Gond ceramic mural at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad

The CIIE mural

It is a mixed feeling as you walk past one of your own installations every morning. Sometimes it is a feeling of elation seeing a piece of art that will remain forever. But most times, it is panic at the thought of small chip here, a little paint peeling there and loads of excruciating scrutiny. This installation, a magnificent, vibrant tree perched high above on a dominating grey wall is part of my own office. Made with ceramic and pasted (yes, piece by piece) on painted plywood, this 12 feet by 12 feet structure is a jolt in the predominant stark grey architecture of the building.

Gond ceramic mural design team at ClayClub

The design team with the artisans

A collaborative project with Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre at CEPT University, David Gray, a ceramic designer from Scotland, ClayClub, the local ceramic studio and our team at CraftCanvas, this was one hell of a joyride. Spanning over 2 months and sweating it out at the studio while a 1000 degree Celsius kiln is on (it is one of the hottest summers in Ahmedabad), this has been one of the most physically taxing projects ever. Interspersed with a lovely exchange of ideas and conversations from the East and the West, Indian food and Scottish coffee (no, not palatable at all!), the mural took shape.

David Gray working on the base design for the Gond Ceramic mural

David working on the drawings

The language barrier faded very quickly with the Gond artisans from Madhya Pradesh  figuring out a way to swap ideas with the Scottish designer. David spent a good amount of time in understanding the art techniques before suggesting a design. The mural was to be installed at the Centre of Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad. Being the focal piece of art at the institution, this mural at the entrance symbolizes their vision.

Installation of the Gond Ceramic installation at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad

David working on the installation

The logo forms the base for the mural. Painted in bold Gond colours and textures, this represents CIIE as the platform/roots for every start up in their premises. The tree symbolizes the ecosystem that houses all the companies. Every sector dealt with by the incubatees here is represented by an icon.

Installing the Gond Ceramic Mural at CIIE

Installing the mural on the wall

The run-up to the climax was no less than a Bollywood flick. With 15 people working on either sides of a shaky scaffolding, the final installation was the longest 30 minutes of my life. I panicked as the massive structure swayed chipping a tiny edge, but more damage was averted by the hero of the show- our carpenter Naresh. As the final screw was nailed in, there were tears in my eyes. We had done it. I’ve heard that going through labour changes your life and makes you a different person. As I see the plaque holding my company’s name beside the mural, I know that with every project a little bit of me changes. And I welcome that wholeheartedly.

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

Arka-explorations

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 mail@craftcanvas.com.

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.

It has been a rather hectic month. I spent the first part trying to figure out train tickets, accommodation and making boxes. Making boxes is not an easy task. All those tutorials on ehow and wikihow never expose you to the reality of explaining the same to the local carpenter. I had a tough time getting a hundred boxes done and ready with a nice smooth finish on the top.

The Madhubani artists(Naveen and Pooja) were going to be here and I had to ensure that everything went off smoothly. I am a stickler for detail and I constantly stress myself about little things. Add to it the proscrastinator in me, you have the perfect recipe for last minute rush, mouth ulcers (6 of them!!) and sleepless nights. Blogging was almost at the end of the list of things-to-do. Well almost, cause after that came a list of house-work. So after a debacle of train tickets, I  managed to get them to Ahmedabad 3 days late!  I heaved a big sigh of relief as I got that 6 am call that they have reached Ahmedabad.

We started off with the workshop at CEPT. DICRC is the Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre at the university and they do some kick-ass work. A perfect platform that facilitates the marriage between traditional crafts and new ideas. And what better than Interior Architecture to use these splendid craft forms! :) So the first 4 days zipped past with coverage in 3 newspapers :), loads of new and interesting design work and of course a lot of fun. It is amazing how a designer can influence a different thought process to an already existing idea. The designers worked on using the artisans knowledge of the 2D form into a 3D form. The results were stunning.

