Painting London red was India in September with its pavilion at the 10th edition of The London Design Fair, this year. We were privileged to become the first guest country, invited. Equipped with the best of both worlds, the brewing interest in our new independent designers and studios, was sure to develop!
Through This is India, Shed also debuted for the first time on the global design scene. And so, I connected with Priyanka Shah – the young entrepreneur behind this research and design studio. Based out of Surat, Gujarat, it specializes in making custom furniture, home accessories, kitchenware and cultural objects.
MD: What were your design influences during childhood?
PS: I come from a family that is into manufacturing, and hence was far removed from the design and art world.
Actually, my curiosities arose from habits-peculiar behavior patterns and cultural diversity. Simple questions such as why is the dice a perfect cube, or why a steel water glass is conical or made of steel, why are beds square or rectangular mostly, expanded the horizons to change my world. I realized that our lives were centered around material objects of different scales (the artifice) that further shaped our habits and behaviour.
As an observer, I’ve always shied away from verbal communication…dwelling in the privacy of my thoughts, which have manifested into eloquent writings and contemporary objects.
MD: What made you choose Parsons to study Architectural Design?
PS: Architecture is my first love. I knew ever since I was about 12 or 13 yrs old, that I wanted to study architecture in college. The tangible and intangible systems of the cities always fascinated me.
While, Parsons was the best choice for me because I got to stay in New York City for 4 years, during which I met some interesting people. It’s an ideal city to experience a global platform. In college, my classic Indian mind-set underwent rigorous training, tuning into the global standards of perfection, which now form the basis of my design work at Shed.
MD: When did you conceive Shed and why after doing Architectural Design?
PS: My cousin Siddhant (an automotive engineer) and I conceived the Shed as a space for both of us to ‘make’. We acquired the space at the basement of our family factory. It was really basic at first. Then built some walls, bought second hand machinery and tools, and literally began tinkering.
It dawned on me while studying architecture that I connected more to the process of making. I was not happy drafting drawings on the computer all day, as it seemed too fictitious. Needed a place where I could be part of the entire process, hence be in control of every single thing that went into making an object. That’s my raison d’etre for an in-house mechanical and wood workshop from the very first day.
Ever since its conception two years ago, the entire space has undergone several transformations. Some big, some small, and during the latest changes we have stripped it down to bare minimum by adding storage on wheels, so that there is no fixed space for anything. Some days, it has been turned into a photography studio, on the others’ a theater room with mattresses and a projector, sometimes an exhibition space, and so on.
Basically I view Shed as a hybrid space for a co-worker and the maker; without doubt a multidisciplinary studio at the core. In the midst of crowded times and an endlessly growing virtual space, physical space is extremely valuable and scarce. I think for the creative fields to flourish, it is important to have a ground zero where growth and space provide newer perspectives. Stagnancy is the last thing we need in these disciplines.
MD: You are designing so many lines, and completely varied, but how?
PS: It is my love for muti disciplines that makes me restless doing just one thing at a time. The most exciting thing for me is to delve into different genres all at once, and try and understand their correlations without any boundaries.
Designing as an experience translates into something material with the interventions of a designer.
MD: Who are your design icons?
PS: I have always been in awe of architect, Nari Gandhi. He made buildings without their blueprints. Also, today’s world its Gurjit Singh Matharoo who has an astounding sense of design engineering.
MD: What are you looking forward to experimenting with, in the near future?
PS: I’m very interested in nostalgic objects from ancient times, so there is a continuous search for them. Lately, its the processes of casting and analogue print making which have me hooked.
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