Monday, December 5, 2011

This is what I learnt in India

Community: In the Northern city of Amritsar, the beautiful Golden Temple of the Sikhs is to be found. The Temple is open to a constant stream of pilgrims, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sikhs from all over the world volunteer at the temple at least once in their lives, doing day-to-day tasks such as washing the mounds of dishes, cleaning, peeling onions or serving the pilgrims in the dining hall. A filling meal consisting of freshly baked rotis, dhal and chai is available at any time of the day and night. The sight of such a mass of people, gathered for the same purpose, peacefully eating and chatting together, made me understand what community should be.

Craft: These are the textile items I bought in India. The patterns were created using the ancient tradition of blockprinting, using intricately carved wooden blocks such as the one on the left. This craft is mainly centered in and around the city of Jaipur. I loved it that upmarket city chain stores such as Fabindia and Anokhi supported rural crafters, not only by buying hand-crafted merchandize from them, but also in helping them to set up and run small businesses. Fashion designers collaborate with the crafters to create items that would appeal to a modern market. The use of a Craftmark ensures true appreciation for and loyalty to local craft and crafters.

Calm: These 11 simple items are the worldly remains of Mahatma Gandhi. They are exhibited at the Gandhi Smriti in New Delhi, the residence where he was assassinated in 1948. This home is now a museum commemorating Gandhis life and final hours. The idea that the man who changed a country and the lives of so many people, could do this with such few material possessions, instilled in me a sense of calm. I realized that I don’t have to frenetically acquire things in order to live a worthy life.

This floral pattern is carved in relief on the marble dado level at the Taj Mahal in Agra, known as the most beautiful building in the world. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it in honour of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. About 20 000 workers laboured for 22 years to complete this exquisitely detailed garden tomb. The emperor kept on spending time and effort on the complex, so much so, that his son locked him up in a palace to stop him. This is where he died, in a room with a view on the Taj Mahal from across the river.

Compromise: I used auto-rickshaws (referred to as ‘autos’) to get to and from work every day. The autos cruise the streets, congregate at markets, and are equipped with meters. I was advised to be firm with the auto drivers; to insist on them using the meter and to drive safely in traffic. Therefore my first trips were accompanied by heated English/Hindi arguments which I always seemed to lose. To avoid insanity, I decided to compromise; to sit back and shut my eyes, and to not expect any form of consistency. I realized that every trip seemed to reflect the personality of the drive.

Hey Audrey!

I recently exhibited a series of posters describing five important things I learnt in India. I fell in love with the typeface I used; Cochin. I especially love the italic version.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Closet conversion

Hey Audrey!

I can't possibly fit all my beloved clothes into my wardrobes, so half of them live in old suitcases under my bed. Twice a year with the changing of the seasons, Venus and I change the clothes around as well, summer into cupboard, winter into suitcases and vice versa. We have lots of fun doing it, rediscovering all the lovely pieces we had forgotten about.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I love hand-painted type

Hey Audrey!

I love hand painted type and signs! I think it is a skilled art. And so does Hanif Kureshi, typography fundi and art director at W+K Delhi. He started a project where him and his team digitize the typograpy of Indian hand typographers, in order to preserve and support their art. You can read more about the exact process and specific artists on his website. What an awesome project to create and nurture Hanif!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Motherland, where work is worse

The entrance of W+K New Delhi.

Hey Audrey!

I visited the Delhi branch of world-renowned agency W+K. In their entrance they have a very striking mantra "Work is Worship", made entirely out of pencils. While I was contemplating this impressive piece I realized that I could never work at W+K, as I really don't believe work is worship. I think a Cinema Nouveau film is worship, or a pedicure, or a yoga class, but work.... work is worse. And I think most people in India would agree with me. But any way, I met with Dan Berkowitz, an art director who recently moved from South Africa to Delhi and who is now a creative director at W+K. He loves the mix of smells in Delhi. He explains that driving around on his moped, he can go from sniffing sewerage to frangipani back to sewerage to cinnamon in just seconds. He also gave me some copies of Motherland, a cool magazine that W+K Delhi publish. It contains stunning photography, and excellent lay-outs, but unlike most trendy designery magazines also has well researched and written articles about contemporary Indian issues. I really enjoyed the in-depth article on the role that astrology plays in Indian Society. How interesting that one could even get a Masters degree in astrology here. See, if I had been working, I would never have read that!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Avasara Academy

Mauve and sage, or lilac? And for the background: step and repeat lotus patterns, a soft photo, or big transparent lotus leaves?
Design of a different page.

My favourite version: add a bit of spicy energetic red!

The red colour scheme applied to another page.

Hey Audrey!

