Monday, 13 July 2020

       T A L K I N G   F A B R I C S

Colorful Kanga (pic: 

Kanga is Kiswahili for guinea fowl. It became the name of the fabric for in the earliest versions, its pattern of dots resembled the plumage of the colourful guinea fowl. The origin of Kanga dates back to 1880s in Zanzibar and Mombassa on the east coast of Africa which were major trading ports. 

Quotes on Kanga (pic:

Here, the Muslim women would buy printed bandanas from the Portugues traders, sew them together and use this cloth to wrap themselves. 

Paisleys inspired by Indian (pic:

Over the years, the prints on the fabrics have influences from Indian, Omani, Persian, Indonesian batik and African cultures.   

Bags (pic courtesy: )

Some traders saw a business opportunity in this and started producing designs which were stamped onto a cloth with carved wooden blocks. Later Kangas were produced in factories in India, China and Japan and only around the 1960s were factories set up in Kenya and Tanzania for the same.
Fabric jewelry (pic:

Kangas are sold in identical pairs. The cloth is printed cotton about 45 by 65 inches. One piece covers the head like a shawl and the other is wrapped like a skirt around the waist. There is a pattern which borders on all 4 sides and another one in the body. 

 Bags (pic: )

The unique part of the cloth are the sayings written on the border. Kangas are often gifted on special occasions and it is these messages that make them special.
Cushion cover (Pic courtesy: www.

 Women choose their Kangas carefully for wearing one with the right message is their way of communicating with the society. In some ways kangas give a voice to the women
Lampshades in Kanga (pic courtesy:

 Kanga is as popular as ever as a piece of clothing but today, they are being put to more contemporary uses like bags, lampshades, cushion covers etc.

Text and creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat



Sunday, 5 July 2020

 T H E     L I T T L E    T H I N G S

Text: Hina Nitesh

‘It’s the little things that citizens do. That's what will make a difference.

My little thing is planting trees’

Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist.


Handcrafted bamboo furniture

We all need to do our little bit to make a difference. Bengaluru based Bamboopecker is one of those who are doing more than just a little. Established in 2009, the firm has been exploring possibilities of using natural materials like bamboo, cane, mud, coconut etc. to replace the non environmentally friendly materials.     

Coconut shell bowl

In the process of making products with these materials, Bamboopecker is also reviving the traditional craftsmanship skills. The products themselves are designed in a trendy and contemporary way making them desirable.

An amplifier in bamboo with unique artwork

The Bamboopecker store in Bengaluru is one of its kind that has a whole range of sustainable products under one roof.  

Images Copyright: Bamboopecker

Text and creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat


Saturday, 27 June 2020

L E T ' S P L A Y

Hina Nitesh

Today’s post is about board games but not the ones that are manufactured in factories and available all over. The games that we are talking about today are long forgotten. These are the traditional dice games of India - the ones about which we read in historical stories. 

Pachisi in embroidered cotton

Pachisi, the traditional Indian dice game is also the name of the venture being featured today. Founded by Neha Murthy in 2014, Pachisi was actually her college project which saw the light of the day. It all began with the idea of reviving traditional board games and exploring the vast treasure trove of textiles and handicrafts available in the country.

Ludo reinterpreted with Indian iconery

The result is board games designed in cloth, embellished with embroidery or applique work. The game comes packaged in a cotton bag complete with playing instructions for beginners. 

As venture grew, it expanded to include games from other ancient civilizations too. Also added to its growing product list were toys and room decor in felt. The firm also goes the extra mile by customizing the felt products thus ensuring that the customer has a unique piece.

Decor for nursery

Following the motto of Design to Inspire, Neha with her brand Pachisi is breathing fresh air into the world of board games.

Images copyright: Pachisi

Text and creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat


Thursday, 25 June 2020

S C U L P T I N G   C O N C R E T E

Divya Agrawal

One would imagine these to be scaled down models of real life architecture. The geometries are beautifully balanced within complex planes. 

Handmade concrete works, poured in place sculptures - welcome to David Umemoto's world where the imaginary becomes real.

"When one sees Umemoto's architecture sculptures, one thinks of the modernist complex of Brasilia by Niemeyer, lost in the Amazonian jungle, or the complex of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier, in the heart of India. The walls rising towards nowhere, the curves running into ceilings, and the staircases leading into the void are reminiscent of the mysterious Prisons of Piranesi. One way or another, these are always works where imagination joins forces with a contemplative discipline."

Paper sculpture is the new addition to David's journey with form and materials. Folded from a single sheet of paper, these creations are works of art like the one's in concrete. 

Templates for these paper sculptures are available to print, for all, on David Umemoto's website here. Get ready for some fun with a cutter and paper to indulge the sculptor in you!

Images: Copyright David Umemoto

Text & creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat  (

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

                                     BAOBAB IN THE HOUSE 
                                                                                                Hina Nitesh

The African landscape is incomplete without the iconic Baobab tree. The pod-like fruit of these trees is the starting point in the story of Seedling Design. The firm, founded by Fabiana and Roberto who have a background in Architecture and Urbanism,  is driven by concepts of sustainability and eco-friendly alternatives. 

Dried Baobab Pod becomes a lamp with minimal additions.

The enterprise combines modern technology and traditional wisdom to create unique lamps and homeware. The technological intervention is minimal and focus is on creating a unique handcrafted product.

Each product is unique because each pod is unique.

When nature inspires, each piece is unique with its own identity. The surface decor of tiny holes is created manually and is a result of the intended function of the product. 

Simplicity in design of the snack bowl.

The products from Seedling Designs are rustic but exude a certain charm. They are like a breath of fresh air in the world full of mass-produced, single-sue products that are as far from nature as can be.

Storage jars in nature

Images: Copyright: Seedling Designs

Text & creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat


Sunday, 21 June 2020

Master of Forms
Divya Agrawal

Hans Coper (1920-81) was a German-born British potter whose work, owing to its emphasis on abstraction, was considered much ahead of its times.

Hans Coper @ Onthedesignboat

The starkly simple and masterfully sculpted forms are a hallmark of Coper’s work. Abstract, yet functional, his creations were first thrown on a wheel and then sculpted and altered by hand. 

Hans Coper @ Onthedesignboat

Many pieces, like the one above, were coated in layers of engobes, clay slips with textures and fine lines incised delicately onto the surface.

Hans Coper's work was much treasured during his lifetime and today can be found on display in many leading museums.

Text & creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat  (

Friday, 19 June 2020

Flip Flop no More

Text : Hina Nitesh

Sea life from junk collected from sea

One man's trash is another man's treasure goes the proverb and proving it correct is Kenya based Ocean Sole. They create beautiful sculptures from flip flops that are discarded. These are collected, cleaned and sculpted into beautiful products.

Patchwork Rhino
Inspired by children who would fashion toys from pieces of flip flops, the founder Julie Church, created a whole enterprise that has become a source of income for about a 1000 people recycling more than half a million flip flops.

A colorful lion

The African link is evident in the products which are often in the form of animals of the region. Coloured flipflops compressed together to create these products often give the impression of a beautiful patchwork. Needless to say, every piece is unique.

Kenya is incomplete without Giraffes

These products send a strong statement by creating visuals of life from an object that threatens to destroy it.

Images: Copyright Ocean Sole

Text & creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat