Nipa Doshi - Charpoys

This month's Issue of I.D. Magazine, published a cover story on two designers that have created a handmade modern take on daybeds, or Charpoys (Hindi for "four legs"). There is a nostalgia in the rest of the world for handmade goods as you can see from the article below. Check out the pricing as well.

Modern India has been on the verge of displacing handmade goods with new manufacturing techniques. Artisans of the past are disappearing and handmade goods can fetch a premium. With design companies preserving hand made goods, hopefully artisans can receive a decent living in India.

Although the building that houses the Milan Furniture Fair sprawls over 7.5 million square feet, one corner of one stand—belonging to the Italian manufacturer Morosoattracted a disproportionate amount of attention this year. Peering through the clusters of visitors, one found neither bonbons nor complimentary iPods nor Marcel Wanders's girlfriend swinging from a chandelier in the nude (yet again). Instead, there were daybeds and large floor cushions in brilliantly colored fabrics with quirky embroidery and applique.

The crowds couldn't keep their hands off. "They were hugging the cushions!" exclaims Nipa Doshi, 35, who designed the pieces with her partner, Jonathan Levien, 34, of the rising London-based studio Doshi Levien. The daybeds, or Charpoys (Hindi for "four legs"), featured a mattress of cotton and silk embroidered with a checkered game board. The cushions, called Tools for Inspiration, were decorated with self-referential motifs: One depicted the instruments, such as chalk and hand-forged scissors, used by the textile workers who made them; others showed objects from the designers' own studio, including a computer fan, Italian staplers, and Tord Boontje's TransGlass vases made of recycled bottles.

"I knew the project was interesting," says Patrizia Moroso, the company's creative director, on the phone from Udine, Italy, "but I didn't expect this response." Once the fair was over, the grubby prototypes were marched to the cleaners to get rid of all the handprints. The pieces were installed in Moroso's New York showroom, where the Charpoys were selling for $4,100 and the custom-made cushions for considerably more. They were also displayed in the Great Hall of the city's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum this past summer, the first in a series of "Quicktake" exhibitions featuring innovative products before they are widely known. "The tactility, beauty, and lightheartedness were welcome refuges," says the Cooper-Hewitt's deputy curatorial director, Matilda McQuaid, explaining why, among the Milan fair's vast bounty, she and chief curator Cara McCarty picked Doshi Levien's designs to inaugurate the series.

Doshi Levien have worked as a team since 2000. They met at London's Royal College of Art, where both studied product design, graduating in 1997. Together, they have created any number of credible goods—cutlery for Habitat, cookware for Tefal—and some inspiring exhibitions. Now it seems they have met their creative godmother in Moroso, an entrepreneur famous for putting Boontje's woodland romanticism on the map. "I was reading about them in a magazine, and I thought, I want to know these lovely people," Moroso says. "And that day a beautiful envelope arrived from them, made in India. It was destiny. Ten days later we met in London."

What attracted Moroso, as well as hard-nosed design critics and hard-to-please buyers in Milan, was Doshi Levien's cultural cross-pollination with a contemporary edge. There is no sentimentality in these products, which are an assimilation of fine Indian craftsmanship (the textile work is done in Doshi's aunt's factory in Ahmedabad; each piece is signed in thread by the artisans who made it) and the best of Italian production. As in all their previous projects, Doshi's love of craft and narrative combines with Levien's industrial precision. The result is objects with local values and universal appeal. The Charpoy, for example, is an Indian furniture archetype (and the chess-like game of chatipar, seen in ancient paintings, is notorious for having incited the epic mythological war called the Mahabharata when a ruler gambled away his wife and kingdom), but its finely turned Italian legs befit a European drawing room.

Article from I.D. Magazine September/October 2007 By: Caroline Roux

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