her range of stationery and table top accessories are on display and sale at our online store. Do check them out!

Kolkatta (previously known as Calcutta) is a traveler’s delight. It is the last stop of India’s most sacred river Ganges as it blends into the Bay of Bengal through the mangroves of Sunderbans. Sunderbans is a natural habitat for the royal Bengal Tiger, the vehicle of the ferocious Goddess Durga. The story of the Goddess’ triumph over evil is celebrated in a week-long festival known as Durga Pooja. The Goddess is believed to be visiting her parents’ home in the plains during this time. Celebrated with much pomp and grandeur, it brings life regular life in the city to a complete halt. During the festival, people visit the Pandals along with their friends and family. The women are dressed in traditional finery and exchange vermillion with each other. They pray for the well-being of their husbands. Initially celebrated only by rich families across Bengal, the festival turned into a community event during the Independence movement.

Situated in the northern part of city, Kumortoli, the potters’ quarters is the seat of activity for days leading up to the festival. Their artistry is so well known that they export as many idols as they supply locally. The potters, both men and women work on sculpting these figures. The base is made of straw which is then covered with clay. Upon drying, the idols are painted in bright colours. Adding the third eye is a crucial process. It is a work done by the senior artistes and some of them are known to meditate for long hours before drawing it. The third eye is believed to be the one that breathes life into the idol.

The tiny settlement is home to some illustrious artists whose work is sought after by Bengalis across the world. Most of the famous artists’ works are booked a year in advance, with some of the lesser known ones selling idols off the shelf. It was estimated that Kumortuli sold more than 12, 300 clay idols in 2006. This settlement was allotted to the potters during the British colonization of India in the eighteenth century.  Calcutta was the power centre for the British East India Company. The British wanted to allocate quarters for each working group and thus this colony housing the potters came up. Over time, this place became home to various artists with some major roads in this neighbourhood named after them.

Today the entire city is home to multiple community Pandals, which are temporary structures erected to showcase the Goddess on a stage. Most of the Pandals are elaborate structures (that require more than a year of planning) with magnificent architectural features pertaining to a theme. These themes range from mythology to period based architecture and sometimes even current issues that plague the nation at large. During the Cricket World Cup series that India won, there were Pandals that showcased idols of famous players. Each neighbourhood vies with the other in showcasing the festival, with some having idols as tall as 20 feet. In the midst of all this ostentatiousness, the central figure in every Pandal is still the idol of the Goddess. She is depicted with her ten hands holding different weapons and standing on a lion mount.

Post the festivities, the idols are taken out in a procession with the entire city coming out on to the streets. The idols are then immersed in the river. Earlier the materials for idol making were purely eco-friendly causing no damage to the river. However, with the advent of bright coloured paints, these have replaced the older options causing heavy ecological damage to the river. The government is taking measures to stop the usage of such toxic material.

The week long reverie comes to an end as the Goddess departs from her parents’ home to her marital abode in the Himalayas. Kumortoli gears up for another busy year of planning and idol making.  For more pictures of Kolkata, please click here.

Workshop at Eklavya

Title: Making Diwali gift cards and diyas

Date: October 2013

Venue: Eklavya Sports Academy, Ahmedabad

With over 300 participants, the evening was full of life and energy. GIIS and Eklavya Sports Academy organised a fun evening for the kids. From our end, we managed the crafts section where the artisans taught the little kids how to make clay diyas and paint them. For the older ones, Warli painting on cards and ready made diyas were what were on offer.

I know I’ve been out of blogging for a long time now. So much was happening that I had to take a break to reign in the chaos. Now that I am in control, I think I should get back to this favorite activity. More so because I am turning 30 in 4 days. Considering that life has been one roller coaster ride all along, I think it is time to take stock, time to relish the happy moments and time to flip through this blog. This blog started my current life, the life that gave me an identity that I so love now.

The first post on Rajasthan was straight out of my trip. I remember having proof read that post a million times. I was learning image editing softwares then and it was a huge task to edit all of 5 photos for the blog post. The Dhurrie that I bought on that trip still rests under my feet as I am smiling away at the blog.

