Artique-band

Makers of Mumbai: Nazneen Dharamsey of Artique

 

MAKERS OF MUMBAI: NAZNEEN DHARAMSEY OF ARTIQUE

Nazneen Dharamsey is on a mission to bring art into our every day. Her brand, Artique, sells products ranging from mugs and business card holders to bags and umbrellas, and she’s making sure we’re surrounded by art and beauty wherever we go. To order Artique products, you can visit the Facebook page or message on 084548 07122.

WORDS BY AIKITA JARRAH

The City Story: Tell us about Artique’s journey.

Nazneen Dharamsey: Artique turned three in November this year. My mum is an artist. She studied it in college and then lost touch when life got in the way. She took up art again seven years ago. While art is very interesting, it is a small space and so unexplored. It is perceived as something that has a snob appeal and a niche and intimidating space. Art is such a holistic, expressive field and has so much untapped potential. That’s where the idea came up from for making art part of your daily consumption. It started in the home scape; soon we realised offices are another space where people spend a lot of time. So we started with daily products like coasters and trays. Now we’re also in the space of fashion and actually taking things out.

TCS: Did you study art/design? And do you do all the work yourself or do you have a team?

ND: No, I have zero experience in Art. I’m from advertising world. I started in client servicing, moved to account management and then into planning. I saw this space, which is completely new to me. I just took it up to see where it goes. I do have a sense of aesthetics. So I do know what looks nice visually. Also, essentially coming from a research background, I’ve got a deeper understanding of what consumers like and put that into play when and where I can with Artique.

Artique_003

Artique is just me. And I’ve consciously kept it that way. The minute you bring in other people, it’s different minds that get in the way. I do that enough in my other job everyday where I consult in AD projects. This is something that’s just mine, so I don’t have any timelines or restrictions.

Of course I don’t think anything is really done in isolation. I have my mum, my fiancé, and my friends who are extremely supportive of this idea and who consider themselves part of the journey.

TCS: How do you choose your designs? How do you decide which pieces make the cut?

ND: There are two kinds of paintings my mum does. Stuff that she does for exhibits and sales, and the ones she does purely for pleasure. Which is why those are very in flow, unadulterated and colourful, not made to perfection. It comes straight from the heart. It’s a constant fight picking on the ones to use. She loves her floral collection, her style is nature and abstract. I love her abstracts. Abstracts, as an art form on merchandise and home décor, is something you don’t see too often. The best thing about abstract art is that you can never recreate it. Even the artist can never really recreate it exactly the same. I love the story behind each piece of art. I try and inculcate that story when I’m trying to sell a product or talking to a prospective buyer: what’s the story behind this piece of art.

Artique_002

TCS: What do you think makes Artique stand out?

ND: I think the fact that we’re just not playing the game.

I’m not looking at what could be called competitors, and I’m not looking at their pricing and trying to figure if can I do better. I’m just doing the things that I think will work from my interaction with people. Things I think they will utilise every day. So for Artique, it’s not about pegging yourself against anyone We are just creating our own thing and taking each day as it comes. So one days it’s about products, the next day it’s about the blog, and the third day it’s something else.

TCS: Where do you see Artique going?

ND: It’s been a very conscious decision to keep the map fluid at the moment. The crux of Artique remains the same: we will always be about the everyday person, the everyday life and the role that art plays in that. There’s no other restriction. One leg of the business model is products, because that’s where the revenue is generated. The other leg we’ve worked on and we’re building right now its experience. Chatting Chai, for example, is things like the blog where we have everyday conversations over a cup of chai and try to bring art into the conversation. So at times my friend and I visit galleries around Mumbai and the blog about the experience. The blog is shared on our social media platforms. The idea is to get people to speak about art and contribute their writings. That’s something we’re building right now. At the same time, on the side I’ve started conducting these little groups, like a book club, but where people get together to discuss art and artists. It’s about getting in new age ideas about how people perceive art. Even a nine-year-old would have a clear view on how she perceives a particular piece of art. The idea is more about changing a mindset, as opposed to just selling a product.

Photographs courtesy Artique

 

 
Moochwala-band

Makers of Mumbai: Nishchay Gogia of Moochwala

moochwala nischay gogia
 

MAKERS OF MUMBAI: NISHCHAY GOGIA OF MOOCHWALA

Moochwala was launched in August 2015 with t-shirts dedicated to lovers of moustaches and beards. Since then, it has steadily grown into the one-stop shop for all things mooch, making moustache-inspired items like quirky bowties, mugs, mobile covers, diaries, and more. We caught up with its founder Nishchay Gogia who tells us about its origins, social causes, and what he’s learned about Mumbai’s shopping habits.

moochwala nischay gogia

WORDS BY AIKITA JARRAH

The City Story: How and when did Moochwala’s journey begin?

Nishchay Gogia: It was [in 2015]. I was planning a solo trip to Spain and wanted to carry a couple of fun graphic t-shirts with me. I was a bit disappointed to find there were only two options available anywhere I looked that played around with the concepts of moustaches and beards, and I already owned them.

While away, I noticed that beard trend wasn’t isolated to India; it was all over the world. So once I got back I got in touch with my designer friend Amrita Saluja and discussed the possibility of working to fill this gap in graphic t-shirts together, and Moochwala began. A lot of names were scouted at first, and we almost locked on “Moustache Mania”, but we found Moochwala to be more generic. Like you see someone with a beard and moochwala–daadheewala is the first thing that comes to mind. It makes it easier for the brand to travel.

TCS: Do you have a background in design?

