Lighting Spaces

UNDERSTANDING LIGHT BY SKETCHING A FRAME:

It was a pleasure working with Jitesh, who is an architect turned visual artist and lighting designer. He conducted a three day workshop on lighting spaces. I liked the approach of understanding light with its counterpart – shadow and starting with light and shadow sketches.

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Sketching was a great means to understand the flow of light in a space and looking out for a frame where natural light plays a dramatic role in a space. It definitely helped me understand how openings affect a space. The presentations given by Jitesh were highly inspiring to experiment with light as practice.

THE MAZE EXERCISE:

Another exercise to understand the formation of shadows because of physical obstruction of light was intriguing. The formation of a maze structure to observe light and shadows formed by changing various elements of the source light was helpful to learn about the effect of intensities of light in a space.

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PROTOTYPE MAKING (INDIVIDUAL PROJECT):

Project Brief:

For making a prototype of a luminaire, a space was to be chosen in the campus which was supposed to be lit. We were free to choose the source of light (natural or artificial) and also the position of the source (internal or external). The luminaire which was to be created, was supposed to be contextualized according to the space chosen. The reason for choosing the space and the design proposed should have been justified.

My Space:

I chose the corridor in front of the ‘Pepperslate’ office at N2 campus. My purpose behind choosing that corridor was to bring life to it and make it noticeable. That space seems like a dead space and hardly anyone knows about that place in the campus. My intention was to propose a luminare in that space which could possible attract people’s attention and compels them to walk through it.

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My Concept:

I was initially very excited about the space and wanted to make it interesting. I was thinking of using the natural light coming in from the room at the end of the corridor into this space. Later, I felt that the task was nearly impossible due to the time constraint (36 hours) and also due to the irregular direction of natural light coming through the windows.

I thus came up with the concept of covering the ceiling completely with some luminaire forms and other reflector spheres such that the lights coming out from the luminaires falls on to the reflectors and thus illuminates the whole space. I wanted to give the luminaire an interesting form such that there is a play of light and shadow in that space and a dramatic effect is obtained in the corridor. The light might as well fall outside the corridor which in turn can attract people. The form of the lighting itself was sufficient enough to make the space lively.

I thus came up with a form made up of conical shapes such that some of the cones are closed and the others open, some are fixed with a colored film and some with a reflecting film so that light can be illuminated in a playful manner.

The Work in Progress:

I started working on the concept and started making the cones with the help of various kinds of handcrafted sheets and catridge sheets. While making the cones for the first luminaires at night, I soon realized that the proposed concept was a little too much according to the time provided for completing the task.

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I felt disappointed because I knew that I won’t be able to achieve what I had thought of. The next day, I started building upon the luminaire with the cones I had. I had already prepared a wire structure to hold the paper cones. While working on the form, every time I felt that this is not what I had thought of. Don’t really know how the luminaire is going to turn out. In addition to the misery of my thoughts, I was further getting low because of the time the luminaire was taking to be built. At the beginning of the process, I really couldn’t picture what the form is going to look like. It was a complete state of disaster for me.

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My under confidence in my product was being fuelled by the completion of the other groups’ works. Just then when I was not really happy about what I was doing, I confronted Jitesh and Urvashi – the facilitators of this workshop. One thing that Jitesh told me then is something that is learning for me for life. He just said to me, “It is just an experiment, even if it won’t be what you have thought, it will turn out to be something. Don’t be scared of experimentation.” This point of time the fear of what my product might come out to be simply vanished. My feeling of disappointment was instantly turned into inspiration to work and finish what I have started.

I thus started working energetically, to see what the final form will turn out to be, to see what the result of my experiment is and to know what I have coincidentally achieved. After a little hard work of making cones and putting them all together, I did come up with a form. Different from what I had thought but still – interesting!

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I was happy with the experiment. Never thought that I would experience one of the biggest learnings of my life. I was really happy, not because of the form but because I went through and was happy about the tool of experimentation without worrying about the result.

One thing I realized while going through another presentation of Jitesh while I was working on my luminaire was that, it is not easy to work with light. It does require a lot of work and experimentation to achieve the exact effect that one is looking for. Even then, the energy might surprise you with its beauty in some or the other way which in turn might result in a change in the form.

I later, with the help of the electrician, fixed the luminaire in its place. My intention of giving life to that ‘Pepperslate’ corridor was indeed fulfilled to an extent. I still have that grudge and feeling that I could have done it better (the way I had thought – filling the ceiling with luminaires and reflectors) if I had some more time to work on it. But, there always is less time in design. The due dates are always one day early! 🙂

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Shilpi

The easiest way to recognize a cluster is that you enter a town and be greeted by countless forms and structures of one particular material. Although all the forms are different in structure but from your perspective – watching from the entrance of the town, the work seems monotonous. This monotony in the  material and appearance helps in pointing out the place as a cluster of that particular craft.

While standing at the gate of Shivarapatna, a village in the Malur Taluk of Kolar District in Karnataka, a similar sight of massive stone sculptures welcomed me and my friend Sree Lakshmi, and helped us confirm that we were standing at the right place – the land of stone sculpting, Shivarapatna.

