By Marina Correa
Photography: Courtesy Sarthak Sahil Design Co.
Read Time: 2 mins
Product designers Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta of Sarthak Sahil Design Co in a candid interview with IAnD reveal how they layer cultural nuances to empower gen next to appreciate our vast and rich nativity…
Reviving forgotten or nearly extinct crafts in a contemporary format - acceptable to the new generation – where only a small fraction have an interest in history; whilst the majority brush it aside as boring and heavily nostalgic constitutes the underlying crux of the studio’s eclectic repertoire.
Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta in conversation with IAnD:
IAnD: List the crafts of yesteryears that you have used for making products that are contemporary. In the same vein, how many are considered old, on the verge of extinction and new?
S&S: The list is very long. We have worked with silversmiths from old Delhi; metal craftsmen from Moradabad and Kaansa metal craftsmen from Bengal; glass craftsmen from Firozabad(U.P.); potters and ceramic artists from Khurja (U.P.); Meenakari artisans and weavers from Rajasthan; wooden block-makers from Gujarat; leather craftsman from Bhuj, Gujarat;; Longpi pottery artists from Manipur; Kerala leather puppet artists; wood carvers from Andaman etc. All these crafts are all fairly old.
We also work with crafts on the verge of extinction like Mashru fabrics from Gujarat (although the Govt. has started a drive to revive it); Rogan painting technique from Gujarat is also rare now, only few families practice this art. Similarly, the popularity of Theyyum dance form has become very concentrated, thus it can be categorized as very rare. Authentic Meenakari work is also becoming rare as they face competition from industrial enamellings.
The weavers, who spin Katran ropes for us in Rajasthan are primarily farmers; mainly engaged for self consumption. After associating with us, they have become specialized in this craft. Therefore, we can call it a new craft.
IAnD: What makes you draw from history — right from your Katran collection?
S&S: We believe that our cultural identity can be defined by our layers of history and these diverse layers make us who we are today. As Indian designers, we feel it is important to conserve this spirit of India, while catering to the aspirations of the contemporary market, both domestic and international.
IAnD: If you were asked to think contemporary, what would your reaction be?
S&S: For us, the word ‘contemporary’ means an experience that is consistent with the needs and desires of our audience. For example, when a client wants to buy a chair, there are endless chairs in the market. But if a chair creates an experience or narrates a certain human story that is important to its user, it becomes special.
IAnD: How often do you repeat a design? Alternately, do you work mainly with limited editions?
S&S: We work on diverse projects. Therefore, for our own catalogs, we usually do not design for mass production. We also develop 3 to 4 new collections of products every year for our own catalog.
Alternatively, we have been associating with industries, where we have made an effort to marry their in-house capabilities and craft practices to create a new genre of products that can be produced in numbers with a certain level of standardization, catering to a wider audience and marketed by a dedicated team. We are always in the process of discovering and associating with new craft clusters from different regions of India.