NG: No, I don’t. I’m not a design person, I’m an ideas person. I enjoy cracking quotes. As a creative director in television, I’m good with keeping track of trends and manage to come up with t-shirt around that. So when Wild Wild Country was all that everyone could talk about, we came up with a t-shirt that said “Wild Wild Beard”. Also, some of our products and designs are seasonal. We have Moochwala rakhis that pop in during Raksha Bandhan that have been very popular. Also during Diwali we’ve had tops with quotes centred around the festival.

TCS: What is the connection between Moochwala and Mumbai? Do you consider the city a nurturing space for a business like yours?

NG: Definitely. I’m a Bombay boy; born and brought up in the city. Mumbai is a city where we have people from all over the country. It’s a great testing ground for a brand, in that sense. You get such a wide and varied sample to test your products on.

moochwala nischay gogia

The city’s pulse, the pulse of the people, and the way they shop, changes every two stations. What I mean is, a Bandra and a Khar shop in a particular way, but a Mahim and a Matunga shop in a completely different way. Every two stations there’s a different shopping pattern. There are a few of our designs that work in a particular belt and others that do not work in a particular belt within Mumbai itself, and that provides a huge learning curve for any brand.

TCS: Since all your products revolve around the mooch and beard, does your name limit your customer base to men?

NG: Moochwala is for lovers of beards and moustaches. Having one – or both – is not a prerequisite to being a patron of the brand. The break-up of our customer base is something like 60 women to 40 men. I must say a large part of the credit goes to my good friend/guinea pig, TV actor Nakuul Mehta.

He has almost every t-shirt that Moochwala has ever made. I test new stuff on him. Most of his following is female. Nakuul wears one of our shirts, he puts it up on social media, and I get five orders for that t-shirt almost instantly. Also, most of our t-shirts are what you’d call boyfriend fit t-shirts. We also have crop tops and V-necks for the ladies.

moochwala nischay gogia

TCS: Moochwala is more than just a brand offering merchandise. You’ve also often voiced an opinion on social matters.  

NG: Yes. Moochwala has a big mooch, a big beard, and a bigger mouth. We’re not afraid to talk about things that matter. It’s great to have a platform with some 5000-6000 followers where I have the opportunity to put something out that I feel strongly about.

In the past, we had this tie up with the film Phullu to put an end to period shaming and talk about menstrual hygiene somewhere in 2016.

As a brand, we also want to stand for people that are not afraid to talk. Another one of the issues I was eager to address was awareness for depression that often leads to suicide. All of our t-shirts come with a back print. The idea is whenever you see someone with a Moochwala logo on his or her back the concept was, “I’ve got your back you can talk to me.”

TCS: Is there something that’s stayed with you since the start of Moochwala?

NG: One of the most heart-warming experiences since the launch of Moochwala has been watching the response to our campaign Bhaag Anil Bhaag. We wanted to raise the funds to allow Anil Kumar, a 38-year-old woodcutter from Kerala who was shortlisted for the Asian Masters Athletic Championship, to get to China and compete.

moochwala nischay gogia

So I came up with the idea, and Nakuul was the face of the campaign where we sold t-shirts with the slogan “Be BadAsso”. The response we got was phenomenal. We had orders coming in from Pakistan, Dubai, South Africa, the UK, the US, and everywhere. We reached our goal in three days. To make such an impact it was a big win for us.

TCS: So how do we get our hands on some Moochwala goodies?

NG: We’re reachable on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. A simple Direct Message on any of these platforms enquiring about our products will get you a swift response. Our transactions are currently only via PayTM and online payments. We deliver all over the country and internationally as well. We also do pop-ups at fairs where and when we can.

 
Myrtle-band

Makers Of Mumbai: Saptaparni & Shalmoli Of Myrtle Handcrafted Jewellery

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli
 

MAKERS OF MUMBAI: SAPTAPARNI AND SHALMOLI OF MYRTLE HANDCRAFTED JEWELLERY

When Saptaparni and Shalmoli couldn’t turn away the stray cats that trooped into their ground-floor apartment, they realised they needed to find alternate means of income to feed their growing army. They began Myrtle in early 2018 and their distinct handcrafted jewellery has already gathered a loyal following in the city. The sisters have moulded the perfect partnership – Saptaparni designs and creates the jewellery, while Shalmoli does all the number crunching.

WORDS BY KRUTI DALAL

The City Story: Tell us a little about your journey. How and when did you decide to start Myrtle Handkraft?

Saptaparni: I loved clay modelling and painting as a child. I started with sculpting faces and heads and then moved on to miniatures. That was my learning curve. I started making jewellery in 2013. Being an actor, I often get a lot of free time between auditions and shoots. Then my closest friends suggested I start selling the pieces. I don’t like selling art, but I needed the money to feed the stray cats we had started adopting. So we began posting the pieces on Instagram where we got a good response.

TCS: Can you talk us through the process of creating?

Saptaparni: I use air-dry or polymer clay that you can buy from any store. I mix a little bit of watercolour, acrylic or oil paint into the clay to create the colours that I want. The true colours only show once the product is completely dry. I make the base first, then the flowers, leaves and other designs. Finally, I stick those on the base. I improvise a lot. I never have a fixed design in mind when I start.

Shalmoli: We always tell our customers that they will never get the same design, because our designer keeps improvising. Even making a pair of earrings is difficult for her at times, because she can’t copy the designs so precisely. But customers love that, because it makes the jewellery unique.

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli

TCS: What inspires you?

Saptaparni: In 2013 I saw big, chunky earrings at a Dolce and Gabbana Show at Milan Fashion Week. I loved those earrings, and I wanted them. That was the trigger point. Since then I’ve always wanted to create big jewellery pieces.

