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Marigold Diary

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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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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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I fancy age-old Ayurvedic Skincare concoctions in a bottle!

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Today I’m sharing two stories which are sides of the same coin – one of Abida Halstenberg from Berkeley Square, London who is the founder of Samaya which has creams, cleansers, oils and supplements for the skin and hair.

She grew up in Hyderabad, south of India, but her folks belonged to the North, in Uttar Pradesh. She remembers her maternal grandmother from Oudh only prescribing natural or Ayurvedic remedies for any ailment or beauty treatment. From the age of six or seven she found herself inclined towards mixing face packs with Ayurvedic ingredients. After moving abroad life got busier so she looked for off-the-shelf products that were not just natural or Ayurvedic but also easy and pleasant to use. Uninterested with those in the market, she began building her own line based on the knowledge imparted by her grandmother and extended family (whom she had grown up with), while studying the rest.

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Getting nostalgic over India’s everyday design

“In India, to understand objects in terms of design one has to re-imagine design itself. Design here is not entirely determined by the aesthetic appeal of the object, but by its significance in our everyday lives (often influenced by its users)” is an understanding of the author Jahnvi Lakhota Nandan of Pukka Indian-100 Objects that Define India published by Roli Books.

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Born in Lucknow, she now lives as a perfumer in Paris and confesses “Their composition has given me a privileged viewpoint to design with  senses. ………..Design captures space and moods where the invisible becoming visible, which is the core of my book, with notions of home.”

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Kurmanchal keepsakes

 

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KurmaManeet Kaur‘s baby, based outside Dehradun takes a cue from the interior trends of 2017 and charms one with jewel tone biota motifs on muted colours. Specializing in screen and block printing by hand on fabric, this small design outfit has designed a smart range of organic cotton stationery, accessories, home furnishings and more.

Its organic raw cotton  is sourced from Punjab and then carded, handspun and woven all by hand in Dehradun, by an organisation which rehabilitates cured lepers by teaching them such activities. Kurma also works as a social enterprise which helps the disadvantaged members of society e.g. training the hearing impaired women as seamstresses.

For Maneet, its a business with a heart that generates work for the local communities and individual artisans.

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Whimsical accesories

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One of my Christmas finds is this Contemporary Sculptural Jewelry for an understated sparkle at the beach parties this season.

Manifest Design established in the fall of 2013, is a dream project of siblings Manreet & Samraat Deol, who are committed to revitalizing the traditional metalsmithing traditions of India. Manreet, the Creative Director of Manifest Design thought of ‘Everyday Wearable Art’ which stems from her eccentric visual vocabulary that might be familiar but truly unexpected, like gnarled corals, sensuous vines, bold rock sculptures, urban art etc. For it a self confessed sculptor took advantage of a metal-smith to nail a layer of intrigue and warmth.

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Vegging at thefarm, Jaipur

A quote by John Russel “Sanity calms, but madness is more interesting” pretty much describes my friend’s amazing property, outside Jaipur. When she invited me for an event and stay at her farm, I actually wasn’t aware of this paradise she lived in. Its only after the entire experience did I realize the worth of my impromptu holiday.

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Indigenously crafted clothing

A long yet conscious supply chain handcrafts its produts with care…….

Indigene a girl next door label is thriving on its simplicity in separates. It tacitly agrees with my summer essential requirements in khadi and linen; gives more room to experiment with accessories to easily live with a capsule wardrobe. So here I am sharing details of a design and clothing company that mediates between the artisans, craftsmen and conscientious buyers.

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Karin’s clothing propensity….

In between several big fat Indian weddings, with colour and bling taking the centre stage, for me Karin Kock’s simple organic and handcrafted clothes for new borns – 2 yr olds, at the recent Dastkar Mela, in New Delhi, was a serious antidote. Initially while speaking to her about her reasons to settle in India, I couldn’t stop admiring the Swede’s sparkling blue eyes and her calm demeanor. Being old-fashioned, slow paced, warm and undeniably a treasure trove of living crafts and culture, India reminds her of her grandmother’s chest of drawers which were full of antique lace, embroideries, hats, dresses, shoes, et al with tales to tell.

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