The Daily Heller: Indian Traditional Craft Inspires Today’s Social Commentaries

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Reflecting on his experiences commissioning kāvads, designer Ishan Khosla has created an art experience on what a global pandemic can teach us about new ways of working with craftspeople.

Commissioned by the Indian Ocean Craft Triennial in Australia, Khosla uses references to myriad visual and graphic art styles mainly from India—from vintage labels, calendar art, tribal and folk art to comic art and more contemporary graphic design.

The challenge of working during the global pandemic meant that except for a couple of initial meetings, Khosla never saw any of the artists face to face during the making of the artworks—”which has never happened before in all my previous engagements with craftspeople. This way of working was only possible due to the ubiquity of smartphones,” Khosla writes.

“The nine artworks were made in collaboration with some of the most renowned contemporary folk and tribal artists in the country,” he continues. “Most of them continue to work in their respective artistic traditions while addressing subjects that are pertinent today. While I have collaborated with most of the artists before, working virtually on physical, handmade objects that not only needed to tell a story in a certain sequence but were loaded with layers of symbolism, metaphors and puns, was arduous.” The kāvad sent to Bhajju Shyam was dismantled by the carpenter, which meant figuring out the correct sequence of panels for Bhajju to paint on.

“It became so complex to explain via a video phone call that I had to use a combination of WhatsApp videos and annotations to explain this to him. Works by Kiritbhai Jayantibhai Chittara were to be made on cloth, as is done in the craft of mata-ni-pachedi. In which case it was decided to measure each panel and send it to him, which in itself became confusing for him to remember which panel number corresponded to which artwork (see video and video). Similarly, various types of image references and digital mockups had to be created for Anoop Sharma to articulate the various visual references to be used in the artwork Băndar kyā jaane adrăk kā swād.”

Nonetheless, the results are amazing: beautifully crafted, witty, sardonic and unique—the perfect blend of design and craftsmanship.