In terms of design, I’m instantly attracted to flowers and leaves. Even if I consciously try to avoid them, I end up creating them in most of my designs. I will eventually move on to more geometric shapes, but right now I’m focused on florals.

TCS: What are some of the challenges of running a business?

Shalmoli: Money is always a problem. So many customers bargain a lot. We do give some discount if they’re buying in bulk, but it’s not possible for us to lower our prices since we’re barely making any profit. While fixing prices, we take the cost of production into account, then the size, then the postage charges and finally add only a tiny margin for the actual labour and time spent on making the product.

TCS: What keeps you going?

Saptaparni: The love of art. I believe that any form of art is therapeutic and requires a lot of concentration. People should not take up art to become famous, to earn money. They should do it for the joy it brings them, just like I do.

myrtle handcrafted jewellery Saptaparni Shalmoli

TCS: What are your future plans? Where do you want to take Myrtle in the next 5 years?

Shalmoli: Our next step would be to create a website. Right now, we only have an Instagram account. A website means better brand value and more customers. We are also looking to start world-wide shipping, because we have been getting requests from overseas as well.

Saptaparni: From the product point of view, my goal is to make bigger, chunkier earrings. I believe that more is less. People have approached us for collaborations and bulk orders, but I can’t keep up with that since I’m the only one who makes the jewellery.

I would also love to make my own utensils – ceramic bowls and plates. But it’s very expensive to have that kind of a set-up at home with a wheel and baking kiln. I started with the jewellery because I couldn’t afford that, but I hope one day I can.

TCS: What do you love most about Mumbai?

Saptaparni: I’ve travelled all over the country, but I can relate to Mumbai because in many ways it is similar to Calcutta. The culture is rich, the people are humble and the weather is beautiful for most part.

TCS: Where do you go when you need a quick escape from the city?

Saptaparni: We like going to Karjat on the weekends because all our cats are there now, at an animal shelter called Probably Paradise run by Roxanne Davur. It’s a beautiful space with over 250 rescued animals including horses, dogs, cats, and cows.

 
A&T-Cunha-band

Making Mumbai Beautiful One Mosaic Mural At A Time

aashika tanishaa cunha mosaic murals
 

MAKING MUMBAI BEAUTIFUL ONE MURAL AT A TIME

An art form they learned from their creative grandmother, Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha’s childhood hobby has evolved into a lucrative career. They transform nondescript walls into canvasses with their gorgeous, hand-cut mosaic friezes.

To see more of their work or get in touch with the sisters, visit website or their Instagram page.

READ FAREEDA KANGA'S STORY

Strolling down the Carter Road Promenade in Bandra, it’s highly probable you’ll have been stopped in your tracks by a stunning mural. Near the amphitheatre, beyond the real mangroves, rendered in mosaic is a flamingo nestling in the mangroves. This little nod to one of Mumbai’s favourite annual visitors was created by South Mumbai siblings, Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha.

There’s an old-world charm to the girls, none of the overconfidence and arrogance I often encounter in ambitious youngsters, PR agents in tow. Instead, these shy, self-effacing sisters remind me of the era I grew up in. In their 20s, both seem almost too embarrassed to talk about themselves.

At the Cunha residence on Malabar Hill, the girls talk about their inspiration – Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi and his over-the-top, surreal work in Park Guell, Barcelona. But the art may be in their genes. Their first mosaics were created in tandem with their avant-garde granny Anne de Braganca Cunha whose irreverent personality and celebrated creativity touched the lives of everyone she met. “Our grandma was always making mosaics out of anything she could lay her hands on,” says Tanishaa, “shells, old ceramic tiles, beads, and scraps of glass way back in the ’60s. As kids, we would assist her in her artistic endeavours, and I guess that’s as far as our formal training went in the initial stages.” Tanishaa has since completed her Bachelor's degree in Design from Goldsmiths College, London this year.

aashika tanishaa cunha mosaic murals

Their mum, Erika, goads them gently into talking about their first project in Honolulu. The girls become animated as they tell the story. “In 2015, we created a piece for our building terrace, which our parents uploaded to Facebook, much to our dismay,” says Tanishaa. “A common friend liked it so much that he flew us to Hawaii to create what was our first mosaic mural. At the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu, we created a 252 sq. ft piece Ke Aloha O Ka Āina (Love of the Land) for the Ala Moana Center based on Hawaii's natural beauty. The challenges were completing the piece in 32 parts and shipping them all the way to Hawaii; so the continuity had to be perfect.”

It was a monumental task with no margin for error whatsoever, but the girls haven’t looked back since. Work poured in via word-of-mouth, Instagram posts, and, of course, the gorgeous pieces of mosaic all bearing the A&T Cunha signature that adorn the humongous gardens in the private homes of the who's who in Alibaug, “the playground of Mumbai’s rich and famous”!

aashika tanishaa cunha mosaic murals

It’s back-breaking work. There’s the sorting, designing, and cutting each tile individually, all by hand. Dad Ravi pitches in with mathematical calculations when the girls need help with scale and form. They work for more than seven hours at a stretch. It’s enough to make the girls an orthopaedic surgeon’s delight, but the results are unbelievable!

