The Daily Dose of Design
Some of our favorite creatives talk about their design-inspirations and tools that make everyday life easier for them
We hardly ever sit down and look at the design on everyday mundane things like the snap-hooks of the MacBook charger or the tiny wedge on the butt of staplers that help un-staple a sheet. Small, overlooked, and unappreciated— except when we don't have access to these little features— we wanted to take a moment and focus on their design-genius.
One way to do this, we thought, was to talk to designers of various kinds, who are constantly amazing us with their creativity. Curators of Clay, Roia, and Haathichaap are TLJ’s picks for this quarter’s theme.
Curators of Clay is an exclusive clay studio run by potters, Bhairavi & Rohit. Based in Pune, they create and curate handmade, exquisite ceramics.
Roia, run by Rohita is a conceptual jewellery brand, based out of Chennai. She tries to tell a story with every piece of jewellery she designs.
Haathichaap was started by Mahima Mehra. She makes paper out of elephant poo!
We did a quick Q&A with them and got their views on the design of everyday tools they cannot do without.
TLJ: One everyday thing that you use for work, or when chilling (or both!) which has a very useful design element incorporated into it, but is oft-overlooked, or SUPER underrated.
Rohita, Roia: It has to be my Staedtler Triplus pens. I use them on a daily basis for my jewellery sketches. They come in a sleek transparent box, where the lid acts a stand, which can be bent and rested inclined on the table which enables an easy grab.
Mahima, HaathiChaap: The wedge on back on the cutter. It’s used to break a small part of the blade when the blade edge gets blunt with usage. In the beginning I'd use anything I could find to break the blade and we'd have small bits of blades flying around, which was not safe to say the least. I cut a lot :)...to make dummies, to take prints, etc. So I was really 'proud' and relieved when I figured this out.
Rohit, Curators of Clay: That's a tough one! To be honest, as a full time potter, most of the day goes in wiping clay-ey / glaze-y hands on various rags before doing anything else, especially phone related! And that's probably why I'd say phone covers are an underrated piece of usefulness! It's the only reason why my phone stays sort of clay free!
TLJ: Are there shows, books, biographies, or stories about specific products/items that inspires you during a slump?
Rohita, Roia: The documentary called IRIS on Netflix tops my list! Iris Apfel is the queen of accessories. Her personality and sense of style is contagious. I love how loud she is. Also, other shows such as Abstract, The Great Interior Challenge, Dries, and Project Runway.
Mahima, HaathiChaap: I'm not much of a movie person, so nope no inspiration there. There are instance when I've picked up some design books and gotten inspired, but that's not something which happens often. Actually, I seem to be getting a 'poopy' ideas mostly in conversations... with the office people, with friends...with random strangers.
Rohit, Curators of Clay: In terms of inspiration, writings by and about potter Warren MacKenzie are a favourite - and then there's the incredibly amazing folk at the Goldmark Art Gallery who produce the most amazing films about ceramics and ceramicists (www.discover.goldmarkart.com), and quite often, just looking around at the Curators of Clay studio and being thankful for our journey so far helps get through any slumps as well! At this point we're so swamped with commission deadlines that slumps are just not indulged in!
TLJ: One old thing that’s been in your family/something you found in a flea market, whose design-think surprised you.
Rohita, Roia: My mother's school trunk! There was no such thing as backpacks back in day. My mom carried a small aluminium trunk case as her school bag. It was made by this brand called Metalcaps. She kindly passed it down to me, which now stores all my accessories. I am still amused by the fact how they a carried a metal trunk case to school.
Mahima, HaathiChaap: It's something called an Anand Cooker. My great-grand mum and grand mum would take it for family picnics. It was basically a four tier brass tiffin cased in an aluminium body with a small compartment at the bottom with a tawa in it. One would light up some coal in the compartment at the bottom. Each of the boxes in the tiffin would have either something to be cooked, so the one which needed the least heat would be right on top and so on and so forth. The family would go and take a walk while the food cooked. The tawa was used to make chapatis. And lunch was ready. Its this beatiful, quirky and utilitarian piece which was quite popular in its time.
Rohit, Curators of Clay: My mum is a bit of a pack rat - she hoards all sorts of things, often bringing home old stuff that other family folk are chucking out. Of these random things, there's an ancient kerosene cycle lamp (yup, made for hooking up on a bicycle!) which I've always thought as a rather cool & most functional item. It's a small thing, designed to not spill the liquid fuel and it even had a red piece of sliding glass, I guess to double up as a parking light!
