Vintage tie ‘n’ dye paper from 10 years ago

wrapping paper pattern1

This is a picture of the wrapping papers that I used to do once upon a time in Delhi. It was tie ‘n’ dye on paper, I did it with water and colors. After folding and submerging them in water the joy was in opening it and watching the design take shape through the complex merging of colors and shades. No two pieces were alike and I did not have control on the design or the spread of color within thepaper. I did get my hands dirty and it was like wearing jewellery with all that color on my hands.
Those were the days….when I made a shirt out of this tie ‘n’ dye paper to wear in a program called Style Police on Channel V and that was 10 years back.
These days I feel that in trying to be an entrepreneur, I have been losing that blatant creative streak!

The power of observation

The English dictionary meaning for observation- an act or instance of noticing or perceiving.

I believe in the power of observation as I have seen results. This word started to make real sense while I was visiting Milou Ket, a trend forecaster based in Amsterdam. While taking us around the city to various stores, places of interest, design galleries, etc. I noticed how keenly she went through the items/products on display. She would look at each product and explain minute details about them. Observation is key to new development and growth. The mind needs constant churning to produce results.

scrapbookpage1 One of the best examples that I can give you is of the picture on the left. This paper weave is inspired from the old chairs that were there at home while I was very young; a legacy of my grandfather. I was always intrigued with the patterns. The art is in being able to calculate how many strands to leave while you weave. Obviously now these chairs are history along with the artisans who did them. If you try and weave it with your hand, you will not be able to because there is a technique to do it…maybe I divulge it in one of my workshops! or should I keep it a trade secret? 

As I have no training in design, the only way for me to learn techniques is to observe from what is already there. Every Sunday I visit some mall in the vicinity looking for the latest trends and styles; with my hectic weekly schedule this seems to be the only time and way to do it.

For example: These days I see a lot of studs/rivets/brass fittings on products at stores like Diesel, The Collective, etc. I see it as a trend but the problem is that I have already been using these since the last 3-4 years, should I do more? I don’t  think so because this idea in particular is already done to death. I also notice Zippers being used in a variety of products, from bags to shirts, I don’t like the idea at the moment; lesson: think for yourself and do not always follow trends.

I have been toying with the idea of designing jewelry, I have invested in all the tools and relevant materials but I think the time is not right, so I will let the idea hibernate till I have a sure-shot saleable design in mind. You have to nurture an idea, water it like a plant and wait for it to bear fruit. Patience is the last thing I have, but I see myself changing; I spend an enormous amount of time and money in research and development, for example: while designing a new journal, I decided to test the strength of its binding, I opened and closed the journal more than a thousand times to test it – It did pass; many a times it does not. While speaking about jewelry, I try and observe the different kind of hooks that are being used in earrings, the different kinds of closures in necklaces, I need to get these right because the design can always come later, but the basics are far more important, if I get that wrong then I am starting on the wrong foot.

I wish I could travel more, there is so much to learn and absorb.

While travelling on a cycle rickshaw a few days back in chandni chowk, I noticed the wires overhead, they were unruly and haphazard, an idea struck me – everyone will see this idea take a shape and form very soon. The Journalmind needs to be trained to question the normal, if we don’t let our minds wander and explore, then we will have to be content with the normal and the mundane. One of the reasons why I have reached this far is because I had no formal training in design, therefore I learnt nothing and my mind was not trained to follow the norm. Every idea, material and technique that I see is always worth a try because you never know what may come of it. An example is a new material that I am using for my new range of journals. Nobody had used it therefore all were skeptical if it would work. I too could have let it go but I thought of giving it a try and the picture on the right is what’s coming soon.

A few unusual things that I have designed:

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Time Piece

This piece of art epitomizes the experimental part of me. The inspiration for this “timepiece” runs back to the time when I was a young boy and the wooden scale with its rudimentary appeal was a constant source of fascination; it was a multipurpose tool and also a toy. This timepiece is sold by invitation.dinnerinvite

 

A very old design that still outsells newer ones- Spice card.

