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The Chamar Project

Wearing his OBC badge proudly is Sudheer Rajbhar, who as per Indian media is successfully breaking the glass ceiling in the snooty art and design world. Looking beyond his caste story  is equality of status through work. One is drawn to his skill and out-of-the-box business model as forces to reckon with. This brand of minimalist accessories is about ‘Made in Dharavi’ – the second largest slum in Asia after Orangi Town in Karachi, Pakistan. While the cherry on the cake are the design conscious stores – Le Mill, Paper Boat Collective, Pepper House Kochi and Indian Goods Co. carrying it.

In 2010, Rajbhar completed his art education from Vasai Vikasini College of Visual Arts, in Thane district. The attitude of bigger galleries not entertaining people from small art schools weighed him down. Yet he continued, by assisting senior artists and learning at residencies. 

Curious to know this activist artist’s trajectory, we exchanged emails and telephonic conversations regarding reasons that led to the brand ‘Chamar’‘s meteoric rise.

MD: While growing up whose creativity left you seeking for more?

SR: Coming from U.P. to Mumbai, my family dwelt in the slums of Kandivali before we  shifted out to the suburbs. Having lived amongst the labourers and migrants, they are the people I have always observed. Right next to us in the slums, stayed a carpenter who made chairs, doors, stools, tables etc. within a tiny space. Even I used my bed as a workspace, since we lacked an extra inch. 

MD: You are a multidisciplinary designer. Which mediums have you worked with so far?

SR: Right now, am working as an artist through my practice at ‘The Chamar Project’. Earlier, had explored unconventional mediums to challenge myself e.g. kinetic, video and film-exposure. 

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‘Baluchars- The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal’

What happens when you miss one of the most-sought after textile exhibitions? You order a richly illustrated book titled – ‘Baluchars- The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal’ edited by Jasleen Dhamija and published by Niyogi Books.

Actually, early this year Darshan Shah of  Weaver’s Studio Resource Centre had put together a Baluchar retrospective at the National Museum, New Delhi. It had taken nearly 10 years for her to showcase for the first time under one roof covetable personal and museum collections from V&A in London, Indian Musuem- Kolkata, TAPI collection in Surat-Gujrat, CSMCV- Mumbai, Musee Guimet – Paris, and Delhi’s very own National Museum and Crafts Museum.

In regard to that and the release of this book I met Jasleen, the ex-President of Jury for UNESCO’s Award for Creativity in Textiles and Chairperson of the Handloom Development Working Group of the Planning Commission (12th Plan)  of Indian Textiles and Handicrafts. I felt like a little child eagerly listening to her elusive tales of the Baluchars, and their exoticism.

Bengal’s woven narrative silks

Recounting their story she began, “Textiles have always been a big part of our lives. The Baluchars too elucidate the history of the 18th and 19th century Bengal, in terms of their life-style, and influences of various cultures which came to India in search of textiles. These woven narrative silks point out and evoke an interest in us. Some believe that it was the foreigners who bought these as souvenirs while few think these were gifted to the highly sophisticated courtesans as favours, as those women always wanted to be a part of the aristocracy.”

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Excerpt Changing tastes of India’s elite and the impact of imported cloths threatened to destroy the skill needed to weave complex cloths of this sorts. A few commissions came from the enlightened British officials. The European content of the design reflected this new patronage. A European mounted on an elephant is reading a letter or report – symbols of traditional modern authority amusingly positioned, side by side. Here the European was the patron and the agent and these subtly woven pictorial motifs were intentional.

Continue reading “‘Baluchars- The Woven Narrative Silks of Bengal’”

So much the less complete

I’m looking out for Mumbai’s Chemould Prescott Road collaboration with New York based Thomas Erben Gallery. Together they are bringing a solo exhibition of Aditi Singh –Storm Warnings’ to the upcoming India Art Fair 2019. Born 1976 in Assam, the emerging artist studied painting at the New York Studio School and subsequently earned a M.F.A. at the University of Pennsylvania in 2001.

Currently residing in Mumbai, she elucidates “In all my work, I begin with drawing a circle first, repeating it layer after layer, moving from transparency to density. It is this unending layering that catches and holds me in its grip. Often there is no inner or outer surface of the picture plane, there is simply a pulse, a vibration if you may. I think essentially what painting wants is a connection. It needs to matter to you personally, intuitively, sensually, before there is any question of meaning.”

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Romanticising maximalism of Indian design

His mentor, Tony Duqutte was an American design legend who created elegant interiors, high jewelry, costumes and sets for Hollywood and Broadway productions, European royalty and the well-heeled. Following suit, Hutton Wilkinson – the grandson of the late Bolivian president Don José Luis Tejada-Sorzano unarguably stepped into the goliath’s shoes.

