By Hand From The Heart is a curated makers market event in Chennai, South India. UPCOMING EVENT: 24th – 25th, AUGUST, CROWNE PLAZA, CHENNAI
A bit about yourself.
This is probably the toughest question. I’m Amrita Giriraj, 24 years old, graduated in business and craft design from Bangalore and have an undergraduate background in Visual Arts from Stella Maris College, Chennai. For the most part of my design education, the one thing that was constantly drilled into my head was “designs don’t come from your head, they come from what you see around you. Design is nature. Nature is design. Its everywhere.” I love cats and birds, collect seashells, feathers, insects and dry leaves.
Why is making important to you?
In an age where everything is mass produce, very few things look and feel different. And almost always, the ones that look and feel different are handmade. While mass production is beneficial in many aspects, I believe a human touch to anything is important. What will a world with machines be like? Not too good.
What was the first thing you remember making?
When I was around 7 yrs old, I used to play with Barbie dolls. The clothes that used to come with the products were ghastly in my honest opinion. So I used to tear up old curtains and any kind of waste cloth from my mother’s sewing kit and make little dresses for the dolls. My mother used to stitch all our clothes so there was never a shortage of fabric in the house.
How do you get around creative blocks?
It’s a nightmare when my mind does not work. Its like having a brick thrown at you every time a remotely good idea comes to your head. I never really devised a way to get past it as such, but what I generally do is first get extremely frustrated because the ideas aren’t flowing, then feel depressed, then wonder why its happening. By then somehow I’m past the tipping point, so the ideas start flowing into my mind one by one. This is the process, not one I devised but one that occurs.
What’s your most challenging work so far.
In college, I had a course in surface patterns. We were asked to abstract certain objects from nature. To break down the object to its most basic essence. I struggled SO much! It was the most challenging course by fat and it really made me feel out of place. I don’t think I cracked the brief but what I took away from it was experience and knowledge that abstraction is a process and could lead to designs.
Tell us about your proposed showcase at the By Hand, From The Heart?
At this edition, I will be displaying my latest collection – Roślina, which is a collection of petrified ferns, fronds, petals, flowers, leaves, pollen grains, stems, stamens, sand, roots and buds turned into wearable jewellery. The technique used will petrify the object and freeze it space and time. The petrified object will not change colour and will stay the way it is, eternally.
The objects used in the jewellery are rejects from florists, gardens, horticulture centers and the ones that are found on the ground. The aim and central goal was to preserve something that would decay in time, something that we may overlook in our everyday rush and something that will last for a long time to come.
What is currently inspiring you?
The wastage in florist kiosks, landscapers, corporations cutting down trees and shrubs, debris from the recent floods in Chennai, are all things that make me edgy. This in turn inspired me to find a way to preserve a bit of nature.
What is life away from your VYA like?
I hail from generations of entrepreneurs. So it was natural for me to want to do something on my own. But I was not sure if I was ready to take on something as huge as building my own empire. So to learn and gain experience I work part time as a junior merchandizer at a silk export company.
You have participated in an earlier edition of By Hand From The Heart; what was the BHFTH experience and what have you observed ?
I believe I can safely say that the previous edition was a turning point. The number of women entrepreneurs I met, gave me the courage to push forward into a realm I was too afraid to enter prior to the event. The people who visited the event were the kinds that appreciate hand made products. They are the patrons who believe that hand crafted products will always stand apart. They saw what I wished for people to see. There were people who placed orders and paid in full. That kind of trust isn’t something I come across everyday. Not a single person bargained because they saw value.
About Chennai & the Chennai audience. What advice would you give other makers to explore Chennai?
Chennai is , I believe, a culminating point for all south Indian crafts. You’ll find everything from woodwork to weaving! There is so much we can learn from our own craft traditions. whether it is to learn a craft, fuse 2 different styles, give a traditional craft a contemporary take or anything at all, the craft that prevails here can adapt to anything. There is much we can learn from it. The audience also has learned to love crafts and understand its value. This is evident from the number of craft exhibitions that pop up so often.
What’s up next for you?
I plan to continue doing what I believe in. 2016 is going to be a year full of building and supporting micro-enterprises, which is exactly how Vya started. I want to go back to my roots because a tree without roots is a piece of wood, there is no scope for growth.
My next series will tentatively focus on animals. It will take shape by March or May, until then, I will continue to encourage people to not overlook the little things in nature through Roślina.