The world of design and décor in India is booming with fresh talent and distinct voices. LuxeBook spoke to five people in the field to pick their brains and go behind the sensibilities that shape their art. Saumil Suchak of design studio Hatsu, artists Akshita Gandhi and Bandana Jain, Siddharth Sirohi of Baro Design and Anjali Mody, the founder of Josmo take us through their design process, the making of functional art, current projects, and hopes for the design industry.
Akshita Gandhi, Multi-media Artist
A Bombay girl with a global footprint, Akshita Nikhil Gandhi, an artist who has had shown all over the world, including Dubai, New York and London, is inspired by the landscape and architecture of different cities. In her own words, Gandhi says her art is “systematic chaos,” clarifying that there is a method to the madness.
Sparks of inspiration
She photographs various landscapes that are then printed on a canvas, on the surface of which Gandhi paints designs, motifs and even quotes. Fluid and free-flowing colours and patterns contrast with the still photographs to create a bridge between reality and illusion. Fantastical, surreal, and escapist in nature, Gandhi credits her forever inspiration, Mumbai for her creativity. “There is no place like Bombay, even the mundane routines of the city are so beautiful to photograph,” gushes Gandhi.
The pandemic-induced lockdown forced Gandhi to stay put in the city and allowed her to go back to works and ideas left unfinished. In the past the artist would be hopping from one city and country to another, spending not more than two months in Mumbai at a time, but the time to stay still changed things. The freedom to experiment with different mediums and the added advantage of extra time, prompted her to introspect.
Creating a niche
Hence, the artist describes the work that she developed during this period as authentic, a personal exploration of what home is and what it means to belong. “A lot of the work that came out of the lockdown was almost life changing for me,” admits Gandhi. Another activity that she feels contributed to the flow of creative juices were the 100 art therapy sessions she did pro bono, during what has been termed as a mental-health pandemic.
Having studied art therapy, Gandhi first planned sessions for friends and family, but was soon conducting activities like meditation, drawing mandalas, and exploring emotions for bigger groups on online platforms in London, on GoodHomes and India Today. Having suffered through depression herself, mental health awareness is a cause close to her heart, encouraging her to reach out to those who needed it during a time of increased anxiety and uncertainty.
Gandhi along with her sister, co-founded the Dua Foundation, which supports vulnerable sections of society, such as old age homes, differentially abled and prevention against child trafficking. Reaching out to these philanthropic, Gandhi is even training some of these young adults to start digitally trading in assets, one of whom has even launched his own NFT (non-fungible token) on OpenSea.
Speaking of NFTs, the 33-year-old artist launched one of her own NFTs in the beginning of 2022, named “Gaia.” The digital asset was launched on marketplace Throne and promotes environmental awareness. The 10-second video is listed with a starting price of 0.45 ETH. Cognizant of the fact that most blockchain technology incurs high carbon costs with a negative impact on our environment, Gandhi has partnered with Nori, a carbon removal marketplace, and will donate 2.5% of sales and resale proceeds to the company. Gaia translates to Mother Earth in Greek, and the NFT displays ethereal wings painted over a photograph of Horniman Circle. “There is something very wholesome about the fact that we are moving into different spaces into the metaverse and virtual reality but it’s all still on Mother Earth, so that was symbolic for me,” explains Gandhi. The artist has a few more NFTs in the pipeline, some are fun and cool, and some even have a photo of Akshita herself, a first for the artist. Messages and images of feminism colour these series of NFTs that Gandhi has in the pipeline for the next month.
The artist is working on show that will take her art to London, at the Nehru Centre in Mayfair in a couple of months. A special series surrounding Pincodes, will showcase photographs of Bombay, specifically imagery of windows and doors that have been impressed over with zoomed-in motifs from the image itself. A lot of the photos are of slums, featuring blinding, colourful, bright lights and various textures. In 2022 Gandhi is looking forward to creating works that are “more impactful, thought provoking and have a strong message to disperse.”
Anjali Mody, Founder and Creative Director, Josmo
Anjali Mody’s decision to pivot from a bespoke product design service to a more holistic design studio has served her well. Josmo now owns a 30,000 square feet factory, after seeing a 400-500% growth in the last seven years since being built. The choice also propelled her from a team of 7 to one of 85 people. Originally established in 2010 in Mumbai, catering to the top 1% of the Indian HNI population, in 2015, Josmo expanded to create more accessible products for the other 99%, and it now calls Goa home.
