Packing it all in

Forums at Lopez Design are held in the first Saturday of the month. The platform was started with the need to initiate dialogues between creative professionals as well as others from related fields in a purposeful way.

Over the past year, the Lopez Design Forum has evolved to become directed and organized, promoting healthy debates and invaluable exchanges. Versatile textile designer Gopika Nath a speaker at the Forum generously commended the “flawless technical support.” For the studio, this is absolutely vital – to create an absorbing atmosphere with uninterrupted flow for the speakers for an overall enriching experience.

The September 2016 Forum hosted eight visiting speakers with Lopez Design founder Anthony Lopez making the concluding presentation. It unfolded with Y-Walls Design founder Preksha Baid who combines traditional craft and interior design. Preksha presented a range of work that included a ‘jewel peacock’ for the façade of the Ministry of External Affairs. She shared samples of her experiments with different materials like the leaf of corn and the use of tea, turmeric and coffee as natural colours in products at the Forum. Young designer Aakriti Kumar started her furniture design studio Differenture when she was just 24. Committed to sustainability, Aakriti uses salvaged and naturally available woods to make furniture that celebrates imperfections instead of attempting to mask or remove them. Her path to design shows how new solutions can evolve from making informed choices. Rukminee Guha Thakurta, a book designer presented her wonderful portfolio ranging from Crafts of India and her involvement in the Viraat-e-Khalsa project. Hers is the philosophy of ‘slow cooking’, taking it as it comes and not rushing through a project. All three designers in their own way are turning the course of contemporary discourse, asking us to look at tradition, natural rhythms and the complete life of a product – which are all very much the Indian way. We used to eat off banana leaves that could be naturally disposed and the pace of life was slower, easier and healthier for both mind and body.

L to R: Preksha Baid, Aakriti Kumar and Rukminee Guha Thakurta at the September Forum

Tracing the growth, Ankita Singh, Project Manager at Lopez Design says, “Since our first Forum, we have become a lot more structured. There are very many interesting people who participate and they have an opportunity to connect with each other and in the future they could collaborate.” It has particularly become a viable platform for a niche group to exchange ideas, making the time spent more intensive and fruitful. Gopika Nath notes, “As an artist and writer one tends to work in isolation and it was fascinating to listen to the other speakers, that I did get a chance to hear, and see their work. I realized just how enriching such interactions can be.”

Vidya Shah at the August Forum

Earlier in August, well-known singer Vidya Shah gave us a unique perspective. The style of her presentation was also very different, combining music with visuals. These were a result of creative experiments done with her photographer husband Parthiv Shah about “women on record” from the gramophone era. In one work she took up Parthiv’s photograph and juxtaposed an old song as a metaphor of breaking away from the past related to cities and women. “It was a different journey, also a creative journey.” Collaboration is the key word knitting many dialogues today and Vidya Shah is very excited to be working in theatre and with dancers and writers. “Earlier, it was an insular creative space. Now, I find myself connecting all the time with different kinds of people and we explore ideas together. Usually, such collaborations have been wonderfully received.” Reflecting on her experience at the LD Forum, Vidya says, “The forum has the potential for capacity building. It was also interesting for me as the intersections of minds, listening to people from various walks of life.”

L to R: Raj Ayyar, Ishanee Mukherjee and Anirudh Chawla at the September Forum

The studio attempts to engage with academics who bring deeper insights and cross platform exchanges. Raj Ayyar, visiting professor in humanities and social sciences at IIT Delhi, spoke about experiential education. Ayyar is committed to dialogue, classroom engagement and cross-disciplinary learning. He turned the tables with his proposal to think beyond ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ as reactions to more ‘PO’ that is, more Possible Options. Designer Rukminee Guha Thakurta who presented that day, said, “Mr Ayyar’s presentation was especially interesting as his subject connected not directly but laterally with the practices of all the others in the forum.” Founders of Poochki a clothing label, Ishanee Mukherjee and Anirudh Chawla spoke about how they create garments with unique narratives. They are responsive to contemporary lifestyles and changing ideals, where a woman does not have to sport a perfect figure and clothes have to suit different sizes. These two sets of presenters from varied backgrounds in the same day showed us that flexibility and negotiation is key to acceptance and progress – whether in problem solving or fashion.

L to R: Gopika Nath, Sibanand Bhol and Gaurav Kapoor at the September Forum

Fibre artist, writer and teacher Gopika Nath spoke about elevating embroidery to the level of art and making a new milestone with her hand-painted saris. Gopika’s wide experience related to the audience, who enjoyed her presentation. She especially emphasized the need for an artist to struggle to make her mark. The need to bring traditional practice to the fore was also seen in architect Sibanand Bhol’s presentation: along with Shweta Mohapatra he started Collective Craft, a collaborative of designers and artisans. The Collective brings artisans together to combat problems in the trade and to give them a space to share skills. Local practices are ingenuously brought into mainstream solutions. Just as in Gaurav Kapoor’s presentation, the architectural approach at his Layers Studio engaged with natural formations. Gaurav presented his work for a resort Aloha on the Ganges, where they created an Infinity Pool by tuning into a space on site that was natural for a water body. They built on various levels of the incline at Rishikesh around large rock formations.

Principal of Lopez Design Anthony Lopez making his presentation

The session concluded with Anthony Lopez’s talk on his journey, highlighting the drive behind his design vision. His influences during childhood and his upbringing in the environs of NID, where his father worked all made deep impressions, shaping his destiny as a graphic designer. His multiple interests also shaped the way he thought about design and how the visual expression of graphic design, which tends to be imagined as two dimensional, stretched the belief system to three and even the fourth dimension in Anthony’s oeuvre. The zesty pao-bhaji lunch courtesy Zeena Lopez was loved and appreciated very much. Pao (bread) which is Western in origin is packed with bhaji, totally Indian, to make pao-bhaji. The way in which we innovate to blend something foreign into our own is intrinsic to Indian culture and logic. This spirit of Indian-ness that packs it all in is an essential flavor of the Forum.

Packing in all in with pao-bhaji

Written by Sujatha Shankar Kumar, Images courtesy: Lopez Design
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