Very steam punk looking but very functional too!
TLJ @ Roia: Tell us about how the stepped-tank nosepin came about—take us through how the idea occurred. What design elements of the step-wells inspired the nose pin? How do very different things like step wells and tanks inform such a tiny piece of jewelry like your stepped tank nosepin?
Rohita: So, the stepped tank in Hampi took its inspiration from the Lotus Flower. So I wanted to incorporate petals in my design. The flight of steps inspired me uplift the petals and the central tank inspired me me to add the patina accent in the centre.
I find inspiration in the most mundane things.
TLJ @ Roia: Tell us a little about the colours you use. How easy/difficult is it to achieve the right shade and does the use of colour increase the amount of time required to make a piece of jewellery. What are the post popular dyes used in this industry.
Rohita: I use a lot of patinas (cold enamels) in my work. I love a good pop of colour , I think it makes me happy and in turn the person who owns it. Getting the right shade is easily achievable, but the setting part is what holds all the suspense. It needs to be air dried. Too much air or too less will not allow it set properly. It definitely takes a lot of time, since adding patinas is an extra step in the process. The popular dyes used in the industry are enamels that are set using heat. These enamels are nothing but crushed colour glass, that melts smoothly over the metal when its heated under a particular temperature.
TLJ @ Roia: Are there any regulatory requirements that you need to meet to ensure that the jewellery is safe?
Yes, first step is I check whether the soldered joints are all secure. Second, whether it’s given a good finish or polish and the last,is storing them safely away from the light.
TLJ @Curators of Clay: Could you take us through the working of a potter’s wheel? A break-down of its different elements, the simple design genius of it, how something so basic can make so many amazing shapes and styles of something as basic, ubiquitous, inescapably necessary as a container?
Rohit: At the Curators of Clay studio, we have three superbly made kick-wheels - possibly our best acquisitions ever. The flywheel powers the wheel head and the trick is to not 'kick' like a football kick but to just get into a gentle rhythm of flicking it with your foot as you sit on it and work. This is far better than the traditional potters wheel (I've never really worked on one of those) and while now most potters use an electric powered wheel - we use those as well - we swear by our kick-wheels cause they only need a will to work and not electricity!
TLJ @Curators of Clay: Of all your products, the ones with two or more colours in them (like the ‘Shuke' set) are super fascinating. Can you take us through the process? What are the dyes you use and does the material effect the process of design in any way? Are there any regulatory requirements these colours need to meet to ensure that they are safe to eat/drink from?
Rohit: I co-founded Curators of Clay with another potter Bhairavi Naik & every piece of work is crafted by Bhairavi or me, assisted by young Amey, who often also doubles up as the delivery person. The studio does not work with any other karigars—as full time potters, we make own clay, handcraft each piece of work, make our own glazes & fire the work ourselves in gas fired kilns that we got built ourselves!
Glaze, can be best described as a glass layer of sorts (silica) that's been modified to adhere to a ceramic surface. All our work is high fired. We first fire to 900°C - that's called a bisque firing. And then we apply the glaze (or glazes) and fire the work again to over 1220°C.
Our aesthetic is a result of every single piece being handmade from start to finish.
Apart from being high fired to over 1220°C, which ensures that there's no chance of any sort of leaching, because we make our own clay and glazes we know exactly what's gone into these and that ensures our work is super safe for food & drink.
However, for ceramic work that's made in factories (and not in a bespoke studio like ours) there are requirements of specific food grade certification too.
TLJ @ HaathiChaap: How different is making paper out of poo from regular handmade, eco-friendly paper?
Mahima: The difference is in the collecting, washing and cooking of the fiber. We have maintained really good hygiene so the washing and the cooking takes a really long time. Post which the process is pretty much the same as handmade paper.
TLJ @ HaathiChaap: Can you talk to us about one stage in the process of making poo paper, and one machine/any smaller tool that helps you at this stage? Could you dwell on that machine’s form and functionality and tell us how it makes poo paper what it is? This could be, say, a stage in the process where any odours are eliminated, or where the paper’s texture comes to be.
Mahima: It would be the part where the pulp is lifted in large metal sieves to make paper sheets. The deckle is lifted by two people and to me the sheer synchronicity between the two people is beautiful to watch. How much fiber to put for one sheet to give it its texture and weight is defined here. To me the sheer poetry in motion adds to what the paper is all about.