Each of the 80 mosaics they’ve completed, both public and private commissions, reveal a bold artistic streak that belies their timid nature. The landscapes leap out at you, demanding your attention. And the lifelike portraits draw gasps of disbelief. With the landscapes, volume is conveyed through colour gradation. Colours can be easily interchanged, so they are comparatively easier to render than portraits. “[Portraits] are definitely the hardest,” says Aashika. “Getting the characteristics of the person down is difficult. People can be quite fussy – wanting to look slimmer or fairer. And you can't just change it with a stroke of paint like in paintings. You have to remove the tiles from the board with a knife (and a lot of energy), smoothen the board again and re-stick the tiles. The glass colours available are limited, unlike paints which you can mix and create more shades; so sometimes it causes a constraint especially in skin tones.”

aashika tanishaa cunha mosaic murals

Amongst the Cunha siblings’ recent work is a 110 sq.ft. mosaic of the Mumbai skyline for The A Club, a private members’ club newly-opened at India Bulls, Lower Parel. Their personal favourites include two 24 sq.ft. pieces for the Butterfly Park at Rani Baug Zoo in Byculla that showcases various species of butterflies and flowers in the park. And while mosaic maps of Mumbai have become the flavour of the season, portraits and florals are consistent hits.

It’s hard work, but it pays well (commissions start at Rs. 10,000 per square foot depending on the scale and intricacy of the design). Still, what is most important to these young women is that it furthers their passion for enriching public spaces with art and installations. Aashika currently works at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). “Mosaics like the one on Carter Road brings focus to the Mumbai mangrove issue and remind people to enjoy the beauty of our diminishing natural habitat,” says Aashika. “Public art is the best way to initiate an interaction with citizens, and it can create social awareness.”

Photographs courtesy Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha

 
Indu-Harikumar-band

Swiping Right With Indu Harikumar

indu harikumar
 

SWIPING RIGHT WITH INDU HARIKUMAR

WORDS BY SADIYA UPADE

Editor's note: All the images are links to the illustrations on Indu Harikumar's Instagram account, where you can read the stories that inspired them.

Modern love may be a swipe away, but it's still messy. Ask Mumbai-based illustrator Indu Harikumar. When she started "100 Indian Tinder Tales" in 2016, it was through the prism of her own experience. As the circle expanded, out came stories of gay men finding love, extra-marital affairs, fleeting encounters, couples tying the knot, rather funny tales involving hair dressers and bad breath, and even that of a woman hand-holding a man who had lost his virginity!

"I didn't expect it to go beyond eight or nine stories," says Indu, who cleverly stitched together the subtle shades of grey, admissions, love, and longing with her illustrations. "The series took shape based on the stories that came in. After a point, people's reactions were that these are all sad stories, give us love stories!" The tales were crowdsourced from Indians and expats dating Indians.

It was the urge to try something new that spurred Indu, a children’s book illustrator. Offhand conversations with friends and her own experience in Vienna culminated in the social experiment, which ran for seven or eight months. "I was on a residency in Vienna when I first used Tinder,” says Indu. “It was scary. I didn't know anybody there, didn't know the language, didn't even know whom to call if there was a problem. But the date went wonderfully. We went for a walk for six hours, saw local art, and a connection was made. In eight months of listening to [other] people's stories, I learned that we look for love in all sorts of places. The project made it easier for me to lean in, be vulnerable, to accept my flaws and be more at peace with myself. It became a platform for people to connect, to feel less isolated."

Indu’s own story, which is ninth in the series, is special to her.  The "Vienna guy", in fact, is also the inspiration behind her self-published colouring book, Beauty Needs Space. The artist, who finds inspiration in the works of Rainer Rilke and Gustav Klimt, has gone on to illustrate physical and social prejudices through "Body of Stories". Her latest endeavour, "Girlisthan", is about getting women to talk about what they love about themselves – putting the focus on "female gaze". Self-love remains a tangled web to decipher. For now, we got the artist to pick her favourite Indian Tinder Tales.

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 

indu harikumar

 
Iteeha-band

Learn Textile Printing With Iteeha

 

LEARN TEXTILE PRINTING WITH ITEEHA

Iteeha conducts art workshops around Mumbai, bringing forth textile printing techniques such as Dabu, Shibori, Tie & Dye and more. The workshops are held at ARTISANS', Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Social, and other venues.

READ SADIYA UPADE'S STORY

My eyes kept returning to the printed dupattas flapping back and forth on the flimsy wire as the tables were padded with layers of white cloth. Were we to make these? We were on the lawns of the Bhau Daji Lad museum for Iteeha’s Dabu block printing workshop, with treated pieces of fabric in front of us. Lemon-coloured, these squares were nowhere close to the many hues of blue of the dupattas that had caught my eye.

Dabu is an ancient mud resist technique, and the first task was just that – to prepare the mud. The black soil, chuna, powdered wheat husk, and natural gum came from a small Rajasthani village called Bagru, as did the artisans who would teach us. Passed through a sieve, the mixture then made its way to our tables, and we set to work. We grabbed blocks from the tables, dipping them in the mud, hastily making a pattern, before losing them to the ever-swelling crowd. I found a flower-shaped one, imprinting it on four corners of my 4x4 before lining up in front of the lawn fan.

It must have made a hilarious picture, for the artisans couldn't resist taking a photograph. Little did we care though, us a motley bunch of college kids, grannies, working women, and even a Japanese group on vacation. The moment it all came together though was when the pale-yellow background turned indigo! Even red! The block-printed pattern, in turn turning white, acted as the perfect offset. The smiles, unconstrained and apparent on everyone's face that instant. Then, a rush then to find more lemony squares to experiment on, to dip in the bucketfuls of dye so that the red and blue talk together. I only had eyes for my piece of indigo sunshine, more precious than the finished dupattas on the wire.