While watching an english movie I noticed the design and style of a photo frame, the idea struck me and I adapted it to my range of stationery.

While going through a book I keenly look at the cover, binding, stitching, pockets, etc. The structure intrigues me more than the subject. Have you noticed covers of fiction bestsellers? many a times we buy the book for its cover, imagining the picture as the real story. Many books sell well because of the technique used on the cover, like embossing, foil print, de-bossing, etc.

Lots of times when I discuss an observation that I have made about a place, a thing or a person, my friends and family find it rather amusing or even absurd! what would you call that?

While I speak so much about observation; I must also emphasize the power of listening to other people. Sometimes the best ideas come from people who are unrelated to your work – they offer you a fresh perspective and that my friends turns out to be a million-dollar idea. It is dangerous to tell or show me something; because you never know what I would do with it.

Nature has so much to give us, if we only had time to stare! this reminds me of an old poem from school by William Henry Davies:

What is this life if, full of care,We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can, enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.

So here’s wishing everyone a year of happy observation!

Raavan – Movie Review

I am not a critic so why am I writing about Raavan – the movie? Isn’t this a blog about paper? well! Well! I loved the movie, not for its story or for its cast but for the breathtaking scenic locales, the costumes, the music, the picturisation; there is art written all over. Its the first time I went for a movie on the first day of its release; the question is why did I ? The poster of Raavan just pulled me to it, I consider myself very choosy when it comes to anything, the font and the unusual music just captivated me.

Read the complete review at www.myfotostory.com (My photo blog)

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Recycling since the year 1999

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Recycled

recycled symbolThese  days I come across a lot of stories on recycling, environment friendly products, sustainable businesses, etc. What a money spinner it has become. Its like adding another dimension to a product or maybe a good marketing opportunity and its definitely good for the future of humanity.

I have been using 100% recycled paper in all my work, by choice, since the year 1999. I made a conscious decision to stay with this choice as my upbringing in the hills of Mussoorie has made me realise the importance of nature. Now based in New Delhi, I pine for the hills, I miss the greenery, the weather, the streams and the low level of noise.

My tryst with recycled handmade paper

It was the year 1999, the time when I made-up my mind to follow my heart which was in art and design. I started with my favorite “chart paper” from school. While in college, one day a friend told me about handmade paper and its availability at the Khadi Gramudyog Bhawan paper 1(Connaught Place) New Delhi. I made my way there to find a wide variety of papers that I had never seen earlier. I was fascinated and I quickly bought a bunch to use. Experiment was the key word then as it was not my profession, I tried new designs and techniques(that I read in books). As I discovered more about the techniques, composition, ingredients, manufacturing processes and raw materials used in making them; I fell in love and instantly connected to it, maybe it was my love for nature! Since then I have remained in love with Handmade Paper. I think I should make use of words like “recycled, environmentally responsible and sustainable materials” in all my product descriptions and packaging as it is the new marketing mantra!

Design wise I believe in the power to create beautiful objects out of nothing. I started out by creating art from trash and moved on to finer things. My heart still lies there, I often look for ways and means to incorporate more eco-friendly materials and practices in my work. Nothing goes to waste at my unit, we save every inch of paper for future use. I started sourcing from dealers in Delhi and gradually as my work grew I got in touch with manufacturers directly, today I design my own paper and closely work with many of them across the country. My future plans are to start my own small scale unit to make exclusive and designer paper that we can use internally and also sell from boutique stores.

One needs the knack to first visually imagine a product keeping in mind the target group of customers, its end use, the value that it would bring and its USP. Since I did not have the opportunity of formal training, I look at a design, if it pleases the eye it is then sent for production. A product needs a USP, branding that stands out and creative packaging to be a best seller. At times the packaging is more expensive than the product itself, this happens when you are trying to create a product for the purpose of gifting. I also need to keep the price right as every individual has a limit or threshold to what they can spend for a certain product. I do not want my work to be elitist therefore I always have certain products that are priced much below than what they usually should be. Passion always comes before profitability.

