Monday, 27 January 2014

 I N   S E A R C H   O F  G O O D   D E S I G N

Text: Hina Nitesh

What is good design? 
This is an oft asked question which can be answered 
best by the user but what cannot be contested is the fact that 
the designer has to be sensitive and the design simple…  

The post that follows holds a special place in my heart. The two designers who I am going to talk about are known to me personally since they were my juniors at the design school. But this isn’t the only reason. Through their firm the architect and product designer duo is able to contribute to the society – which is often a forgotten aspect of good design(er). 

From lifestyle to regular use - furniture for all

Design Circle, the firm set up by Ritu and Murali, focuses on products made from timber. The wood that they use is either reclaimed or recycled or reused or repurposed which makes their products eco friendly. The products themselves are characterised by simple forms, beautiful workmanship, focus on detailing and honesty in use of material.  

Before and After
Focus on details

They are inclined towards crafts and it has a very strong influence in their work. This does not mean that their products look traditional on the contrary they are contemporary not just in their looks but also their functions. I mean would you have thought of a product which can become a stand to display your tablet? Well they have….

The W- stand

Designing accessories

They say learning never ends. Designers at Design Circle sure believe in this. There is a lot of stress on doing things themselves so the designers get down from their drawing boards to put realize the paper drawing into a three dimensional usable product. The range of products from the firm includes furniture, lamps, toys etc. 

Simple forms and interesting designs for children
Making studies fun...
They have also designed institutional libraries focusing both on the function and the aesthetics. 

Exploring forms in wood

Exquisite workmanship and detailing

 The firm conducts regular workshops to help participants get in touch with their creative side and to let them experience the joy of doing things all by themselves.  A look at the smiles on the faces of participants leaves no doubt about the success of the event…

Children at a workshop - learning to make their own toy
 Professor Bhandari in design school introduced us to phrases like ‘sincere and detailed’ and ‘child-like’, when talking about ‘good’ design. Looking at Design Circle’s extensive portfolio, his words start echoing in my head and I tell myself ‘yes, this is indeed what good design should aim to be.’

You can get to know more about the designers and their works at You could also write to them at
 All images are copyright Design Circle.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

 A    V I N T A G E    J O U R N E Y 
Time flies past.
I hold the sand of moments in my hand.
Watch it all slip away,
Fall free.
Open my hand,  I know it’s not empty.
The sparkle of mica is still there.
In my eyes….
- Divya Agrawal 

I recently added another year to my life tally. Birthdays for me have always been a special time to rejoice, for all that I have and for experiences that time leads one through to make you, YOU! Time moves on, the world around us changes, we change. But, the present is always relevant, for it also becomes the past - a vital building block for the future.

The presence of technology in our lives has led to a dramatic change in lifestyles, in the way we design, write, express ourselves – to name a few. As I pen this piece, I reminisce about times not so far back. Of moments once in the present, now memories. Of a world not yet connected by technology and media. Of an era when our cities were still horizontal and we could ride a cycle carefree, on ‘our’ roads.

On this note, today I’d like to take you on a journey down the alleys of time, to revisit what used to be – the vintage & retro of now. I sifted through a wealth of material for pictures for this piece. Included are products that I found appealing for their design/ craftsmanship & aesthetic. Most pieces belong to the 1900’s, though a few date much farther back. 

1. 1950's Vespa advt:;   2. Paul Rand, Magazine illustration, 1962: 50 Watts @ Flickr
3. Travel Poster, Early 1900's: Boston Public Library @ Flickr;   4. Poster, 1971:

The Vespa advertisement is so typical of the late mid 90's - breezy family outings on a scooter! I was pleasantly surprised to see the Travel India poster dating early 1900s. The scene is beautifully rendered and so expressive of the India of then.

5. Life Magazine, 1957, Christian Dior Dress;   6. Vintage Letter Box:
7. Vintage Record Boxes, Vanity Case: Etsy (ModishVintage)

'The Lady in Gray' brought back memories of exploring a city steeped in history - Paris, with all its attractions & high fashion. 

Vintage products usually embody a high degree of craftsmanship. A likely consequence of them being hand made, in times when life was 'slow' and people could invest time and skill in creating them.