As a child with a quirky sense of humour his style heroes were Tony Duquette, Cecil Beaton, Oliver Messel, The Baron de Rede, Arturo Lopez Wilshaw, Emelio Terry and Carlos de Beistegui . In 1995, when Wilkinson and his compatriot, Tony Duqutte came up with their first jewelry line for Bergdorf Goodman, Vogue wrote – “After a maximum of minimalism, all of fashion is turning towards Tony Duquette for inspiration,” (cited in Vogue Arabia)

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On reading several interviews given by Wilkinson the design enthusiast in me excitedly connected through email with the owner and creative director of Tony Duquette only to discover his “love for maximalism in Indian design”.

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Make this eco-friendly ceramic tableware your festive gift this season

The first Indian Ceramics Triennale: Breaking Ground is on at the Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur (in collaboration with the Contemporary Clay Foundation) till 18th November 2018. This and few other exhibitions in the recent past have been slowly and steadily bringing to fore ceramics in India. On the surface it seems like a sudden burst of creativity, which must have been brewing for a while.
Being an admirer of utilitarian art I connected with Sonali Sharma – the co-founder of Nugu Handmade  (based near the Nugu reservoir in the Kaveri basin).
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Continue reading “Make this eco-friendly ceramic tableware your festive gift this season”

To ‘serve’ with love

I recently discovered ISTLONDON, founded by  John William Micklethwaite. Its first workshop apparently started operating in 2013 but it began selling in August 2014. Actually the credit goes to my younger sister who bought its blue pastel dessert platter and serve bowls from the main shop in Alcati (a town on Turkey’s Çeşme Peninsula, on the Aegean Sea, known for its beaches, old stone houses and winemaking tradition) recently during her holiday.

So after checking with John I quickly added this too onto my shopping list for London as the porcelain is fine and available at W A Green, Closet & Botts, 181 Delecatessen & Heal’s. They claim to have used only the world’s best porcelain – Limoges (which is from Llmoges, France) and Mount Blanc; even though the latter is not easily malleable in handmade processes, but its sheen reflects the light perfectly.

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Experiments made her better…

If you are fashion forward you sure would have noticed Rimzim Dadu, a young Indian designer in her early thirties. She started off with her own label right after finishing a Fashion Design course from Pearl Academy, Delhi, in 2006. Her sparsely, brightly lit pale yellow basement studio is nestled in the bustling industrial Sector-2, few steps away from Sector 15 Metro Station in Noida.

Glad to have met her since she is celebrating a decade in fashion, this year. On viewing her crafty, experimental body of work one understands her statement of liking to deconstruct and reconstruct a material, bettter. Proclaiming to be known for her signature pieces, last season’s steel wire collection did well commercially.

This year too she has continued with it, wherein, hair-thin metallic yarns are painstakingly sewn together to form a metal wire sculpted dress possibly for Greek goddess Athena herself. It is 100% bedazzling super flexible metal couture.

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My colonial hangover

As promised, through the month I am going talk shop about niche brands that one needs to pick up during their summer travels. The caveat here is for clients who like ubiquitous high-street and global luxury brands …….less is more!

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Indian jungles re-fashioned with Bengali Sholapith craft

In high summer, Edward Abbey‘s excerpt from Postcards from Ed: Dispatches and Salvos from an American Iconoclast “The weather here is windy, balmy, sometimes wet. Desert springtime, with flowers popping up all over the place, trees leafing out, streams gushing down from the mountains. Great time of year for hiking, camping, exploring, sleeping under the new moon and the old stars ” reminded the fashion aficionado in me of a subtle play with opaque and translucent fabrics. Herein, Sahil Kochhar‘s Chanderi and Organza in pristine ivory, champagne rose and cashmere blue have scalloped hems. Ethereally ornamented with silk floss embroidery they are neatly finished with a serrated edging; making way for an apparition to come alive.

His previous two seasons easily managed to transport one from the Bugyals of Uttarakhand to the exotic Jungles of India with a signature technique Shola pith craft from West Bengal  – 3D applique work.

Graduated from National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi in 2006 he won the Most Creative Collection Award and the Best Academic Performance for the program, too. Thereafter at Rohit Bal‘s he assisted in designing for about 6 years. Eventually in 2013  he launched his own namesake label. Two years later, in 2015, was encouraged on receiving the Grazia Young Fashion AwardElle Graduate Award and nominated by Stardust Awards for the Best Costume Design category. This winning spree continued when the talent moved a notch higher in 2016, nominated from India for the regional round of the International Woolmark Prize 2016.

Acknowledged by the Indian fashion industry beginning this year, he was announced the winner of the AZA Fashion’s Next 2018 Business Program at the Amazon Fashion Week. It offers him the much needed mentorship in retail business for a year with immense exposure at a nascent stage of his career. Rewinding his last six years we’ve seen different appliques, fabrics, designs and thread embroideries being re-fashioned. So, I thought it best to ask Sahil few pertinent questions.

 

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