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Bringing old art home in the shape of plates, walls

Homegrown décor and homeware brands are giving traditional arts a unique twist to sell brand India to the global consumer

Foldable tea tray and tableware from India circus
Foldable tea tray and tableware from India circus

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Brightly coloured peacocks, entwined floral vines, perky parrots—for decades, these motifs have been synonymous with Paithani saris, celebrating the rich textile legacy of Maharashtra.

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Few months ago, the design team at clothing and lifestyle brand Jaypore had an idea: Why not juxtapose motifs woven on textiles such as Paithani on to every day objects like porcelain table- and serve-ware, rustic-style ceramics and floral-print stoneware? After three months of research, delving into archives and records of Paithani designs and discussions with weavers, the team created Valleys Of Sahyadri, a collection of teacups, a mithai plate, pasta bowls, placemats and cushions, that celebrates the craft and informs the world about its richness.

“The team just said why don’t we take our textiles to dinnerware,” recalls Rashmi Shukla, business head and spokesperson of Jaypore. “We chose Paithani because of its colours and unique motifs.”

Jaypore’s collection, which starts at 470, points towards a recent trend in the home décor space: more homegrown brands are looking inwards and collaborating with artisans to create exclusive products and collections meant not just to beautify homes but to also sell the India story around the world.

Shukla explains: “A feeling of India Pride has surged among people. For a brand like ours that is rooted in Indian heritage, it means coming up with collections that introduce customers to as many heritage crafts as possible, in collaboration with the artisans, and present them with our own modern twist.”

Anaadi, a dinnerware collection recently launched by The Plated Project, offers a similar story. Inspired by Madhya Pradesh’s Gond art, the drawing on each item—from a dinner plate to a kulhad—depicts ancient folktales and motifs. The limited collection of 28 pieces is priced at 29,750.

Explaining the idea behind the new collection, The Plated Project’s founder Chitresh Sinha says, “More than educating our audiences about the history of the art form, our intention is to narrate a story that connects with them.” For instance, instead of having dinner plates with Gond art on them, Sinha and his team came up with the idea to create a special “Day and Night” dinner plate set that depicts a popular Gond tale of deity Pashupati. The artwork on each of the Day plate and the Night one depicts one half of the story.

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One of the most effective ways to get people interested in traditional art forms is to create products that are one of a kind, believes Sinha. “They make for great conversation starters around a dinner table,” he adds.

Jaypore's Paithani-inspired homeware collection
Jaypore's Paithani-inspired homeware collection

According to Shukla, such collections also help add more colour to daily routines.

“If you own a Paithani sari, you are more likely to keep it locked away. But here, by owning a cup from the collection, you can make the art of Paithani a part of your daily tea drinking routine,” she says.

When Krsnaa Mehta started India Circus over a decade ago, there weren’t many homegrown brands in the home décor space. With his brand, Mehta brought vibrant colours and loud quirky prints inspired from the country’s past and present into people’s homes. “When I was studying in America, there was nothing I could take back as a gift from India except for those handicrafts that you got at the Bombay Store. For a country steeped in tradition, there was not enough. The whole idea behind starting the brand was that I wanted to create products that would make me proud of gifting India to people,” says Mehta, the founder and design director of India Circus, a brand that regularly offers India-inspired collections of cups, trays, lunch boxes, wall paper, premium dinner sets and furniture. He’s currently working on a reverse collaboration of sorts. “I recently met someone who makes the most beautiful handwoven stoles and shawls,” he shares. “I am going to give him our designs to be woven into stoles.”

Vasundhara Kumar of label Eartthry, meanwhile, worked with an indigenous tribe from Nagaland whom she met at an expo, to create a new collection of everyday objects like trays and tissue boxes, called Palmea (priced 1,200). Made using rattan work, the collection combines the ancient technique with Art-Deco style aesthetics.

Such collaborations tend to be a win-win for both artisans and brands, says Chirag Vohra, founder of Mumbai-based luxury home décor store Mason Home. The brand has been working with a cluster of women artisans from Rajasthan for the past three years to create its Indian product lines. “We help them reach a market they otherwise wouldn’t have had access to. Sometimes we give them creative inputs like the colour palette to be used, ideas for designs and raw materials. Our benefit is, of course, the revenue we make from the sale,” he explains.

Whether it’s fashion or home décor and furnishings, the focus on all things India is more than welcome. The trick lies in, as Mehta says, keeping it “different and individualistic.”

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