Meet The Maker: Sahaj Ghose, Leather Craft Artist – The Bicyclist, Delhi

Today on the blog, we feature Sahaj Ghose, leather craft artist, designer and founder of The Bicyclist – a slow design studio for handcrafted leather goods. The featured artist, showcased his works and has conducted a series of leather craft workshops at @byhandfromtheheart makers market edition in Coimbatore.

Hello, tell us all a bit about yourself.

I have always liked working with my hands, since I was a kid I have been building, with paper, and sticks, and wood.  When it was time for selecting my course of higher education, product design in some ways always kept that eagerness to work with hands alive through model making. Through my experience in college, I started looking at objects with new light. I could connect the object with not only its purpose and function but also as a story. I liked the nature of interaction that builds around objects. They could be conversation starters or even bring out a pleasant feeling or a memory when we looked at it. Eventually design became a way to connect to a larger picture.

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About your venture. When and what inspired you to start your business?

I fell in love with leather. My affair with this material started with shoes, a beautiful pair of brown high ankle leather boots. I got them from one of the many street-side shops of the infamous ‘Chor Bazaar’ near Red Fort, in Delhi. There she was scattered among a pile of leather sandals, oxford’s, derbies and loafers. For some reason, I just had to wear them. After all these years the wrinkles of use have creased her face but she still looks beautiful. Leather again tickled my curiosity, a few years later in one of my trips to the mountains, I found an ill-finished camel-leather backpack and the next two years I used it to its limits, but through all the rough use I started appreciating the functional purpose leather serves in bags. I used it every day (holiday adventures included), and I could see how it had responded to my use. The material kind of came alive then, because it had evolved. Leather somehow made sense and I have explored this material ever since.

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How did you learn the craft?

I learnt leather craft by myself. Mostly online tutorials and watching the craftsmen work, through observation and practice. There has been a lot of trial and error in this process and many frustrating moments. But I guess the only way you learn is by doing.  It’s been four years since I started working with this material and I am still learning new techniques and trying to perfect them everyday and every time I work on it. There are just so many amazing things that can be done with this leather that I don’t think I am ever going to stop.

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Your production is mostly hand done. Why do you choose this approach?

The process of hand making objects is a slow process, however it also becomes an expression of the love and passion of a craftsman. These expressions can be found in the details of a handmade object. Objects made by machines are just soulless.

In the world we live in today where instant gratification and ever changing desires is the norm. I feel there needs to be a constant, something real and something made with love that you can fall in love with as well. With objects that get discarded, it becomes impossible to do so. There is always going to be the next best thing that craves to be bought, forgetting about the ones you already have.

The journey of a crafted object does not end with the craftsman. Its final chapter is written by the owner. For a second look away from this screen to the things that surround you. How many of them do you see are going to be with you in the next five or ten years? Some might be discarded in a few months. But the ones that hang around become a little more precious. With every patch and repair, a sticker and a mark, the care and time you have shared with the object, makes it a part of you.

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A bit about your studio & work space.

I live and work out of my studio in Delhi. I have been living here for the past 6 years now and I love staying here. The best part about this place are the large glass windows that look out onto the balcony and overlook into the garden right in front of me. I have been very lucky to get this place. It’s tiny but it’s perfect for me. A bubble where I can be whoever I wish to be and do whatever I want to. Another part of the place I love is the floor. A big single polished but completely bare cemented floor with no decorations or patterns but over time there are these tiny random cracks that have appeared in between. These random cracks are imperfect and so beautiful.

The story behind your label name,’The Bicyclist’. 

The bicycle through its construction is honest about what it is, and how it functions, it does not hide its working, but through the precision of its construction and assembly celebrates it, which defines its form and what it stands for.

The bicycle is a mode, being The Bicyclist is a choice.
Why not show the beauty of what is than what it is not.

What’s the most challenging part of making your products?

Making is never a problem, selling is. I have always loved making but I have never really understood how to sell. I am learning, but like everything else it’s a slow process. And I have just started.

What is the best thing about being a maker designer in India?

You can get really close to the master craftsmen and learn from them. In my experience it’s the easiest way to learn a craft. In India there are so many people ready to help you out, only if you ask the right questions. If you don’t have anything to ask, be humble and just observe. Even eavesdropping on a conversation at a tea stall near a workshop area can give you so much information.

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Your favourite tool and technique

All tools are important and all techniques are precious. I cant choose. Each of the tools was a mystery till I worked and learnt about working with it and taking care of it. Every technique started with an experiment till I was able to do it better.

Why is making important? How does creating make you feel?

Making gives me a sense of satisfaction and confidence. I know what I have made is tangible and real. I know how the object came to be, step by step, from the very beginning. It’s the only thing I loved doing as I had mentioned earlier. I don’t think I would ever stop making things.

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We love all your works; do you have a favourite pick? And why?

Thank you for that, and it’s a tough pick. I honestly can’t say because how do I make the choice? Each of my designs are an expression of my feelings so they all hold value based on their form. I could tell you which one is a favourite among my clients but that wouldn’t be fair to the other designs.

Who or what influences your work? Do you have a favourite maker artist?

My experiences. Along with the feelings and emotions that are associated with it mostly influence the form of my work. Looking at other craftsmen and artist work inspires me to have better detail in my work and craft with more patience and perseverance. I especially get inspired by potters, weavers, miniaturist painters and sculptures. I have many favourite artists and creators, the list is long and ever growing.

The music you listen to. Share with us your favorites on your playlist.

Where do you see your label taking you?

That’s a question I ask myself as well and I am not sure. What I do know is that I would like to keep working with craftsmen and as a craftsman. In the near future, have a studio space where we can all live and work together, side by side. I have no idea practically how I am going to make it happen. But I do know that’s what I would like to live like someday.

The Bicyclist x By Hand from the Heart. Your experience. 

By Hand From the Heart has been an angel in disguise. It helped me in so many ways than just having a space to exhibit my craft. The first workshop I ever did was facilitated and encouraged by them. They have always been so helpful and encouraging even after the event they keep helping me by spreading the sharing my work and passion with people. As a creator it means a lot when someone trusts you and loves your craft as much as you do.



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