“The roots of all goodness lie in the soil of appreciation for goodness”

-The 14th Dalai Lama

No matter how much we love our work as designers, after a point we all want to break free from the synchronised rhythm of mouse-clicking and typing and craft something with our bare hands. This reversal in thinking could well stem from a nostalgic yearning for a pre-digital time. And so, on the 9th of June, a paper mache workshop was organised at our studio. Aniruddha, a respected craftsman from the Puri district of Odisha, was invited to introduce all of us at Lopez Design to the craft and provide personal insights to aid the process of learning.

Shaping pulp from paper
During a hundred-year period between the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a novel craft flourished in our country: the Odisha Paper Mache. It was used to sculpt animal masks and the faces of deities and is still a significant part of the Odia culture. Aniruddha ji’s family had been involved in this craft for more than a hundred years and he had inherited the skill from his ancestors.

While he sat in the centre explaining the entire process from shredding the paper to giving it a shape, our entire team sat around him, following every step. The process was set in place two days before, in preparation for the workshop, shredding dry paper and soaking it in water. On the day of the workshop, we beat the pulp to disintegrate it into a mass. Afterwards, Aniruddha ji mixed in a variety of seed powders and gums to make the final clay. Initially, we struggled with the doughy ball, but eventually got the hang of it. We kneaded and contoured the clay, shaping it with free will. Twelve-year old Aryan, studio co-ordinator Vijay ji’s son says, “We get to draw in school, but clay-modelling is something new for me. Now I know how strong my imagination is!” By the end of the workshop, we had a few jewellery boxes, some phone and pen holders and an army of clay animals to add to the creative vibe of our design studio. Each sculpture was unique to its creator and had something to say about her or his disposition.

A common platform
The workshop turned out to be a welcome initiative for our studio members to get a chance to interact and know each other better. The division of work at an organisation is so versatile, that we often stay focused on our tasks. Whereas, creative platforms bring everyone on the same page in an informal and non-hierarchical way. The craft was equally new to everyone and we all shared the same sense of excitement and curiosity for it. It not only sensitised all of us to the craft but also to its place of origin and the craftspersons who know the skill. Shivani, a senior researcher at Lopez Design, says, “It was an exhilarating experience for all of us to sit together, away from our screens to do something that none of us were familiar with. We undoubtedly achieved the aim we had in mind for conducting the workshop”. Over and above learning the craft, interacting with Aniruddha ji was a fairly new experience for the team.

Back to our roots
“It’s always good to do something that takes you back to your childhood. The workshop was something that everybody could relate to irrespective of their age or job,” says Alishka Shah, a graphic design intern from NID at the studio. A designer can never forget the source from which her creative instincts sparked. Be it broken colour pencils or the spare parts of a remote control, ‘integrating’ is synonymous to design. At Lopez Design, the idea of collaboration, be it internal or external is an enduring practice. The monthly forum and weekend workshops enhance the functioning of creative minds, orienting the vision of every person in the organisation towards a common direction. Exploring multiple experiences through a common medium further sustains the vision of our studio practice.