 
Rohit-Kulkarni-band

10 Questions With Rohit Kulkarni Of Curators Of Clay

rohit kulkarni curators of clay
 

10 QUESTIONS WITH ROHIT KULKARNI OF CURATORS OF CLAY

WORDS BY GENESIA ALVES

Rohit Kulkarni gave up a career in the media to train to be a potter. Today, he and his co-founder, Bhairavi Naik, run Curators of Clay, a small workshop in the village of Bhugaon, outside Pune, that is quietly establishing itself as source of high-quality, beautiful clay craftsmanship. With zero assistance – save the companionship of the resident pottery-pig Lalita and the occasional incredulous reaction from the local villagers – Kulkarni and Naik single-handedly create beautiful crockery from their kiln.

The City Story talks to Rohit about his journey to realising his passion, what he misses about his “old life”, and the value of the artisan’s work.

TCS: What’s the first thing you ever “made” (even before you started working with clay professionally)? Were you into making stuff as a kid?

RK: The first thing I made when I started playing with clay as a teenager was a gargoyle. I don't think I was very into creating things as a kid – I used to draw (copy, actually), but that's about it. Then at some point in junior college I became fascinated by gargoyles and thought I wanted to be a sculptor. I still do.

TCS: What did you do professionally before? What was your routine like?

RK: I've worked across television, radio and movies – my last job before this was as Creative Director Marketing at UTV Motion Pictures – working on trailers, posters, and other promotional stuff for feature films. My routine then involved commuting in crap traffic to get to work – either at the office or at one of the many post-production studios. Then trying to convince a dozen people about the trailer/poster/any other creative idea that I had. Then executing the dozen changes that everyone wanted in anything that had been created!

rohit kulkarni curators of clay

TCS: What’s an average day like now?

RK: My days are rather full. I get to the studio (about a 15-minute drive from home to Bhugaon village). Check on the pottery pig (yes) and then get down to working on the wheel, crafting beautiful tableware; making, loading the kiln, firing the kiln... finishing work, then packing it. We don't work with any karigars or artisans, so we do everything ourselves. Quite honestly, I've worked hard, but never this hard earlier.

TCS: What was your a-ha moment?

RK: Quite honestly, I don't think there was an a-ha moment, really. I'd always, always dreamt of a lifestyle that let me work in the outdoors, not in a city as such...and actually use my hands to make a living.

I'd say the following things helped: partnering with Bhairavi has been a great business decision. It’s sorted out many things in terms of dealing with clients, planning/strategizing etc. (Also it hugely helps that we are only co-founders/partners and there's nothing beyond this! I have to put this out there because everyone expects us to be a couple!)

If you had to label it, our first a-ha moment may have been the time we completed our first real commission of 100 mugs, which we did while juggling our day jobs. That's when this whole ambition of being a full-time ceramicist/potter suddenly seemed viable: difficult, tough, painful – but viable.

TCS: What’s the hardest thing about leaving the rat race? What’s the easiest?

RK: Most difficult thing to quit – without a doubt, the financial security. Easiest – the routine.

rohit kulkarni curators of clay

TCS: Where did you train?

RK: How I started out is actually a nice story. A senior of mine in college once remarked that I had the “hands” for pottery/art. Years later she wrote an article about pottery. I read it and sought out Vinod Dubey who taught me the basics...

Then I went off to Andretta in Himachal Pradesh to train under one of the coolest people I've ever met – Master Potter Mansimran “Mini” Singh. Post that it's just been a lot of practice, trial and error!

TCS: Describe what the Curators of Clay does.

RK: Curators of Clay makes handcrafted, high-fired, functional ceramics. We don't aspire to change the world or anything that noble. We just want to make it a lot more beautiful, through our work, with clay as our medium. I want everyone to want the teapots I craft.

TCS: What have you learned (the hard stuff) from following your passion? What do you miss from your old life?

RK: This finding your passion etc. is all lovely as Instagrammable quotes. But, heck, this is a real job. I don't have a trust fund. I don't come from a loaded family. This is how I choose to earn my living and so I want it to work. I actually do miss the convenience of a mainstream job, the exposure and sometimes, the buzz of Bombay. One only realises all the silly things we take for granted once those are no longer there – simple stuff like having an office peon suddenly is missed! And it's tiring to have to convince people that no, it's not an idyllic, chilled out life.

rohit kulkarni curators of clay

TCS: What do the other people in the village think of you? Have you inspired anyone else? 

They have a sense of amused indulgence towards us. Mind you, this is a rapidly urbanizing village – we now have a small Baskin Robbins freezer in our New Poona Bakery, but a steady, reliable electricity supply is still elusive. My family had land here for years, so a lot of them have known me since I was young. And I'm certain they're shaking their heads with concern about this good Kulkarni boy who's lost his marbles and has quit the big city to play with clay.

I think my Instagram feed inspires people for a day or so. Then they realize the studio is gorgeous but there's no pizza delivery, no Raju/Chotu/Maushi to clean up after us, and a kiln firing means being at the studio for 14 hours straight.

TCS: Would you have it any other way?

RK: No. Except perhaps it would've helped if I'd known earlier that I could attempt at making this my full-time pursuit...

To buy Curators of Clay’s products or know more, you can get in touch with them on their Facebook page or Instagram account.

 
Snigdha-Rao-band

7 Questions With Designer Snigdha Rao

snigdha rao bombay design house 100 days of stranger things

7 QUESTIONS WITH DESIGNER SNIGDHA RAO

WORDS BY JUHI PANDE

We caught up with Snigdha Rao, partner and designer at Bombay Design house, and asked her about her project #100DaysOfStrangerThings – a 100-day experiment where you choose your favourite hobby/pastime and repeat it for 100 days. In Snigdha’s case, it was sketches and limericks, which she kickstarted on Instagram a few weeks ago.

