Kerala Sutra - A Collection Of Inimitable Lights
Insite|October 2016

Kerala Sutra is an endeavour to involve the community and revive their traditions. The key theme of this design project has been to re-discover, re-interpret and represent traditional objects & craft practices of Kerala to create unique pieces of both function and art, linked through a common thread, of being a light source. Discover this journey of illumination.

Sahil & Sarthak Sahil Bagga

Kerala Sutra Collection for Mango Tree Craft & Design, a Somany initiative, designed by Sahil & Sarthak is a pioneer project where indigenous craft skills blend with industry innovations to bring India’s craft tradition to the forefront, through design. The craft skills from Kerala form an integral part of this exhibition. Kerala was established as an international trading post for exotic spices early in history. The resulting cultural exchange offered a cradle for a wide range of craft practices in this region.

Designers, Sahil Bagga & Sarthak Sengupta, along with Anjana Somany, Head of Design & Development, Schablona India Ltd, celebrate the creation of unparalleled light installations, a cohesion of hand- skills and a multi-layering of varied materials. Somany Ceramics and Sahil & Sarthak bring to this project their advanced capabilities in the translation of design and a trademark design model of sensitivity to create contemporary products and furniture using or re- contextualising crafts respectively. Design installations so conceived were to present the synergy between the use of craft and their in-house products such as ceramic, vitrified tiles and tile technology. The intention was to place their products in art & design spaces, to break away from the taboo of ceramic tiles that they have limited use in either in kitchens or bathrooms.

In the primary stage of the project, the Sahil & Sarthak team studied and documented every process that takes place in the Somany Factory. An analysis of the overall findings helped them shortlist possible materials, surface finishes, textures, colour combinations, surface development techniques that could juxtapose with crafts. Since the Sahil & Sarthak team was already exploring the craft and culture of Kerala, it became the indisputable inspiration state for the project.

An intensive process of research followed this selection of the project epicentre, where the team visited, the length and breadth of Kerala, diverse clusters of Kerala and artisans. This process led to collaboration with not only well-documented craftsmen, but also obscure artisans whose skills are yet to be exposed beyond their local markets for instance the artisan who fabricates the attire of Theyyam dancers.

The team collaborated with artisans who work with a diverse range of materials such as brass metal, bell metal, Aranmula mirrors, fabricators of the attires of Kathakali and Theyyam dancers; as well as Temple artisans. The following documentation and finalisation of their age-old and traditional materials led to the re-contextualisation and the juxtaposition of the research with in-house technology available at the Somany factory. Catalogued below are the conscientiously crafted installations of the Kerala Sutra Lighting Collection.

Metal Casting And Sheet Cutting

Metal casting processes have been known for thousands of years, and widely used for making weapons, tools, jewellery and sculptures. The bell metal centers of Kerala are famous for their casting skills and date back to several centuries. A form of bronze, it is an alloy that contains approximately a 4:1 ratio of copper to tin. This unique metal provides a good medium for the craftsmen to make both religious artefacts, domestic utensils and most popularly bells, typified by its sonorous quality when struck.

The designers have re-contextualised typical forms of Kerala utensils into light installations juxtaposed with traditional architectural inspiration. The Uruli, a shallow cooking vessel typical of Kerala, and the Achapam, a thick flower shaped brass mould for making sweets, provide the shape references for the freestanding brass Uruli Lamps and the Achapam Chandelier respectively. The Kindli lamp reimagined as a pendant lamp as evolved from a rudimentary jug, typical to religious and wellness rituals. Therapeutic lemon grass leaves are transformed into brass cut outdoor light fittings. The Vasantham lamp is an ensemble of copper leaves, Achapams, leather puppets and Phu-kolam inspired mosaic bench complimenting the ceiling form. The Copper Market Lamps installation with stacks of utensils draw inspiration from a copper market, where space constraint orders stacking according to form.

Leather Shadow Puppets

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