Tell us about your initiation into design?
My elder sister who pursued textile design was my inspiration. Observing her work hours at length, watching her perfect her patterns and flipping through her book of motifs and dip-dye swatches had me itching to get started, and experiment with design practices.
Who have you apprenticed with, and who helped you learn about design?
Award-winning designer Michael Aram and Vikram Goyal, founder of product and interior design firm Viya.
What particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles?
The Jain philosophy of compassion (Ahimsa) followed through to a microscopic level is what has shaped my principles. A respect for all living forms and imbibing and getting inspired by the best of their qualities run through most of my work. Minimising wastage and a preference for handmade versus machine-made, are also part of what informs my design process.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?
The Romantic poets, Art Nouveau, the Jungenstil Movement, Nandalal Bose's paintings, temples by the Chalukya Dynasty, Bjork, and Tord Boontje are all influences, to name just a few!
What is the inspiration behind your work?
Nature has always been a constant source of inspiration. I also like re-imagining mundane objects. So essentially Puck and Pan are two key ingredients in my work. Puck from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, is a naughty knave of a faerie and Pan is the Greek god of nature. Both have healing properties; Pan by the sheer cleverness and beauty of his creations, and Puck by way of his wit and pranks.
Tell us a bit about your design process?
A product tailor-made for a client essentially starts with asking questions like – Why (the purpose), What (the form), Who (the target audience), and How (the process). However, we do take on a lot of self-initiated projects which might spring from observations from nature, or just an idea, that does not necessarily follow a systematic, question-based approach.
Tell us a bit about your background. Did you go to design school?
I graduated from design school (NIFT - Fashion and Lifestyle Accessories) after I completed a Bachelors in English Literature. I dropped out of engineering.
What was your breakthrough moment?
I have two that come to mind: when I won the Elle Decor International Design Awards (EDIDA) 2014 under the Young Talent category, as well as when I was chosen to be represented by a well-known gallery in 2012.
How are your products made?
All my products are essentially handmade. I work primarily with materials such as copper alloys, aluminum, and iron, but I have also been experimenting with terracotta and more recently, grass. Often, the end form dictates the process.
What are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your designs?
I am currently interested in paper-making. It has got me dragging out water hyacinths from the Yamuna (they choke the river) and converting them into paper. The move is making me veer more towards humbler materials that do not consume much energy, and hopefully reduce the carbon footprint somewhat.
How do accolades affect you?
It is always good to get positive feedback and be appreciated by the design community, especially when it is genuine and not a mere PR success story. However, personally, I like to set my own benchmarks. Success to me is to accomplish what I’ve set out to do and to bring enough business in to be able to support both the craft communities I work with, as well as myself.
What is the best advice you have received?
Follow your heart, stay true to yourself and never forget to smile.
All images courtesy: Valay Gada
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