TCS: Tell me a little about this project and why you started it.

SR: I've always enjoyed observing and sketching people, and I've always enjoyed wry rhymes. This is a bit of a mash-up between the two. Let's admit it, everyone's a bit strange anyway, so I don't always need to try that hard.

I had heard of [#the100days] project on Instagram back in 2015, and as enthused as I was with it, never really got around to being diligent. Cut to 2017, coming in the wake of a monumentally horrid 2016, when the project re-appeared on my feed and I decided to take the plunge. The motivation was a lot higher this time around. Between adulting, running a design firm – which more or less involves constant fire-fighting and creative ways to politely decline ridiculous feedback – I was a tad sapped. This cried out to me like a Pina Colada on a secluded beach holiday when you've been jostling in the Virar local. I leapt at it! More than anything, this project was to give the rusty skills a bit of a shakedown and just get my hands dirty, literally.

snigdha rao bombay design house

TCS: What do you draw inspiration for these sketches from?

SR: I've been sketching people from around me – on the road, in the park, spotted at a traffic signal. Most days you'll find me walking extra slowly, eyes peeled greedily looking around. The days when it gets hot and I'm lazy I look to the wonderful world wide web, that mine house of oddities. It has not failed me yet. And then there are days when I cook up some nonsense. I have "help" editing my poems from my in-house critics. Some friends have also sent pictures!

Drawing has become time dedicated to pure, unadulterated selfish joy! In those few hours, everything else takes a backseat. There are days when I've woken up earlier than usual so I could sketch!

TCS: What happens after 100 days?

SR: Erm...did I mention I'm 14 days off? My genuine attempt is to finish this in 100 days! Right now, that's the only goal. Hopefully by then this practice will become more integrated into my life, and I can get off my lazy ass and start on the bunch of other projects which have been in the wings!

Oh and get better at the damn limericks. As has been pointed out by the linguist purists in my circles, my rhymes are not always in the anapaest form. Just you wait, I'll be ti ti tumming my ass off by 100!

There was a young lady who drew

But words she had just a few

So she called on her aunt

Who unfortunately said I can't 

My spellings are sadly askew.

TCS: Can you pick a favourite?

SR: One is tough. I like The Lady From Next Door, 004/100. Almost every morning, for the last three years, I've seen her from my window, tending to her plants as I sip my coffee, thinking I'd love to draw her!

I also like the 029/100, which is something I just cooked up. No deep insights, I just really enjoyed drawing that.

snigdha rao bombay design house

TCS: Tell me a little more about what you are up to these days. What’s Bombay Design House all about?

SR: Bombay Design House is the now semi-grown baby I have been co-parenting with my forever partner-in-crime, Ritu. After years of finishing each other’s food, sentences and ideas we knew we wanted to work together. We call it house, but it’s home. We all claim to be storytellers; we are striving to live up to that descriptor.

Right now is a fairly exciting as well as challenging time at the House. There has been a lot of soul searching and gear shifting to narrow our area of focus (the 100-day project is a part manifestation of that; Ritu has been at it too!).

So currently there is a lot of idea-jamming, post-it scribbling, tabulation of schedules on numbers (we hate Excel!) and explorations on self-initiated new projects in between all the client-work.

Q: Name 3 artists (living or dead) who you would invite for dinner. What would you cook?

SR: Admission 1: These numerical questions always send my brain in a tizzy!

Admission 2: I hate cooking! (Unless it’s Sunday breakfast)

Admission 3: I don’t follow a lot of Art.

But, post that preamble, my three would be:

Sagmeister, even though he is technically a designer, because this video!

Van Gogh (minus the bleeding ear), just to give him company and to tell him he didn’t die for nothing! (Levity aside, to keep going in the face of abject rejection takes a different level of dedication, and I really admire that. He portrayed darkness so brilliantly.)

And the third is an illustrator/designer, Jean Jullien, just so that we can make some fun work.

As for cooking, does ordering in count?

snigdha rao bombay design house

Q: Tell me why you like Mumbai. Is there a secret about the city you’d be willing to share?

SR:  Mumbai is my love affair from my youth, a relationship I’m hanging onto even though I seem to have outgrown it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great city and I love most things about it (except the bleeding real estate; that hurts), I just find my love for cities in general, waning.

Mumbai’s very open secret is the sea. From that smelly crowded patch we call Chowpatty to the concrete paved promenades, it is the sea which gives this city its lease of life. Take that away and I think the city will collapse on itself.

Sky-Goodies-band

Get Glued To Paper Products From Sky Goodies

sky goodies diy paper products amit gudibanda misha gudibanda
 

GET GLUED TO PAPER PRODUCTS FROM SKY GOODIES

Sky Goodies is a brand of paper and digital products created by Misha and Amit Gudibanda. They specialise in do-it-yourself paper products with vibrant designs and sell from their store in Khar (and other locations) as well as their website.

Sky Goodies, 1st Floor, Bungalow No. 29, Chuim Village Road, Khar (w), Mumbai 400 052. Phone: 097688 88688

READ KRUTI DALAL'S STORY

I’ve never been to Paris, but I’ve built an Eiffel Tower. The raw materials came to me in the form of a postcard – four sides of the iconic edifice with perforated edges in the front, warm words from a childhood friend scribbled on the back. Some glue and five minutes later I had my own little piece of Paris I didn’t have to share with throngs queuing up to get to the top of the Tower. I felt special.