The Paper

Handmade paper is a layer of entwined fibres held together by the natural internal bonding properties of cellulose fibres. The beauty of this paper lies in its texture, composition and making. In India the main raw material is cotton rags sourced from paper2textile units in cities like Trichy, etc. Cotton fibre bonds well to form paper. A variety of raw materials are added to give it texture, colour and smell. For example, jute, mica, straw, banana fibre, metallic yarn, spices, newspaper cuttings, cow dung, silk, a multitude of natural fibres, flowers, leaves, tree moss, potatoes, old ropes, canvas, linen, etc. In fact, anything can be used as long as it has fibres capable of forming a continuous sheet. Handmade paper by its character shall always have minor variation in shade, thickness and density of embellishments in each lot.

Handmade paper is very strong and cloth like as it contains recycled cotton fibres; I primarily use this. There is also a variety of handmade paper that is made from recycling trash paper from offices, homes, etc. Generally paper can be recycled 4-5 times and after this the fibers become too weak to bond and form paper. Handmade paper manufacturing is scattered across the length and breadth of the country. Each region has its specialty, someone is making papers from waste jute and later on pressing silk fibres onto them, Some coat these papers with metallic paint to give it sheen, some are using local grasses and shrubs to create paper, some use mulberry, etc. The list is endless. In Nepal the locals use the lokta plant to create a very distinct and successful paper. In Thailand, the mulberry plant is used in abundance. I have always admired the Thais and the Nepalese for the way they have marketed their distinct papers globally and created a very profitable business for themselves. India still is way behind due to a lot of factors, even though the diversity and local factors are in our favor, we have failed to become a global player. Obviously comparing ourselves to Nepal and Thailand will show us to be a larger player but the business in terms of design and reach, we are still way behind. Khadi and Village Industries(a government institution) is trying its best to promote handmade paper and doling out subsidies and a variety of schemes to help in its growth, these hardly reach the right people.

Today a hub like Kalpi(in Uttar Pradesh) is reeling under low demand because they have not cared to innovate, making the same thing for years and years will definitely have an adverse effect on the demand. The customer demands new designs and products and its the survival of the fittest. I have been in this field for 10 years now and my growth trajectory has been ever rising only due to the fact that my products are "different" and they have made a market for themselves. Today Anand Prakash is a brand. Coming back to Kalpi, this place has over 100 factories making the same old handmade paper, there are exceptions too. The major supply was to Chawri Bazaar in New Delhi, the hub for paper and wedding cards. It is said that four trucks of paper arrived daily from Kalpi to be used in wedding cards. The paper itself was made from the cheapest raw material that could be found and then given a metallic coating, the paper looked beautiful from the outside even though the material inside was rotten. A wedding card there can be bought for a measly sum of Rs2. Today the chawri bazaar merchants have found a cheaper recycled paper from abroad; they are coating them with metallic paints and making good money. Due to this atleast 25-30 factories in Kalpi have shut down and many more are on the verge of closure. A lot of these manufacturers are scouting the country trying to find new markets and even offering a credit period of 12 months! Thats the story!

Jaipur has always been known for its good quality papers, the cotton rags used are of the best quality. Many say paper-making in India was started by the kagzis here. Today they have made good businesses out of it. Jaipur has one of the highest exports of handmade paper from India. Most of the times the innovations that happen in our industry is due to the demands or designs of the overseas customer. Products are designed there and handmade in India. Lately there has been a new crop of indigenous designers doing good work. Lets hope this catches on into a larger movement. A lot of designers are getting experimental, this eventually pays in the long-run even though being unfeasible in the short-run. Perseverance pays.