Then came the Bangalore trip with it’s 100 year old workshops, travel to an obscure stone carver’s village, leather puppets and my brush with the spirits. One of my closest friends and a pillar of strength and support navigated me through roads that never showed up on Google. What an adventure that was! :)

Photo Courtesy: Sindhu Sarathy

Puri happened all of a sudden and I was suddenly gaping with eyes wide open at all the beautiful Pattachitra paintings.

The first product range was launched from that trip. With a few pieces of Uluka in hand from inside a tiger sanctuary in Dhenkananal, I decided that something had to be done. I had to do something to change the plight here, better their lives. I had to help them earn. Today we supply Dhokra products made by Dushashan Behera and his whole community to US and Dubai. The community now has a computer to see our emails and works with a logistics company to send us products every month.

Diwali 2011 is such a blur. I ran around promoting hand-crafted gift-sets, laboured at getting boxes done and packing all that dry-fruit in little pouches. All I remember is that I still get orders for my sets, even an year after Diwali.

Christmas bells in tow and I was replacing those plastic bells with little hand-crafted ones from Kutch.

A winter Kutch trip was long overdue and I discovered the Sufi singer cum Lippan artist who wove magic with just mud and mirrors. I was exhausted after a day in the Rann where our car sunk into the marshy land! I landed at Mehmoodbhai’s house and all that fatigue vanished as I gawked at his walls.

Sometime around this time, I was looking to gift a three-year old. All I could find were expensive imported toys. I wanted something that was fun and Indian. I remembered those ‘Young World’ days from my childhood and took a friend’s help on sketches. Soon the block-printing kit was in place!

Around this time I realised that we were doing very well outside of Ahmedabad, while I was hitting a wall everytime I tried something there. My friends reasoned that a little awareness drive  was required and we did the first craft workshop. The Warli workshop was covered by 2 newspapers and was such a smashing hit. I almost contemplated changing my business model and only conducting workshops! :)

The workshop and my blog paved the way for the rest of the journey and I landed at CEPT. The Madhubani workshop opened up new friendships and interesting avenues. I designed the tissue boxes and chocolate boxes during this time. The enthusiastic artist couple- Naveen and Pooja painted day and night to finish the first lot.

From tissue boxes, we graduated to walls and made beautiful Madhubani trees in two locations. Constant work has enabled our Madhubani artists to invest in a camera and take pictures of all their work which they can now send to me.

So the last year and a half has paved the way for a new life. I am happy and only counting my blessings. There have been trying times, doubtful times, angry times and even ‘this is the end’ times. But the good overrides the bad. Always.

What is an Himalayan vacation for most of us? A wonderful whiff of fresh mountain air, a cup of tea while you are swaddled in cozy woolens.For some it is an opportunity to provide a means of livelihood and change the lives of the locals. Nisha Subramaniam travels to Naggar in Himachal Pradesh atleast twice every year. Each time, she stays for more than a month organising local women into knitting units. Her co-operative WHIMS (Women of Himachal Self Help Group) designs, produces and markets woolen accessories. She works on their designs, improvises on their skills and helps them create products that appeal to an urban audience.

Nisha provides the basic raw material (wool) and helps with patterns/designs that appeal to an urban audience.The women who are experts in knitting and crochet create these charming, old-world with a modern twist, cozy accessories. She has also identified a family of weavers who create traditional Kinnauri and Kullu patterned stoles and shawls, and Pashmina stoles. Nisha and her mother in law Mrs.Padma Krishnamoorthy work together on this project.

The whole project started as an effort from Nisha to give back to Naggar. She has been a regular traveler to Naggar during the summer months. The locals have welcomed their long stays and Nisha feels it was time for her to give back. WHIMS is committed to providing sustainable employment for the women so they can take control of their lives and futures. The marketing and design is based in Bangalore while the production takes place in Naggar.

Do check out their head bands and hand knit slippers. You can check out their website here.

