Thursday, 9 July 2015

D E S I G N   D I A L O G U E S - I

We at OTDB have been featuring works of designers and entrepreneurs on our blog. To take this association a step further, we are starting a new column - 'Design Dialogues'. This is a platform through which we bring you up close and personal with Designers. 
Our aim is to introduce design ideologies, what shapes them and how they influence design thoughts. We also hope that such interactions will inspire the reader to give wings to dreams long forgotten...

J A P N E E T   K E I T H,  R E D  M U G
in conversation with Hina Nitesh

'Pottery is a LANGUAGE.
A language that you not only speak with the material but one you take yourself through a journey with. As you learn to be with clay there is a bit of magic in that interaction.'

So says Japneet Keith, the lady behind Chandigarh- based ceramic design studio, RED MUG. I stumbled upon her accidentally while researching for the blog. Trained as an industrial designer at National Institute of Design, she took her love for ceramic and glass to the next level by setting by RED MUG. Lets get to know her, her studio and her works...

On becoming a potter

During my graduation days I was a student of sculpture. Ceramic and glass were my specialization materials at NID. I always had a vision to have my own studio. After working with ADIPA, Pune  I knew for sure I had to be back in Chandigarh and have a set up there.

Being on your own brings with it a certain set of challenges; the prime one being sustenance. I started as a glass designer. It was around 2007 that the market was being stocked with Chinese glass platters which were being sold for as less as Rs 200. I had no way to sustain the studio and thus ceramics gradually entered into my working. 

It is not only pottery that attracted me it was the joy to work with ceramics. The material is much more technical and challenging especially while one is trying to establish a studio. So while I worked with ceramics doing tiles… I gifted myself a pottery wheel from the money I earned from a workshop. And soon I was building my studio in bits and pieces from income generated through the work I did at the studio. 

“Customise” for the joy/need of others/clients  was always my intention. With people asking what they desired the gradual inflow of people to learn pottery increased. That’s how I realized my passion with clay.

On working with clay

Not only while I work on the pottery wheel but the moment I start kneading clay I know what is the inert desire of the material. Sometimes its slab work and sometimes its coiling. When my hearts  had had enough of imprints on clay I switch to the pottery wheel which helps me make bowls to jars to utility ware - customizing some of my thoughts.

Pottery is a language that builds within you a certain connection. And perhaps I have been unfolding its essence while designing, creating, throwing, glazing, doing the kilns and finally placing a product that someone finds a connection to.

On setting up RED MUG

RED MUG  came about being in 2012 when my husband asked me to create a brand name. I started the studio in 2007 after NID, but I worked as an independent designer- perhaps the all in one employee. As an industrial designer I always believed in team work. The inter-dependence among a team is something that I value the most. RED MUG came into being as a space where each one prospers, where the passion for design and material is not only through me but is a connection through various resources pooled in together. 

My studio is open to people from any field or any part of the world who shares the same passion for clay. Recently I had Gary Hambleton from W.Australia for almost 4 months who did some amazing porcelain products at the studio. RED MUG is an extension of my feelings to share and nurture in a very conscious manner.

On the design process

There is a thought and that thought is put through numerous visualization. Some are rendered in my mind and some are rendered while I sketch or do my doodles. I am also reminded of what my faculty at NID. Ms Neelima Hasija used to say. As any student I was struggling through the transition from an artist to a designer. She said, “ Today this design process feels like a task…. tomorrow it will be a part of you and your design thinking. Go watch a movie or have a tea and then get back to writing the design brief” 

So while I work with clay I do let the material do its own creative work with my fingers but at the same time the Being in me is in constant conversation to achieve that refined form that my senses appreciate and my client needs.

On what inspires her

The earth inspires me the most. My connection to – The Earth. And through that it comes to the various textures I find in my environment. From the deep veins on a frangipani leaf to the form of lotus.

My latest work  Dhvani is art through a narrative where the artist and the observer are bound together within the magic of a story. When we set out to create a new kind of art which captures the vibrancy of India, we turned to the most elemental substance, terracotta- the sacred mud formed from all five elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether. 

In Dhvani, we wanted to arrest motion, which is life itself, and hold it so fixed that later when you, the observer, look at it, it starts moving again since it’s life. And out of this sacred mud, emerges the lotus. It has a vibrant core that opens up when connected. You have to be silent and listen closely to hear the sound of this ghungroo as the beauty here is entwined with a story. It’s silence is more musical than any song. Listen with your soul.

On balancing functionality and creativity

When a product at studio Red Mug is designed as a customised object it finds its own set of rules. For some it’s the bowl/ tea cup for everyday use with functionality and for some it’s the attraction for the glazes/ textures to go for tiles or wall pieces for being creative artifacts in their spaces.

For me the happiness and balance is when one finds the product from our studio shelves as to  what they have been looking for.

Text & creative layout copyrights: On the Design Boat   
Images copyright: Japneet Keith, RedMug

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