A few of the beautiful papers that I use:

Handmade Paper Handmade Paper2 Handmade paper3 Handmade Paper5

Handmade Paper6 Handmade Paper4 waterhyacinthpaper Spice Paper

1:A very fine paper with straw and banana fibre sandwiched between two layers. 2:Paper with raised pulp on cloth. 3:Paper with blocks sprinkled with tea leaves. 4:Paper with long fibre sandwiched between pulp. 5:Paper with real wood shavings pulped and held onto a cloth. 6:Paper with dense coir held together with pulp. 7:Water Hyacinth Paper. 8:Spice paper comprising of cardamom, bay-leaf & cinnamon.

Paper Making

The main raw materials used in handmade paper making are cotton rags and waste paper which are rich in cellulose – an essential ingredient for paper making.

Handmade paper production has low capital investment, thereby promoting local entrepreneurship; it can be established in decentralised and rural areas; it generates more local employment and it is an environmentally sound technology, depleting less resources and causing less pollution.

Sorting & Dusting: The cotton rag (raw material) is sorted by hand to remove unwanted  materials, variation in color and dust.

Rag Chopping: The sorted material is chopped into small uniform sized pieces for making the pulp.

Beating: The raw material is mixed with water and inert chemicals and beaten in a Hollander Beater. This is a U-shaped trough, with a drum, on the outer side of which are iron blades that cut the raw material to make pulp. There is also a washing drum which cleans the pulp and removes the dirty water. The quality of the paper to be made determines the consistency of the pulp.

Sheet Formation
Option 1 Dipping(for thin/fine paper): The pulp is diluted with water and put into a masonry trough or vat. The lifting mould is then dipped into the trough, shaken evenly and lifted out with the pulp on it.

Option 2 Lifting: A fixed measure of pulp is poured evenly onto a mould, which is clamped between two wooden deckles (frames) in a water tank. The mould is then raised mechanically to drain excess water.

Couching: The wet paper is transferred on a cloth/felt sheet, building up a stack of interleaved sheets.

Pressing: A hydraulic press is used to squeeze out excess water from the sheets. This improves the physical properties of the paper and facilitates drying.

Drying: The sheets are hang dried to remove moisture.

Cleaning & Sizing: Small dirt particles are removed manually with pincers. The cleaned sheets are coated with starch to further improve the physical properties of the paper.

Calendaring: The sheets are placed between metallic plates and passed  through spring loaded rollers in a calendaring machine. This smoothens them and enhances the gloss. This process is also used to get different surface textures.

Cutting: The sheet till this point has the natural deckle edge. To make the paper workable it is cut in standard size of 22"x30" and then packed for delivery.

Handmade Paper Manufacture (2) Handmade Paper Manufacture (3) Handmade Paper Manufacture (4) Handmade Paper Manufacture (5)

Handmade Paper Manufacture (6) Handmade Paper Manufacture (7) Handmade Paper Manufacture (8) Handmade Paper Manufacture (9)

Handmade Paper Manufacture (10) Handmade Paper Manufacture (11) Handmade Paper Manufacture (12) Handmade Paper Manufacture (13)

(The above pictures of the manufacturing process were randomly picked up from the world wide web)

Useful  Links:

An amazing paper quilling artist

Sometimes we come across beautiful work that makes us pause for a while. The work of Yulia Brodskaya is truly something that everyone ought to see.Her website is : http://www.artyulia.com/index.php/Illustration

Some of her work:

she is an example of how a simple art form like paper quilling can be turned into a rewarding profession.

Starbucks-instant

Clever use of materials by an NGO

The other day I was in Dilli Haat and I came across this NGO called Prabhat. They were selling products like file folders, mats, stationery, etc made from recycled music cassette tape/film/reel. I must say this is one of the cleverest recycled products that I have seen lately. The reel/tape was woven with jute to create this unique fabric that has been used to make a variety of products.

This country never fails to amaze me, It has so much of talent waiting at the sidelines.

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The great Diwali gifting sham

How many of you have received a gift which tastes bland and looks like its ages old?