8. Suzani, Uzbekistan, beginning 19th Century/ earlier: David Sorgato;   9. Oriental fabric, mid/ late 19th Century: Tsutsugaki Katazome
10. Antique Rug:   11. Heirloom textile, Gujarat, 17th Century 

Innovations in textiles stretch far back in history. Handwoven, hand printed textiles like suzanis, ikats, palampores are infact cultural repositories, with patterns & weaving skills passed down generations.

12. Flint striker (steel inlaid with gold and jewels) India, early 17th century:;  13. North African Jewelry,  The Philadelphia Museum of Art:
14. Red glass necklace, 1960's: Etsy (BeeJayKay);   15. Silver Bangles, India, 1880:

The bird shaped flint striker just stole my heart - easy! The red glass bead necklace is stunning - notice the coin closure detail.

16. Art Deco radio, 1937:;   17. Record player & Radio, 1956:
18. Stereo Module Radio:;   19. Vintage Radio: Etsy

Radios can be works of art!

20. The first hifi by Dieter Rams & Hans Gugelot, 1950s:  Micheal Dent
21. Vintage Decorative bird:;   22. Ceramic Clock by George Nelson, 1950s:  

23. Danish ceramic Creamer w/lid, 1970's: Etsy (mascara jones);   24. Mikasa Stoneglaze, Cream & Sugar set, 1970's: Etsy (ZoeDesignsVintage) 
25. Pitcher by Winslow Anderson, 1950's: Etsy (mascara jones);   26. Danish modern Bronze Birds, 1960's: Etsy (modernspecific)

I am a big fan of Fine China & have created a few Ceramic beauties myself - this Creamer is just what it took to get me smiling :) The color & form of the Mikasa Set blend so well to make it stand apart.

27. Lamp by Poul Henningsen, 1958:;    28. Vintage clock collection:

29. Primitive Cantback shelf:;   30. Antique scissors: Poly@Flickr;   31. Antique cast iron clothes Iron: Etsy (Corrnucopia) 
32. Vintage dip pens: Adriana Dirkje Bus-inia;   33. Primitive tin & wood pie safe:

34. Restored Lounge chair by Adrian Pearsall, 1960's:  
35. USPS 2008 set of stamps featuring some iconic designs by the renowned American designers, Ray & Charles Eames. 

Furniture Design saw a shift to Modernism mid 1900 onwards. Characterized by clean lines and simplicity of design, iconic Modern pieces were created by designers like Marcel Breuer, Ray & Charles Eames, Adrian Pearsall, Isamu Noguchi. 

36. Vintage Pastels:;    37. Toy telephone by Playskool, 1970's:  
38. Town building block set, 1943: daddytypes@flickr;   39. Vintage scooter:

These toys are eye catching, with their bright colors & simple forms - just what a child needs. Fortunately, wood toys are still available and kids just adore them.

I feel fortunate to have lived in the pre-internet era, of having experienced life ‘slow’, and, am really excited to be here in time when technologies like 3-D printing hold forth a promise of changing the face of innovation.

So here I am, looking at this new year in my life with anticipation & excitement – for the new experiences it holds and for the changes unfolding around us. With an eye on the future, I leave you today with this fantastic video “A day made of glass”, a must watch!

Text & creative layout copyrights: Onthedesignboat
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Wednesday, 15 January 2014

P R I N T E D    D R E A M S

Text: Hina Nitesh

On the Design Boat is about design.  Can craft be far behind when we talk of design?  Of course not… for design finds inspiration in craft. With that thought, we start our series on crafts with 
the art of hand block printing.
Blocks are hand carved and the designs inspired by nature. Image: 1. Rootdesignstudio 2. Tukytam 3. Journeyofascarf 

In case you are wondering why block printing 
then the answer is simple – yours truly recently attended a workshop on the same and is hooked!!

As far as history is concerned this is an ancient craft that has been in existence for centuries across the world. India too has a rich tradition of block printing. Block printing is practiced in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and each area has its own specific motif and colours. It is a labour intensive craft which requires a fairly high degree of skill. The basic requirement is for carved wooden blocks for printing which are made by highly skilled craftsmen (an altogether different craft). 

Patterns galore - from the block printers in Sanganer. Image: onthedesignboat

The best part though is that the craft can be done on a small scale for all you need is a table and an area to clean and dry.
To give you an idea of the process –
Start with a washed fabric. This is important else the starch will hinder the absorption of colour and you will not have clear outlines. I learnt this after some errors! Next, stretch the fabric and pin it to the printing table. originally colours for printed were made from natural sources (this is a story for another day). These days ready-to- use colour is available which just needs to be mixed with the binder.  