A decade later, I feel especially heady as I tread on the wooden floor, studying every item on the wooden shelves inside an old villa in Chuim village. Kitschy hot air balloons float above ornate pianos that play monthly tunes instead of Mozart. The black and white picture of a wide-eyed child posing for his passport photograph stares at me through the lens of a yellow vintage camera with red rose motifs. Two vibrant auto rickshaws have parked themselves next to authentic boom boxes filled with chocolate hearts. I feel like Alice, only this Wonderland is made entirely out of paper.

sky goodies diy paper products amit gudibanda misha gudibanda

Amit and Misha Gudibanda, graduates from National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, began Sky Goodies with the idea of enriching lives through the simple act of creating. The aim is obvious in their tag line – Make Happy. “We believe that happiness comes from effort,” Misha tells me as we sit across the sole table in the room, surrounded by their creations. “Effort is very important. There’s nothing left if you remove effort from our lives. Many psychiatrists call it the ‘existential vacuum’, where you’re left with endless entertainment options, but nothing is good enough.”

This urge to consume rather than create is commonly manifested in the form of addiction to electronic devices – for both children and adults. “For children, the ability to deal with failure is diminishing because they know they can restart a game on their phones or tablets if they’re losing.,” says Misha. “We wanted to create something physical, so kids can learn to deal with mistakes and become more sensitive in the process.”

While do-it-yourself (DIY) is part of daily parlance in most developed countries, the concept is only just catching up in India. Sky Goodies is spreading that culture by ensuring that all their products are more than just pretty pieces. Each article is utilitarian, so the quintessentially Indian truck is actually a stationery holder, the boom box doubles up as a gift box, and business cardholders masquerade as matchboxes complete with matchsticks for that authentic spark.

sky goodies diy paper products amit gudibanda misha gudibanda

The vibrant typewriter with monthly calendars printed on each of the twelve sheets is their fastest selling item. “After those featured on the Colossal website, my phone wouldn’t stop ringing and sales went through the roof,” says Misha. “Kaching, kaching, kaching.” But Misha’s favourite item is the tank penholder imprinted with the words ‘Make Happy Not War’, which stands for dialogues over disputes. A series is in the works, one component of which is a spitfire aka chocolate bomber. “We want to take images of war and destruction and turn them into something positive,” says Misha. Plus, the tough stuff sells like hot cakes. “Forget boys, even grown men love making these.”

Basically, everybody loves Sky Goodies. And nobody (me included) leaves the villa empty-handed. “Sometimes people literally empty their pockets and pay me half in cash, half by card,” Misha says with a laugh as she signals the counting of loose change with her hands. That was the Amit and Misha’s aim when they began Sky Goodies four years ago – to make products that are accessible to all. And that’s the reason they chose to work with paper. “If we use steel or wood, the nature of the material is such that the price will automatically increase. Paper is cheap, it’s easy, and it gives you endless possibilities.”

There’s more to Sky Goodies than quirky gifting options on their online and brick and mortar store. Over the past few years, they have created miniature DIY spaceships for National Geographic, finger puppets for Fevicol, and paper lions for a resort in Gir. They have also supplied schools with build-your-own-house kits, complete with windmills and instructions on how to save energy, as part of a workshop organised by a power company. Education will be a focal point going forward as well, Misha tells me. Think paper beetles with detachable limbs for biology class. Bigger DIY products and decoration kits for parties and festivals are also on the anvil. “Our aim is to reach as many people as possible,” says Misha.

sky goodies diy paper products amit gudibanda misha gudibanda

Sky Goodies has been reaching out, and not just to customers. Amit and Misha’s creations are a big hit at Atmavishwas Vocational Training Center for People with Special Needs in Goa. “The children there really enjoy making stuff with their hands,” says Misha. They also rope in underprivileged women for packaging when fresh batches of products arrive at the villa. It works the other way around as well, with patrons who want to be more closely associated with the brand. “One of our loyal customers, a 10-year old student, has been trying to convince me to employ him!” says Misha with a laugh.

Everybody loves Sky Goodies, and I can see why. I walk in ‘to just check out the store’, and I walk out with a calendar for myself, matchbox diaries for former colleagues and a special something for my wayfarer friend who gifted me the Eiffel Tower – a vintage suitcase which I plan to fill with some of her favourite things. I don’t know how I feel about Paris, because I haven’t been there yet, but DIY is always a good idea.

Photographs courtesy Sky Goodies

 

 
Catnip-band

9 Questions With Reema Sengupta And Kunal Punjabi Of CATNIP

Slide background
 

9 QUESTIONS WITH REEMA SENGUPTA AND KUNAL PUNJABI OF CATNIP

CATNIP is a video production company run by Reema Sengupta and Kunal Punjabi that specialises in music-oriented, culture and branded content.

You can watch CATNIP's videos online on Vimeo.

READ RIA JAISWAL'S INTERVIEW WITH REEMA SENGUPTA AND KUNAL PUNJABI

Behind India’s first rural sci-fi music video, sci-fi aftermovie, first animation-led aftermovie and first – and currently, only – 360 degree tiny planet video are Reema Sengupta and Kunal Punjabi of CATNIP. We caught up with the enthusiastic duo who are currently on a mission to revolutionise digital video content.

TCS: What’s your story? How did you cats meet? 

KP: Reema and I were in college together in Bombay. She was two years my junior and in a different course – I studied business management, she studied mass media. And so while we didn’t really know each other we somehow knew of each other’s existence. In her second year she moved to London to study, and that was that. Until one day she sent me a message on Facebook saying, “Hey! I know you’re into marketing and stuff and I’ve made my website and was wondering if you could give me some industry feedback”. So I did, and I think she liked it, and said when she’s back in Bombay we should hang out…

RS: I was just being polite.