Welcome to the great Indian gifting tamasha which is unfolding to packed crowds this Diwali season. I from an insiders point of view have observed it from the sidelines since I am very much a part of the gifting game.

Chocolates & Edibles:

Every nook and corner of the city has budding chocolate makers who have freshly learnt the art and now profess to be the best in town. What standards do we have in these zillions of chocolates being churned out? We are not talking about the high end chocolatiers in the market as their prices command the premium segment but the level below it. Has anyone even thought about the standards of foil, adhesives used in the box, storage conditions, quality of ingredients, etc. When you get a box of chocolates do open them and peep inside the glitzy foil to check if its even edible after all the passing around. You will see grocery shops out with slickly packed hampers, cookies,etc. Do check the expiry date as lots of them are remnants of the previous year. Sweets, now that’s something which has been written a lot about, the foil or “varq” used on them have been hammered between layers of animal intestine, if you don’t believe me then you can check that out in Old Delhi.

After every Diwali it is a common sight to see maids, sweepers and class four employees going from home to home with a huge collection of rubbish; I mean gifts of which no one has any use. It reminds me of the Cadbury add “Tohfa, Tohfa”. Now now guys nobody is paying me to badmouth, its just such a waste. I sometimes feel like collecting all the trash and making some beautiful products. I wish I had the time. My work is becoming more of a business now and I need to change that. Speaking about trash, let me share a wonderful product with you:One day paper waste - sidetable

One day paper waste – sidetable by Jens Praet

Reacting to document waste, Jens Praet took shredded confidential documents, mixed them with resin and compressed them into a strong MDF mould. This way the office waste can be brought back into the office as a useful piece of furniture.

Gifting is no longer enjoyable but a necessary evil for many. We have drivers ferrying gifts across the city and adding to the chaotic traffic. People go to shops and just look for the cheapest gift without even a cursory glance as to what’s in them. Truck loads are bought without pondering over their use to the recipient. Companies have budgets and categories, the higher ones will have wines, teas, silver ware, crystal, etc and the lower ones will have beer mugs, candles and the lowly street side chocolate, dryfruit or chikki. That’s how it is. Some times our packaging is better and expensive than the gift itself. What a mockery. This year Chinese gifts rule the roost in the wholesale markets. The glitzy electronics will peter out in a few months, but who the hell cares; the purpose was solved – a large gift and you have a happy employee.

But there is also a kind who spend time and effort in choosing the gifts and the packaging. You cannot even imagine the kind of personalisation that we do. We have this gentlemen who starts working on his gifts three months in advance and it takes umpteen meetings to zero on the right gift. I never mind it as I like people who are passionate and have an eye for detail. Every year his gifts are the talk of the town and I personally can vouch for that as I do the packaging. Some people don’t like the mundane hence go for gifts containing books, exotic teas sourced from Assam, Darjeeling and the Nilgiris, etc.

You must be wondering what I have done about gifting this season…

My idea was to personalise a set of note cards with the recipients name along with a nice lamp or candle but as we were busy packaging gifts for everyone else, I had to shelve the plans. I can always do it around Christmas/New years! So much about being righteous, guess i too have joined the rat race.

L’OCCITANE – En Provence

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I just love everything about L’OCCITANE, their products, their packaging, their stores and their social responsibility. I was amazed to see Braille being used on all their packaging – that’s what I call intelligent design. The complete product range has an earthy Mediterranean look and feel and the stuff is just too good to write about. Try their verbena range I am sure you will be hooked for life.

L'OCCITANE Paper BagThe inside lining of their paper bags have “Thank You” printed on them. These little things add value to a brand. When a company spends time and thought at small things like these, then their products definitely have gone through a lot of research and refinement. This is the way to strong brand recall and loyalty. In today’s world there is stiff competition in every field and small things like these make a company stand out from the rest.

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Braille on their packaging. (Click on the image for a larger view)

 

(Click here for a virtual view of their boutique)

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