Retailing products across categories such as furniture, lighting, and accessories Mody herself describes the brand’s vibe as one with “an unpredictability that allows us to be more curious.” As a leader of a creative organization, where curiosity leads the way, Mody is grateful for the collaborative work environment she shares, “It is a team effort, where everyone makes decisions together, instead of a top-down hierarchy.”
Sparks of inspiration
The environs of Goa are part of Mody’s creative consciousness, “You will never see a project of ours that hasn’t been influenced in some way by nature.” This is evident in colonial-style cane backed king-sized beds, a ‘Krunk Coffee Table,’ with table tops resembling live-edged tree slabs. Mody is inspired by colours, texture, and everything around her; she even collects odd samples from various designers, things she finds interesting, that she keeps around as sources of inspiration. The designer is constantly innovating with materials and is conscious of the accumulation of waste. The philosophy to reduce waste is the foundation of Josmo’s products and Mody uses it to cut away the clutter, creating a refined and curated product.
Creating a niche
Not restricted to a single aesthetic, in the past Mody has even designed eclectic pieces such as a 200 piece-pocket-watch chandelier and stools made with guitar picks. However, currently, Mody is invested in developing the interior design solutions section of the studio, alongside a ‘Build’ product division, where Josmo works with large developers, hotel owners, co-working spaces to co-create and manufacture customised collections.
Josmo is upgrading their online presence by integrating virtual reality, live customisation for fabrics and polishes to make the digital customer journey flawless. Mody is also rethinking the cycle of collections, “We almost want to work like fashion, where every quarter, we come out with new collections.” In addition to these changes, the RISD (Rhode Island School of Design graduate is also working on a project that is close to her heart. Alongside designer Naren Bhandari of Ren Design, Mody is creating products made from agricultural waste. Using the waste created from the burning of paddy fields for the next harvest, the two designers have created an impenetrable biomaterial. Bhandari and Mody then plan to release a line of furniture, wall art and lighting using the material. The eco-friendly edit should be co-launched by both design studios later this year.
Siddharth Sirohi, Founder, Baro Design
The result of the much-loved Baro store shutting down in the pandemic is Siddharth Sirohi’s Baro Design. Launched in October 2020, Baro Design looks at the concept of design holistically, asking a series of questions before arriving at a conclusive physical creation. “It’s not about what chair you would like,” explains Sirohi, Founder of Baro Design, “The question we ask is, ‘why do you need a chair?’ and that answer changes everything.” The core of the brand is mindful living, breathing life into your home by dotting it with products that have been specially handcrafted, bringing an element of humanness with it. “That’s why to me, handmade objects are much more precious, because they carry the imperfection of humanity,” says Sirohi.
Sparks of inspiration
Baro Design’s products do not revolve around trends, but instead treasure timelessness. Take the example of a ‘Mushroom’ lamp, inspired by the V2 rocket from Tin Tin comics, with a teakwood tripod base and a matte finished steel shade or ‘Freefall’ unit. The latter is a Mid-Century style storage unit with drawers, shelves, and a small cupboard, that can be customised as per the feel you want to create in the space. Pursuing simplicity, Sirohi tries to eliminate everything superfluous to highlight the structure, however he does this without succumbing to a stoic minimalism, still wanting to be childlike, playful and accessible. The last check box each item ticks is sustainability; Sirohi’s products are primarily made with reclaimed teakwood, a material that is often much better quality than young wood. The designs are then finished with linseed oil and beeswax.
Creating a niche
To make his label as human centric as possible, Sirohi shies away from the use of the word interior design. Instead preferring to term it something along the lines of “living design,” describing it as, “designing for the way we live, and taking into account how you feel. It considers our emotional states and behaviour, it’s not based on visual decisions or space optimization alone,” he says. Explaining his philosophy with the example of a simple desk, Sirohi says we often try to fit a desk in a room in the least obtrusive way possible. “Chances your desk will face a wall,” he says (and he’s right), which means that the room is lost to you. Baro Designs’ aim is to make that desk according to specifications that will make you feel better, which in turn will make you work optimally.
Sirohi’s aim is to continue to spread awareness about the mindful aspects of design and creating design solutions that improve a lifestyle. Signing off with an unfortunate truth, Sirohi says, “We are living in a world where people are treated as furniture, instead we need to treat furniture like it is alive. Thereby bringing life into our spaces, rather than populating it with dead objects.”