From carving a block to printing it. Image: 1. 2. peacocksnpaisley  3. lesliekeating

Traditionally, a dhavali  is made to transfer colour on the block. For this a square piece of thick jute is dipped in the mix of colour and binder. It is then placed over a tray and spread evenly using a thapi(a wooden spatula). The block is gently placed over the colour and then on the cloth and pressed hard for even print. The block is made such that 4-5 colours can be used on the design. The process is repeated for the entire fabric or as per your desire.  
The process of printing requires total focus on part of the person who is printing so said my teacher at the workshop. Despite my best efforts, I made plenty of errors (an amateur printer is allowed to make them). Some of these errors would go undetected and I felt as if the fabric and I shared a little secret. Though perfection is the name of the game here as well, making errors only adds a human touch to the product and distinguishes it from the machine printed fabric.

Image: Anokhi

This is one of the few craft forms that has not only survived but has also bloomed over the years. A number of designers have adopted the craft in their works and redefined it. In keeping with the times, modern graphic patterns have been introduced for printing though classical patterns are also in demand. 

Block printed furnishing. Image 1. Craftsvilla 2.KerryCherry  3. Indus Decor

I found some amazing examples of contemporary use of block printed fabrics at Rickshaw design. Check out the new ‘slow clothes’ at Rekh & Datta
Slow Clothes. Image : Rekh & Datta

The popular handmade site etsy is also full of examples of experiments with block prints in terms of patterns, colours and fabrics.

Image 1 &3 Home Sweet 2. Katherine Watson 4. Henri Kuikens 5.StudioABCD 6. Kisii

By the way, I also came across some really innovative use of printing blocks.

You can try block printing as a hobby, this New Year.  The joy of seeing your own creations come to life is unsurpassed. 
The whole process is like meditation for the soul. It is the best stress buster ever. I am talking from experience. 
Don’t believe me - try it!

Monday, 6 January 2014

F A B U L O U S L Y     I N D I A N

Wishing all our readers a wonderful 2014 ahead! We here at On the Design Boat look forward to bringing to you many more interesting reads and are working to develop this platform into a more interactive one. So stay tuned :)

The first post in the New Year deserves to be something that brings to you warmth, 
spells cosy & finesse and says “Happy to be me” 
i.e. Péro..

Designer Aneeth Arora uses Indian textiles and techniques to create garments that instantly appeal for their simplicity and richness. 

A fashion & textile graduate, Aneeth can be called a revivalist. She has brought Indian hand loomed fabrics & traditional textile processes to the forefront by using them in contemporary silhouettes. 

One sees Ikats in maxi dresses, Jamdani work in tunics, and, Chanderi, Maheshwari weaves block printed in geometrical patterns being used for garment construction. 
I had seen Jamdani work only in sarees. In Aneeth's designs, Jamdani takes on a new avataar – as borders on the finest cottons/ silk dresses with minimal all over butis. 

"‘Péro’ means ‘to wear’ in Marwari, the local language of Rajasthan. Péro interprets international aesthetic using local material and skills, taking inspiration from what surrounds us, to make a product that connects with people, wherever in the world it is placed.
The Indian-ness of péro rests in the textile process, where materials pass through the hands of one craftsperson to the other, carrying forward the Indian tradition of hand-crafting and creating pieces that are at once unique." Source: Pero 

The design process for Péro starts at the weaving stage – Aneeth works with weavers from all across India to prepare fabric as per her designs. One sees a lot of layering in her work – Mulmul overlaid on Blockprints, Chanderis on Ajrakhs & Madras checks. The look is fresh, very appealing to the modern woman who seeks comfort and rootedness.

Though showcased in Fashion Weeks, the garments have a ‘meant for everybody’ look about them. The clothes are loose & flowy, suitable for all body types. The fabrics used are what one is used to seeing around in India – it’s the structuring, layering and final translation of the elements that makes Péro stand apart.

Péro is a young label, just like it’s Designer and is already an international success. Kudos to Aneeth for marketing & branding a fabulous Product so well and garnering acclaim in the world arena as a Textile & Garment Designer!


Péro retails in India through stores like Ogaan, Bombay Electric, Evoluzione, Samsaara, Collage and through about 60 stores internationally.
You can get in touch with Péro here

All Images courtsey Péro