After the workshop, we got down to the rest of the task. Painting boxes! Since I am always looking at introducing crafts in everyday life, I decided to tackle that ugly looking pack of tissues lying in every home. So I decided to make tissue box holders that will cover that ugly of a home and bring it centre stage. And I used it for a party at home. I sold a few right there! :)

So while I was babysitting the artisans’ 4 year old daughter, cooking up games every half hour, boiling the milk to the right temperature for her, putting her to sleep and keeping an hawk eye on things in my home, the couple painted away. They talk in hushed tones to each other (not necessary considering I don’t understand their language anyways!), sing little songs and have a great time together. It is interesting to see that camaderie, one that comes only out of knowing each other well and doing something that they so love together. It is like their work cements their love even better, as she blushes at a compliment from him about the fish she painted.

Together (I pitched in after day 2 as I realised that it is not an easy task), we filled every box with something interesting. A box where the couple hold hands was Pooja’s favourite as she relates every character to her life! Phew! :) I had to fight to keep some monotones as Naveen disapprovingly looks at the lack of colour.

So as 41 boxes were painted, we decided to call it a day. The couple took their 4 year old out to have ice-cream and finally boarded the train with a whole lot of memories. I switched on the AC, cleared the paint mess all over my floor and collapsed on the bed happy and content. I know selling it is another story. But for now I am happy to see so much color in my life. One thing at a time.

For ones who want to order, please check this link.

 

It’s been a while since I’ve been dabbling with my restoration projects. As always, I’ve been scrounging the internet for details, instructions and ideas. The carpenter, the painter and everyone else who works with me are hounded with questions on the how, why and what-ifs. My first project the big comfortable swing  turned out so well that it is a such a stunner.It is only piece of furniture (rest are all cushions) in our ‘perennially work in progress’ living room. So armed with new found knowledge, a patient antique dealer who lets me spend hours in his warehouse even if I end up spending paltry sums, I found myself a very interesting project.

I’ve always coveted the cradle converted into a coffee-table  from Karthik Vaidyanathan’s home. And since such readymade pieces are hard to come by and are also very very expensive, I knew I had to make one on my own. So as I rummaged through the antique warehouse, I found 2 interesting things. A broken cradle (only the 4 sides with all the railings rusted and in super bad condition) and a jaali, a lattice screen. Though the initial idea was to use the two separately, I decided to use them together.

The cradle was cleaned, rust scrubbed and removed and the cracks were filled. I got the jaali fitted on top, supported by planks on either sides. The whole process took so much time that I was highly inclined to abandon the project mid-way. Loads of research later, I came out with the final piece, all ready to be painted.

Going with the tile colors on the swing, I decided to use blue and green for the centrepiece. The result is such a fresh change from all the dark brown (walnut) furniture all over the place. I regret not having taken pictures of the original. The broken cradle strips and the jaali. Had I done that, the difference in the before and after pictures would have been unimaginably stark.

Now that’s a keeper, isn’t it ? A pat on the back for me and a lot more motivation to keep finding myself such challenges.

This one is atleast 6 months pending. I’ve always wanted a Japanese style sit down table. Memoirs of Geisha and Nabinkumar’s vist to Ahmedabad rekindled that desire and I set out to make one. I picked up wood from a saw mill, gave it to my carpenter (who by then was used to my quirky demands) and he made the table top in a few hours. The primer was done and after a night of drying, I got Nabin to paint. Nabin comes from a family of Madhubani painters. Both his mother and sister are national award winning artistes. He is also very good and it makes me wonder how good the ladies must be!

A big fan of the peacock motif, I knew all the while what I wanted. I was surprised at myself at the choice of base colors. I am not known for subtlety in colors at all :) It took Nabin 4 days to slowly finish the entire painting. He insisted on doing up the centre, but I wanted to use a runner. So there wasn’t any point.

My carpenter finished up with the base. The table height was decided after much deliberation. And the impatient one that I am, I missed the varnishing step and started using it.

