• Decor
Recently, we had a quick chat with the award-winning, Delhi-based designer and sculptor, Valay Gada of Cobalt Designs. His exceptional creations reflect the state of the environment and the urban landscape, as well as the preservation of India’s craft traditions. Valay is a graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology, New Delhi, with a degree in lifestyle and accessories design.

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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.
 

Valay Gada
 
A part of the Tresses Collection, the Lady Locks Mirror designed by Gada is made of black nickel along with brass, and inspired from hairdos from across past eras and civilisations.

 

Valay Gada
 
The Peepal Light design for Jiyocrafts is a recreation of the canopy of peepal leaves, all handwoven with Sikki grass. Even the electrical wire is covered with this weaving technique and has a playful squirrel feeding on some peepal fruits.

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.
 

Valay Gada
 
Made of Sikki grass for Jiyocrafts, the Merry-Go-Round Table Light is a playful product that reconnects you with your childhood. Like a Tibetan prayer wheel, the panel of animals whirls around when pushed.

 

Valay Gada
 
Crafted in brass, the Hungry Parrot and the Pomegranate Mirror design is a quirky addition to your home. It features a hungry parrot performing acrobats while pecking and feeding on the sweetest of pomegranates.

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.
 

Valay Gada
 
The Jerry Can Water Flask re-imagines a Jerry can, traditionally used to hold oil. Created here in copper, the flask lends its therapeutic properties to the water it holds. It is perfect for study as well as bedside tables.
 
Valay Gada
 
Efflorescence Triple Sconce and Hungry Parrot and Mango Mirror – This brass sconce is inspired by epiphytic plants and bromelaids from a fantasy forest. A very French classical form, gone wild!

All images courtesy: Valay Gada 

 

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