The desire to go places is ‘a dream come true’ for most people, chiefly for a young boy from an unknown little city. Getting the right support from your near and dear ones is essential to cross the hurdles of life. My story is on comparable lines. Being from a family that is primarily in business, I had the financial support to make a trip from Dibrugarh (Assam) to Delhi for my higher studies after my matriculate exams.
During my high school studies in Delhi, I attended commercial art classes with a bunch of exceptionally talented people. Here I realized that my inclination towards ‘creating’ could lead to a professional career in a similar field. This led me to take up fashion design for my undergraduate studies. Though I was not in one of the city’s best colleges, nevertheless, it was a good learning experience for me. It gave me a better perspective about life and the field of creative studies, and helped me build my confidence to go ahead and apply for further studies.
The Mecca of design studies in India, the National Institute of Design (NID) was a dream come true for me. The Post Graduate Diploma Course in Lifestyle Accessory Design at NID gave me a wonderful opportunity to build myself into a designer. The curriculum of basic skill courses, material exploration, trends research, craft projects, a variety of workshops with well established design professionals, design projects dealing with people, space and system were very educative.
Needless to say there is learning at every stage of life, the urge to know more is my core strength. My biggest learning at NID has been to ‘empathize’; being able to connect with someone emotionally is the key to good creation.
After NID and a few freelance projects, it was a pure coincidence that I started assisting Rebecca Reubens with her book on bamboo for the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR). Rebecca is a designer who works in the areas of bamboo and sustainability through her design firm called Rhizome based in Ahmedabad. During the course of the book, the study, research and immense possibilities with the material helped me develop an inclination towards Bamboo. I was curious to do hands-on work using it as raw material. Ironically, even though I was born and brought up in the North East, I had never handled or worked with bamboo before this.
I believe that as designers we should realize that the call of the hour is to be able to retain the quality and essence of craft, and to make products using the diverse skills of craftsmen. Most crafts people work with a certain mind-set and use techniques which have been in existence for generations. They are terrifically skilled and have their own sense of aesthetics. However, their reluctance to change or diverge makes things difficult for them; I got an affirmation of this first hand during my visit to Ghana, West Africa, where I went to conduct a rattan workshop.
Working towards sustainable handcrafted products, using bamboo and other materials was a great learning. My multi- disciplinary work experience in the areas of lifestyle accessories, crafts, graphic design and many more had given me a wide perspective. This variety in work is motivating because it helps in breaking the boredom which designers tend to develop if they are involved with a specific task all the time.
After my stint away from home, it was time to shift back to my origin, i.e. Assam. Here, I got an opportunity to work as a design consultant for organizations such as Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE), Khadi Village and Industries Commission (KVIC), National Institute of Design (NID) and a few more. I conducted workshops in craft sectors like bamboo and jewellery in states of Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya.
These workshops made me realize that as a designer we need to identify with the crafts people, guide them and let them use their own skills and expertise and not reach a level of intervention where the crafts people just become manufacturers for the designers.
Along with working with various crafts, I have recently launched my own range of products with graphics inspired by the ‘traditions of Assam’ as my core inspiration. The whole idea is to take the rich culture and craft heritage of North Eastern India to the rest of the world.
The journey so far has been enthralling – with ups and downs, achievements and failures; its been an enormous learning curve, both on the personal front and professionally. Life has given me a lot of opportunities to explore and I hope it keeps knocking at my door, and if not, then I will work towards creating a few.