 

Some floor cushions, bolsters and pretty pretty Dabu printed fabric, my dining area is the coolest spot in my home. This is where I work (at times), read, eat and entertain. A hanging light is pending here, just waiting for that right inspiration to strike me! :)

 

 

There is a Warli painting workshop coming up in two weeks. And I am super excited. As a customer, I love the idea and wish more and more people would do this. As a marketeer, it helps me build a transparency with my customers. They know what they are buying, they know the person who makes it and they know how much this whole process means to me! :) But what gives me the most satisfaction is the idea that I am letting a few explore that child in them. The one that craves for that bright colored cupcake (the adult in them screams ‘non-food grade color’) and the one that loves the rain even if it means popping a crocin and drinking warm water when you get home. Personally when I try to create something, my two left hands are always a source of disappointment. I went to a school that put a lot of focus on making me a good home-maker, but the needlework classes weren’t particularly easy for me. I still dread the ‘lazy daisy’ that ended up as 5 sticks instead of petals and the ‘french knot’ that would create a mass of unyielding thread.  And I can’t paint to save my life. Of late I’ve started dabbling a bit in painting again (ok, it’s only for my interior design course!) and I’ve realised that it is so much fun to let yourself go.

This painting workshop is set to do just that. Create an environment where you learn something interesting, try your hand at color and in the process become aware of a craft that has been around for generations. Warli is perfect for this. It is a simple art form. Traditionally in the Maharastra-Gujarat border, it is done by women in their household. It follows some simple rules.  The paintings use a very basic graphic vocabulary: circle, triangle and square. The circle comes from the shape of the sun and the moon, the triangle comes from mountains and pointed trees. Only the square is outside this realm of influence. It is not influenced by nature, but rather by a basic need of early settlers- their own piece of land. The square denotes an enclosed piece of land. So the central image in each painting is a square, the chauk. The mother goddess is inside the Chauk and depicts fertility.

Image Source: BCA Galleries

The traditional Tarpa dance was popularized by Tantra tee shirts. The dance denotes the communal set up. It is a show of solidarity by people in the community. A well coordinated dance form where the focus is still on the central figure.

Village life is prominent in this form. Women carrying pots of water, a farmer ploughing his field are common themes that recur.

Ganesha has gained popularity in this art form. Originally, it was the Mother Goddess who found the pride of place in the center of the Chauk. Slowly this has been replaced by Lord Ganesha.

So go ahead, indulge that child in you. Or better still, do that with a bunch of people like you-young at heart! :)

A steaming cup of chai that warms the hand, the welcoming sunshine in the balcony, hot showers and soft comforters. I love the winters! It is sad that it is coming to an end. On the other hand, I think it’s time to gear up for the next season. However much I dread the heat (it hits 45 degrees here), I still can’t wait to put that first piece of mango in my mouth. A few things are good about the summer too! So I decided to beat the heat this year, make some summer friendly changes (more on that soon) and also introduce some light summery curtains.

Think of summers and it’s cotton for me. White clothes with a splash of colour is what I envisage my summer preferences to be. Just white is boring for me. It needs a whiff of colour to perk it up. Same goes with the walls. Most of us live in homes with off white walls. It is a good idea, considering it gives us a canvas to work around with other things. So with that as a base, I decided on curtains that would add that sparkle.

When I had to think of summer, I instinctively thought of lemonade. A glass of lemon juice topped with some fresh mint is my summer dream. Childhood summer tans were removed with a mix of turmeric and curd. Summer vacations spent in the ultra-green Kerala has etched the color in my memory. Food served on banana leaves. I based my first set on these combinations.

Second I have a particular fondness for blue. A blue that merges with the never ending sky, a blue that flows in the limitless ocean, the blue that dusk is made of. Indigo has been part of our traditional printing processes for a long time. Add some red to it and you have the perfect combination of earth and the sky.

Both combinations are perfect for white/off whitish walls. With this in mind, I have zeroed in on Ajrakh, that one fabric that I am in love with. The curtains will be out in a month’s time. That’s how long the 16 step Ajrakh process takes. More on that when the curtains arrive. I really hope you’ll love them! :)

P.S: I put together my color palette with some inspiration online. Some are photographs from my travel, others are from the various blogs, facebook pages and other stuff that I stumble upon. My usual destinations for all inspiration are Etsy, Apartment Therapy, Rang Decor, Artnlight and  a few others that I don’t recollect. For sometime now, Brass Tacks has caught my attention. However much I love the saree, the thought of doing my hundred tasks during the day while wearing it kills me. I like my pair of trousers, I like my shirt (rolled up sleeves and ‘I like to get my hands dirty’ look) and I want to feel comfortable during that important client meeting. And I still want to stay true to my roots. Brass Tacks solves that problem. They use traditional fabrics in making ultra stylish clothes. Their attention to detail is exceptional. 