Every company needs publicity. I’ve written to so many popular blogs asking them to feature CraftCanvas on a guest post. And since you haven’t read any article on CraftCanvas anywhere else on the blogosphere, you know I wasn’t successful! However the good news is that I’ve been successful in the print media. Can you imagine 3 articles in a row, all in the month of April. Of course, this has nothing to do with fooling you. It really did happen! Falguni (my lovely friends who runs AppleBlossom) started it all. She went out of her way to persuade a journalist that CraftCanvas is a good enough story to cover.  So when the journalist called me (on a super busy weekend when I had friends visiting), I was sure that it was a one-off thing, a back up story. I wasn’t so excited and was going to spend barely half hour on it.  One of the friends who was visiting forced me (she’s like a pseudo mom, always pushing me to do things!) to spend a day on it and I ended up sending the jounalist loads of stuff.  And I waited…..

If you are someone who’s been regularly following up on CraftCanvas, you’d remember the workshop that we conducted on Warli painting. It was pretty good success and I am working on making it a regular feature. So ‘the first of it’s kind in Ahmedabad’ workshop was featured in DNA on the 2 nd day of the workshop. I was ecstatic. It was 80% craftsman and 20% CraftCanvas article, but I was happy with the results. After all, they are the integral part of CraftCanvas.

I have a very kind friend VV (not sure if I can name her), who’s been smitten by CraftCanvas. I love it when people say such things. CraftCanvas is definitely not a profitable venture (not yet!) and such goodwill is all that I can cherish for the moment. VV contacted her friends, shared the workshop photos on almost all the relevant Facebook walls and finally there was someone who landed up at the event. By now, I was a pro. I knew all that I had to say and I even posed in all the pictures. You can see a tad bit of my dress in the photograph. All this reaffirms my basic principle of just working hard, doing what you can do. The rest just happens.

So after the week long workshop, I was off to Delhi on a personal visit. When I came back, I was still basking in the success of the previous workshop and got into planning another one. The first article was off my head, I’d decided that it was  a back up story and wasn’t meant for publication. So like all dramatic events in life, Falguni called one morning to tell me the news. I had not one, but two articles in the current issue.

This happens to be their anniversary issue, so the issue was full of thoughts from various women. I was glad to be a part of the group that followed their heart. Small perks that come by for giving up on a lucrative career! :D And thanks Girish for the photo and for sending it to me at lightning speed.

I think in the end, this post is about the people in my life. People who’ve helped me, recommended me, pushed me to excel without a second thought. I hope to live up to their expectations and better still, be able to reciprocate. Thank you guys. I am terribly moved by these actions.

As far as North East India is concerned, I’ve only been to Sikkim. For about 10 days (only managed a week and 2 weekends as I was employed then!), I did all the touristy things, gorged on momos, was awestruck by the Himalayas and finally got back with the usual mementos. For the past year or so, I’ve been dreaming about going there. Thangka paintings, colourful textiles and an exotic culture are definite lures to that place.

So when I saw Arpit Agarwal’s work, my travel urge to that beautiful and mystic corner of our country was re-kindled all over again. An alumnus from National Institute of Design, he has captured the essence of Assam in little things that we can use everyday. I firmly believe that art, craft and culture is for all of us and I try to showcase the little ideas from everywhere. I doodle quite a bit and I need a little space to scribble even while I am staring at a blank wall. With all due respect to Microsoft Word, there is nothing better than a piece of paper when I need to pen my thoughts.

If you are nodding your head at what I just wrote, I am sure you will love Arpit’s notebooks. He brings a little of Assam into everyday life. The information provided by him in the photos make for an interesting read. Go ahead, read about some cultural aspects of Assam- like the Bihu dance that is performed by everyone irrespective of caste or creed, their masks that denote a rich theatrical heritage and  Xorai- their traditional symbol used to welcome guests.

In case you are thinking ‘Wow’, the good news is that Arpit says this is just the beginning. He is going to work on everyday use products capturing the essence of North-eastern states and I sincerely hope that his products will bring about some cultural awareness about that little corner of our country.

Arpit has showcased his products on Shopo. In case you wish to buy any of his products, you can Click here.