Saumil Suchak, Founder, Hatsu
Established in 2016, Hatsu launched its first collection of designer lights in 2017. The design studio then transitioned into a furniture line, and now manufactures and designs carpets. “We want to develop a world of Hatsu; where you can set up a place that is completely designed by us,” says the founder of the brand, Saumil Suchak. Known for designs polished with a high iridescent, almost holographic finish, Suchak believes that consistently launching new products every three to six months is what keeps the brand fresh and customers curious. However, he admits that a piece usually starts picking up in sales only three to four months after its launch, as customers need to get comfortable with its style, and figure out where it fits in their home. Hatsu has even won a GoodHomes Editor’s Choice Award for their furniture in 2019.
Sparks of inspiration
Each Hatsu collection is based on a fixed design concept. Last year, inspired by Suchak’s past trip to the Amalfi coast, the brand launched lights that resembled branches of trees that she had spotted while on the trip. While in Italy, the designer noticed tree branches covered in fairy lights, so he sought to bring that lovely aesthetic to his creations. The lights are meant to look surreal when they are switched on and almost like functional art while not in use. Suchak also stays away from trends, preferring to design objects that are timeless. Travel, modern contemporary art, even the mundane influences Suchak’s design style.
Creating a niche
Everyday sights become immortal in Hatsu’s collections. Take for example, their pillar lights. Shaped like blocks of concrete with steel rods poking out, these minimalist lamps were inspired by the view from Suchak’s office of a building under-construction. Half-broken concrete pillars and metal rods served as inspiration for this unique collection of lights. “I think it’s more about how you’re feeling, if you’re happy and relaxed, then anything mundane can also be a source of inspiration,” muses the designer.
Suchak reveals that they are planning to introduce a new material into the Hatsu universe, one that they are still working on. The launch of a home accessories line is also on the cards. As of now, the plan is to make home décor items such as models made of cast aluminium. In the first week of March, Hatsu is doing a capsule collection of apparel, two shirts, four t-shirts and a pair of denims, about 8-9 pieces in total are set to launch. Embroidered and printed with iconic pieces of Hatsu’s furniture, the edit may or may not be open to public purchase, as Suchak plans to make it available only to the design community. When it comes to their current offerings, Suchak is determined to streamline operations, so patrons can have furniture, lights and carpets originating from the same design concept. Previously, each category had separate collection drops, but Suchak has decided 2022 will change that and unify the design language. A substantial change for the brand in the coming year is their expansion to international waters. Though they do export their designs, Hatsu plans to exhibit their wares in New York at WantedDesign in May 2022, something that Suchak is understandably excited about.
Most importantly though, Suchak notes, “It’s very important for us that people feel free, creative, fresh when they are surrounded by our products, that’s the feeling we seek to create.”
Bandana Jain, Contemporary Artist & Sustainable Design Practitioner
An unconventional artist who works with an even more unconventional medium, Bandana Jain sees the world through the lens of nature, and works with cardboard to create extraordinary works. The artist has her own cardboard art studio in Worli, Mumbai. She has showcased her work at Phoenix Palladium’s Luxe Fest, The Quorum in Gurugram, and Tao Art Gallery in collaboration with Brinda Miller. Attracted to the unexplored side of cardboard, as well as its colour, texture and versatility, Jain first worked with this material in college. However, that is not the only reason she took to cardboard like a fish to water; when Jain visited Zermatt, an eco-village in Switzerland, where sustainable practises were common, she realised the value of being environment friendly. The eco-conscious nature of the town inspired her to work on spreading awareness about the current buzzword, something that was uncommon 10 years ago. To Jain, sustainability is not just a word but a way of life. The artist is conscious about the longevity of products she purchases, its material, and the way it can be discarded.
Sparks of inspiration
So, her medium of choice, i.e., recycled cartons is a natural choice, according to her. Describing her art as fluid and tactile in nature, Jain also relies on what is happening around her to shape her work. Events like the pandemic prompted her to create ‘Restoration of Humanity,’ an artwork in which a human face is caged inside scaffolding. The installation signifies the healing of humanity as the world was on pause, like a building that is restored while being painted.
Creating a niche
Jain takes upwards of three months to finish one piece once the seed of an idea is planted. She starts working on whatever is at hand and develops things as she goes. Sometimes a work may take a whole new direction, but her urge to discover new things about her medium and the world around her keeps her going. Not limited to only paintings or sculptures, Jain also creates functional art. A stunning yet functional bench created from corrugated cardboard takes inspiration from the folds of a crumpled piece of paper. These unique pieces are produced by Jain in a limited series.
Currently, Jain is preparing for a show that takes viewers through her journey with cardboard using cartons. Excited about the art world’s digital shift, Jain stays optimistic about the future, and looks forward to creating her own digital artworks. The material-centric artist is also researching the viability of other mediums such as glass.