Whilst I was working at Ishan Khosla Design in New Delhi, I was asked to contribute to the design of the Avasara Academy website. Avasara Academy is situated in a tranquil valley outside Pune, and is a secondary school where exceptional young women are able to reach their full potential. The client really liked the website design of the African Leadership Academy, and wanted something similar. As you can see we investigated many colour schemes and background patterns, and the final result can be seen here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Movember silliness

Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire during the filming of 'Funny Face' (1957).

Hey Audrey!

I am surrounded by maverick moustaches, which will hopefully only last another day or two. Good to know that you had your moment with them too.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Crafty work

Hey Audrey!

I wanted to show you some of the work I did whilst working at Ishan Khosla Design in New Delhi. We were briefed to design a logo for Sangam, a three year program focusing on design collaboration between India and Australia. The intriguing part of the brief was that the logo had to be traditionally handcrafted by one of the artisans participating in the Kala Raksha project. We started off by doing in-depth research into all the types of traditional handicraft and embroidery used in the Kutch district. The logos ended up being very detailed, and it was a challenge to imagine that every shape I drew in Illustrator would end up being stitched. Unfortunately I wasn't in India long enough to travel to the Kutch district to see my logo design being hand crafted, but Ishan documented the whole process on his blog. I love the end result on the Sangam website!

Initial designs using patchwork

These logos were presented as alternative options to the Sangam client. I included a reference to a specific artisans work that I had based that design on.

A screen shot of my Illustrator file showing the detail of the design.

Stages of crafting the final logo. The shapes had to emulate the Rabari embroidery stitching, but the letters still had to stand out.

This was the design that we worked with. Getting the first three letters right took me about a week!

The final logo implemented on the website. The colours I used initially were tweaked to be more "Australian."

Friday, October 21, 2011

The street where I lived

Hey Audrey!

A whole three months later, I am showing you the last photo I took in New Delhi, just before getting into a taxi to go to the airport. Those are our street cows, showing me their bums because they don't care that I am going home. And there is the gentleman that spends his days sweeping rubbish onto heaps just for the wind to blow it all over again. He lived in a little hut in an alley, I honestly don't know how he slept in there. One night he nearly spat on me. He didn't hear me coming down the alley, but fortunately he cleared his throat before spitting, so I waited for the fluid projectile to fly past before walking on.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Un mignon frock

Hey Audrey!

I know I haven't chatted to you in a while, but today I am excited enough to want to share this with you. My friend Carol gave me the cutest dress! It is all gingham, mini box-pleated cuteness. To add to the coolness, she found it in a vintage store in France. I love clothes, I love getting clothes, and if a favourite piece is always linked to a dear friend or family member, I love it even more. Happy Friday to you too Audrey!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sari's and deers amongst the ruins

Haus Khaz Village from across the lake.

Sunset from the office window. Photo: Nikhil Nair.

Photo: Nikhil Nair.

Photo: Nikhil Nair.

Hey Audrey!

I think you would really like Haus Khaz Village in  New Delhi. It is a trendy market, with lots of boutiques, art galleries, good restaurants and of course the offices of Ishan Khosla design,  set next to medieval ruins, constructed by Feroze Shah Tughlaq in 1352. And the park teams with deers ( I know how you loved your pet deer) and peacocks. How I'm going to miss  being in this special place, Audrey!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


The space where Gandhi had his last meeting before he was assassinated on his way to prayers. He lived as simply and unencumbered as possible.

Imagine: this is all he left behind in material things, yet his legacy has been infinite.

He was a prolific writer, these are a few of the books he wrote.

Khadi items are hand-made and sold at Gandhi Smitri.

Hey Audrey!

Audrey, I know that you were also a great campaigner for human rights, and liked to help people in need, for example in the work you did for Unicef. So, I'm sure you'll agree with me that Mahatma Ghandi was an insanely cool person.  I visited the Ghandi Smitri in New Delhi, the house where he lived the last days of his life and where he was assassinated in 1948. Here I learnt how strongly he believed in non-violence, in truth, in religious tolerance and economic self-reliance. He used methods of non-violent civil obedience to lead India to independance from British rule.  He was a vegetarian and only wore khadi clothing. This is clothing made from hand spun and hand woven cloth. He believed supporting this trade would uplift the poor, many of whose livelihood depended on spinning and weaving. He said: "Economics that hurt the moral well-being of an individual or a nation are immoral and therefore sinful. Thus the economics that permit one country to prey upon another are immoral. It is sinful to buy and use articles made by sweated labour. It is sinful to eat American wheat and let my neighbour the grain-dealer starve for want of custom." Wise words, but not easy to live by. It's easier to forget that one had ever heard them.