KP: Anyway, she came back and we hung out and really hit it off – even tough we met at this shady bar called Fever in Malad.

RS: That, unknowingly, was our first date. We ended up talking for three hours. At one point, while Kunal was in the washroom, this random dude started chatting me up, and so, when Kunal came back he pretended to be my boyfriend.

KP: Just to save her!

RS: Yep, and he never stopped pretending to be my boyfriend for two years after that.

catnip reema sengupta kunal punjabi

KP: At the time, I was working with VH1 and Reema was this fiercely independent filmmaker-writer-director. I was at a point where I was questioning what’s next and that’s when Reema sat me down – January 1, 2014 – and asked me what I was doing with my life.

RS: At the same time I was also thinking about what I wanted to do next. I had come back from university, I’d made a few films that won international awards, I’d been to various international film festivals and met some really interesting people who wanted to collaborate. However, I realised that all my plans are sort of more long term in terms of their life cycle – my personal practice has always been about cinema for social change. But I wanted to still be able to explore ways of storytelling and understand different audiences. And that’s when I had the chat with Kunal. I told him you can’t spend the rest of your life working for a corporation that doesn’t even care about you. What will you look back on? Let’s just think. And that’s what we did: we sat and we thought. Our ideas ran the gamut from a cat accessories brand to CATNIP, which is a company that specialises in music-oriented video content.

KP: Looking back, you’d think it’s a really naive business decision.

RS: Yeah, because we were like, “In the business of video content creation, we’ll only focus on music-oriented content. And within that, we’ll only stick to independent and International music and that’s all we’ll do”. But, it actually worked out really well for us.

KP: It’s been two years of no-weekends or off-seasons and we’ve now expanded into culture and branded content too.

TCS: You’ve probably watched a ton of short films, videos and documentaries. What’s your favourite?

RS: Oh, I’ve got a long-ish list. But, there is this French movie called L’homme Sans Tête (meaning the man without a head) that I love. It’s a beautiful story told in a surreal way. It’s dark but also light-hearted and metaphorically talks about something really deep.

KP: My favourite would have to be The Temple by Already Alive. It’s about a Burning Man installation by the same name and the video really moves you. You really feel the pain the person is going through, what they’re experiencing, their loss. Also, Reema’s second short film, Tyu’s Company, is one of the finest pieces of fiction content that I’ve seen.

TCS: And what is your favourite CATNIP video?

KP: Nostalgia-wise, and because it was one of our first projects, I’d have to say the Dada Life aftermovie. It was also the first time I was producing a large-scale shoot with a big crew. However, in terms of the final output, the concept and quality I have three – A Tiny Planet, Abode of Clouds and Naina Bawre.

RS: My two current babies are Naina Bawre and Evari Kosam.

TCS: Once a video is out there how many times do you watch it?

KP: We watch them a lot – I’d say about 500,000 views of the million views are us!

RS: It’s a good feeling to watch something you’ve created. Beyond a point you stop feeling like you’ve made it, it just seems like something that’s there.

KP: When you watch your older videos, you relive the memories that surround them as well. For me, when I feel low about things I watch our videos and it’s super motivational. It helps restore the faith in yourself.

catnip reema sengupta kunal punjabi

TCS: Do you ever bore of watching your own videos?

RS: Maybe one or two of them. Where initially we thought they were super cool now we’re all “hmm, okay”.

KP: You know, over the last two years we’ve made over 170 videos. So yes, when we look at some videos now we feel like they’re good but we’d rather watch something else.

TCS: You use the “common Indian (wo)man” in your videos a lot. What’s that love affair about?

RS: I didn’t realise this, but now that you bring it up, yes, we do. It’s very subconscious and I think it comes out of an effort to keep things real. Real people have so much more character and depth to them.

TCS: But do these people know they’re being filmed?

KP: Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

RS: Mostly yes, though. A funny anecdote about using real people in our videos is from the promo we shot for Bacardi NH7 Weekender Shillong. We saw this really cool boy on the street with neck tattoos and wanted to shoot with him. So we went up to him and told him who we were, explained the concept, everything. He suddenly got really shy and bolted. Like literally ran away from us. And we ran behind him – down the street, into a mall, down two floors and finally got hold of him and convinced him to be a part of the promo. So sometimes it’s intense.

KP: Although, it really depends on the video. For example, the start of the Nucleya album launch video has a bunch of people at stations, the chaiwallahs, the fisherwomen wearing the Nucleya mask. They obviously knew we were shooting them because they were doing something for the camera. But sometimes we have candid moments with people. I think it really depends on what the concept demands.

TCS: What’s the most painful thing about working with each other?

RS: Because we’re so close, our relationship keeps fluctuating between best friend, exes, colleagues and family and that can get really confusing sometimes!

KP: Because she’s my ex-girlfriend, I don’t get any attention from the ladies because I’m basically with my ex all the time!

catnip reema sengupta kunal punjabi

TCS: Why CATNIP?

KP: You know what CATNIP is, right? It’s a drug for cats…

RS: And that’s the kind of experience, the kind of effect we want our videos to have. In fact, a lot of people have told us our videos made for really good “high-watching”.

KP: Oh, and let’s not forget that the name CATNIP was one of my biggest contributions to the company.

RS: And now we’re called CATNIP together. People use it for convenience so they don’t have to take two names.

KP: And when she’s not around they call me Hatnip – because I wear hats.

Photographs by Suruchi Maira