Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Plight of Designers in India

You could be oozing gold for all anyone cares, so does Bappi Lahiri, but that surely does not mean you are classy. Or that you pay people for their work.

It seems to me, that designers in India especially generally tend to suffer for being designers. The problem with the entire thought process here is that people want to live in beautifully designed functional spaces, they love the idea of having an interior designer achieving their goals for them, but when it comes to paying the designer for their ingenuity, understanding and creativity, the immediate response (on completion of project) is, “What did you do? All these were my ideas, you just drew a couple of lines!” It’s so ludicrous, I cannot even laugh. Really? I drew some lines, I put them together so that they made sense. And for that, I deserve to be paid.

The psychology here is, “ I didn’t get anything tangible, why should I pay?” Go to a vegetable market, Aunty. When will people realize, that a designer sells IDEAS, THOUGHTS, CONCEPTS. He sells DESIGN. Design IS intangible, thoughts are Intangible, creativity is INTANGIBLE. Does it mean I should not be paid? No. Some people accept this argument and agree that a designer must be paid. But pay they will, after you give them five star quality work in five rupees. The “swastha ani masta” era is long past. You pay, you get. You don’t pay, you don’t get. Same applies for quality.

Recently, while working on a particularly hideous garage (which was to be converted into a beauty parlour), I came across people with the exact mentality I just spoke about. This is a girl I know since school days. 16 odd years of acquaintance and at one time a pretty good friend in school. That was the reason I agreed to take up the project.

I was taken to an ugly little outhouse/garage. It was falling to pieces. And this monstrosity was to be converted into a beauty salon. I took it up as a challenge. And according to me, I did a great job. I’m not the one saying this; anyone who has entered the place has said it. But of course, a project is not successful until your client has a word of appreciation for you. Which, I did not get. What, however, I did get in abundance was sleepless nights and a nasty, mean spirited excuse of a person to deal with. Big fat claims were made. Screaming matches over the phone. Her mother went as far as calling me a “cheapskate”. Of course, it doesn’t matter that she or her daughter do not answer calls and have not cleared their dues after torturing me for two months over something that should have been completed within 15 days. To make matters even more interesting, they threatened to drag me to the police WHEN THEY ARE ONES that OWE ME money. Pretty “rich”, huh.

The other point that is pretty bothersome in this entire fiasco is that these “convent educated” people while, dealing with anyone from the labourers working on site would say, “look at their level, look at our level”. Whatever happened to “dignity of labour”? Or is pulling out the underarm hair of complete strangers a more respectable job than a carpenter? On what basis do such people talk about “class” when they cannot even pay the needy people who spent days and nights getting that horrible excuse of a place functioning? They talk about quality, not taking into consideration the fact that they did not want to pay for anything more expensive than the most mediocre of materials and the place to be converted itself was falling apart. Add to that the fact that they made countless changes in the design. Once damaged, always damaged. You cannot cut a thread and then tie a knot and expect it to be as strong as a whole thread. Same goes for furniture. Conveniently, the designer was blamed.

The girl in question would scream over the phone, “I come from a good family, we are not cheats, we don’t hold back anyone’s money”. Her parents too would scream the same. No amount of screaming and shouting can change the fact that these people are in fact extremely cheap. The project was completed 1.5 months back, there is still no sign of the remaining payment after repeated phone calls and meetings.
They wanted me to “put my soul” into their work. They wanted me to “sell my soul” for a sum of twenty thousand rupees. I can only laugh at the sheer audacity of the expectations and pray to god, that these people pay in Karma, which they will.

Moral of the story: Money cannot buy you class, tolerance or the understanding of dignity of labour. No work is big or small, nor is the person performing them. The people that claim to not be cheats are in fact the cheats. Beware.

Monday, February 13, 2012

In That Corner

That empty space next to the Tv unit is an eyesore, a blank. It needs a dash of colour. Or that corner table in the crook of the perpendicular between two sofas. Or the barren looking console. We all have empty spaces in our home, which we want to fill, not with clutter, but with something to accentuate the surroundings. Even in a minimalist home, you will often find the corners are adorned with something, a big lamp, or an arrangement of dry flowers, just a simple set of vases or a recliner.

Corners are technically the useless spaces in the house, when one comes to think of utility. These spaces, however, when artfully decorated can add the glamour quotient or a simply, some character to the space. I have always been a very big fan of a colourful daree spread, with floor cushions thrown in and a small coffee table with little knick knacks in a corner. A hookah maybe. Reminds me of Morocco. Not only does it look very inviting, it can also be very versatile in terms of the kind of rug you use, the cushion covers and what you keep on the small coffee table. Make it look ethnic, indo western or completely minimalistic, the choice is yours.

Coming to the question of what to adorn those corners with? The often neglected space, where the maid makes a quick run with the broom and that’s that? No. Go crazy with some eartherware stuff so readily available in the market these days. They come in terra cotta finish, which you can make over in your own style. Bring out the artist in you, paint, personalize and decorate your home!


1.     1.Any  earthenware object you find appealing while looking at the wide array on display at the potter’s.
2.      2.Primer (which acts as a base coat for the oil paint. If you don’t use primer, the clay soaks in the paint and the final layer of paint ends up looking dull in a couple of days.)
3.      3.Oil paint (in my case, I used bright red and black. The choice of colour is completely up to your personal taste and the way you want your object to look ultimately)
4.      4.Gold bronze powder (this can be used to add a bit of drama or glow to an otherwise solid looking object.)
5.      5.Linseed oil (to mix the bronze powder with)
6.      6.Rag cloth, paint brushes and plenty of newspaper to spread on the floor)
7.      7. Turpentine (to wash off the brushes and paint off your hands)

Getting started:

The first step to any art activity concerned with permanent paints (oil based) is to spread newspaper on the floor space that you will occupy for the activity. After all, you don’t want a nice piece of marble flooring in YOUR house to look stained an ugly. Then clean out the clay statues with a clean rag cloth to get rid of any surplus dust or stray mud particles. Shake the primer well and paint the statue with a thin layer.  Make sure to fill in any nook or cranny which is not directly visible too.

Allow it to dry properly. Normally takes about an hour to dry, but allow it to rest for 2 hours to be on the safer side. Then apply a coat of the colour you want your finished statue to be. I’ve used bright red oil paint on all part except for the jewelry, the musical instruments and the turbans which I wanted to highlight with gold bronze paint. Again ensure that all visible and not directly visible areas are properly painted.

                                         The nooks and crannies that should be taken care of.

After the first layer dries, apply the second coat and let it dry. In the meanwhile, take an old palette or a left over diya used last diwali and mix some gold bronze powder with linseed oil. 

Make sure it’s not too runny or the white of the primer will show through. Apply a layer of this mixture to the areas you wish highlight. Let all the paint dry over night.
The next day, look for any patches or unfinished areas and touchup the paint wherever needed. 

Then apply black paint for just the mustache to add a defined feature to an otherwise neutral face .

VOILA! You have something hand painted by none other than you to decorate your home! Keep these on a coffee table with some throw cushions to go and you have a mini hookah parlour ambience right in the beautiful space of your home!
The red men would look beautiful against a dark toned dari or a yellow wall, or both. Or visualize a white room, with just these little beauties as the center of attraction. Who says corners are boring!