 

I have spent entire summers waiting for 4 pm, the time when I was allowed to go to the park. The only thing that fascinated me there was the swing. I remember swinging for hours on end and reaching home with a dizzy head. I’ve done this every evening, all through the summer holidays. When I asked my parents if I could have a swing at home, my mom told me that swings were supposed to be only in parks. And I believed her! :)

I carried this urge from my childhood and finally found my swing. Like most amazing things in life, I found it when I wasn’t looking for it. I had to purchase some antique furniture for a client and was walking around the antiques market in Ahmedabad. There I ended up rescuing a swing. I would call it rescue because this beautiful piece of furniture was in fact being used to stack clothes. It was termite ridden, the edges were broken off, the rods were rusted and broken and the mirror was in bad shape. It was covered with inches of dust that I almost missed this gem.

When I expressed interest in buying it, the guy jacked up the rates. He even claimed some royal associations! Finally I gave in, paid him and haggled with a tempo guy to get it home. Though my husband is used to these weird looking things coming home, this 5 ft long really dirty thing was a bit too much for him. I persuaded him to finish

I called in the neighbourhood carpenter the next day. He managed to ruin it in just 5 minutes! He didn’t know how to sand such an old piece. I managed to stop him before he caused any more damage.

While I was looking for another carpenter, the swing started accumulating things. It was used to store anything that didn’t have a place of its own. Though not clear in the picture, it has a stack of toothpicks and candles from the last party.

In the meanwhile, I got a couple of mirror cut to size, ordered some turquoise tiles with a hint of yellow to go with my walls and I lowered my standards to buy the steel rods to hang them. I really wanted the bronze ones, but that would have cost me a fortune! :)

Finally I found a carpenter suited for this job and shifted the swing to his location. I waited for a week while the swing was sanded, polished and the tiles and mirror were fixed.

The ceiling needed to be ready before the swing arrived. My heart was in my mouth as the ceiling was punctured to screw up the holders.

Finally the swing was in its place. It is the primary piece of furniture in the living room and has become its signature.

My home, my swing! :)

I know I should have waited for the final picture of the Pooja Room Door. Priya is away and it will take a painful whole week to see the installation. She has an housewarming Pooja at the end of the month and wanted the paintings only by then. I guess this is what happens when you deliver well before the time you were supposed to. When it’s good service, of course I am allowed to brag! ;)

Priya wanted to do her Pooja Room differently. I am glad that she didn’t choose to pick up the regular ‘off the shelf’ versions available in the market. So after a good long conversation, we decided that the puppets would be a perfect idea. She is building her home in Hyderabad and a craft from that state would be ideal.

She was sure that she wanted Ashtalakshmi. I googled up a few pictures and she chose her image from a range that I sent her.

Since the craftsman lives in a village that is best reached by snail mail, I posted the picture to him. When I asked him for a proper address, Tulsi Rao said it was unnecessary and the postman knew him well. For an apartment dweller who hardly knows her neighbours, this was a quite a surprise. I don’t send snail mails and I waited for sometime before Tulsi Rao got my letter.

Thanks to the mobile phone, I explained the rest of the details. He said that the picture was a Tanjore painting. He would only use it for his reference and use his style to depict the Goddess.

The painting was ready in two weeks. I wasn’t comfortable with him sending the paintings back by post. I don’t know the postman here! So I convinced him to take a bus to the nearest town and send the paintings through DTDC. I finally had a CN number to track the shipment online.

I wish someone photographed my face when I opened the parcel. Gorgeous as it was, I had second thoughts about sending it to Priya :)

Here is how the paintings would look against the light.

Some individual pictures. Look at the detail on each of them.

I am still waiting for Priya to install the paintings on the door and send me the final pictures. Will share the same soon! :)

If you are looking for a custom made piece, email us on craftcanvas@gmail.com.