Of the many pop-ups during the London Design Festival, one of the more interesting this year is the inaugural Indian Design Platform, running from September 22 to 27, curated by Arpna Gupta, founder of Create Culture. Gupta, Indian by birth but resident in London, has become increasingly fascinated by the way young Indian talent is harnessing and reinvigorating traditional craft skills, and in so doing securing future livelihoods.
“In India, traditional professions such as medicine and engineering have long dominated people’s aspirations,” she says. “This is slowly changing as a new generation of designers are coming to the fore, but they need to tap into the world of international design.”
In addition to championing high-quality design, “it is important that designers have an ethical and sustainable approach and that the designs also benefit the wider craft community,” says Gupta. Her aesthetic criteria, meanwhile, are best summed up as seeking originality and innovation, but using traditional techniques. “Details might be subtle, not overtly decorative, and I steer away from pastiche,” she explains.
India’s artisanal heritage is formed from a diverse set of cultural and regional identities – from brass workers from Moradabad to marble specialists from Rajasthan – and included in Gupta’s line-up are rich cherry picks. Tekku wood and brass stools (£600 each, second picture) from south India’s Ira Studio are made using tarkashi, a centuries-old metal inlay technique. Side tables from Bombay Atelier are inspired by the humble handi pot, used throughout the subcontinent for cooking and transporting food. Made of brightly coloured steel and reclaimed wood, the Handi Man (£350, first picture) has a solid teak top that can be removed and used as a serving platter. Asmaani throws (price on request, third picture) from studio Injiri reference traditional blue ceramics and draped lungis worn by men, and of course the Indian sky – asmaani means “blue sky” in Hindi.
“To me, luxury is about ‘lack of speed’,” says Gupta. “The slow making, the people involved, and the time it takes to create these objects imbues them with rare qualities. Every object here has passed through various hands and each artisan has imprinted his or her mark. It is the small imperfections that contribute to their uniqueness.”
The Indian Design Platform is hosted by Studio Egret West and also involves UK architectural practices that either have a direct link to India or are interested in the Indian approach to design: Project Orange, Acme, Haptic and Studio [D] Tale. Each will explore the country through a second exhibition, INfluence, a series of interactive installations juxtaposed with the curated collection. For Gupta, it is a chance to challenge preconceptions and the flow of creativity between the UK and India.