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I have to admit that traveling to this town from Bangalore is not very easy. We took a bus from Majestic to Hoskote, from where we got a bus to Malur. From Malur a bus to Shivarapatna gate and then an auto to reach the entrance of the Shivarapatna village. The deserted Shivarapatna gate leads to dumbfounderment as there does not exist any trace of public commute! Indeed huge autos which I have termed as ‘item’ autos (because of the way it is decorated from the inside) do follow this route at intervals of 5-10 minutes. These autos can possibly accommodate 20 people at once and cost Rs. 10 per person. We got into one of these autos and reached the entrance of the Shivarapatna village from the Shivarapatna gate in 5 minutes. Although this route seemed difficult to follow, on our way back to Bangalore, we did discover an easier route. We took an auto from the entrance of the village until Malur bus station directly. From here, we got a bus to Bangalore, which goes until Majestic but we got down at Krishnaraj Puram Railway Station.

 We reached Shivarapatna in two hours of journey from Majestic, Bangalore and were struck with amazement to see the whole village working on black and white stones. There were Gods’ sculptures all over made in black and white soapstone (steatite) and granite. We entered the village and stopped at every house to gaze at the stone sculptures done by the artisans and talked to them.

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 I discovered that stone craft is a rich craft and artisans were happy shaping the stones their way. I learned the process of stone carving which is a combination of drawing on stone with red oxide solution and giving finesse to the stone with repeated action of drawing and sculpting. I also identified that the artisans there worked only on orders and produced sculptures as per the designs of the customers. The raw material is bought by various artisans from different places in Karnataka.

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 For getting the feel of the hardness of stone and to understand the difficulty level of stone carving, I tried my hand on it and remarked the softness of the stone which made it easy to carve. Carving required muscular strength to give the initial shape to the irregular shaped stone. The minute details and carvings is generally done by the females which demand less strength.

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Shivarapatna is also a cluster for metal casting. The lost-wax method is used here for making brass sculptures. Artisans though work here only on orders and do not keep ready made pieces. Me and my friend walked along the street on which the village is situated. One distinctive thing I observed was the use of bamboo to create screen like shelters for work.

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It was an amusing and lively experience to gaze at the omnipresent stone craft. I and Sree Lakshmi walked back till the village entrance and waited for another auto ride. Never had I thought that the approaching ride would be like flying in the air. I stood on the foot rest outside the auto and flew in the direction opposite to the direction of the journey. I was delighted to be there and feel the air gushing in my clothes and my body while I stood on the footrest and was overwhelmed about the fact that there was no seat for me inside the rickshaw which was preoccupied with 17 passengers and my friend just managed to fit in. As always the case is, the road back to home is smaller than getting out. We managed to reach back to Bangalore by 7:30 in the evening and headed back home.

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ALBATROSS…A feeling for my work towards them!

On visiting the terracotta craft cluster based in Marasandra village which is almost 15 kilometers from the NES Quarters Yelahanka, I for the first time confronted the artisans who have spent their entire lives working in clay. I was eyeing the entire village on foot and observed that every second house was involved in terracotta work. All of them worked hard to make clay idols of deities and other human figures which had a particular season of sale (mostly during festivals). Most of them also worked on wheels where clay was thrown on to be molded into a pot. 

I and two of my friends spent half a day with an aged potter who was working towards the fulfillment of an order of 600 plantation pots. The first thing that caught my attention the moment I saw him working was his physical form which was involved in the rigorous backbreaking work. Never had I seen a potter’s wheel which was hand drawn and never had I witnessed a 75 year old laboriously standing, throwing, applying momentum to the wheel and molding. The site was compassionate for the plight of the artisan. I with the help of my Kannadiga friend, tried to start a conversation with him making sure that his work is not caused any trouble. Our conversation started with momentary dialogues until the artisan was convinced and comfortable about the reason for our visit to his workplace. I was content to have the potter smiling and laughing with us by the end of our stay there. My conversations with the other potters and artisans in town also lead to the possibilities and reasons for the intervention that I intend to have.

 I questioned mainly about the range of products produced by the artisans, their target audience or market and the quantity of items created within 11 hours of laborious work every day (6a.m. to 5 p.m.). On my enquiry, I discovered that the products were mainly produced to fulfill orders placed by dealers from the cities (mainly Bangalore). The range of products was mostly limited to one or two types of plantation pots, piggy banks, coal stoves and God idols. Out of these, God idols were mainly sold during festival seasons like Diwali, Dusshera and Navratri. 

On questioning them about the non-innovation of products, they simply answered that the new products are not sold enough. The amount of time that is spent on doing the intricate and different style of work does not pay off because of less or no sale. One of the artisans, was greatly hopeless about the market for terracotta products. His opinion about the people who intended to intervene in this work was negative due to his past experiences. He felt that people come and go but never come back. He demanded long term development and was unhappy with short term earnings. 

I felt that my role as a designer can only be justified not by producing good designs using the crafts but in reality marketing the products and opening huge market opportunities and creating demands for the craftsmen. The terracotta pots have also got a competition against the cement pots. It is important to expose the advantages of the natural materials used in the handicraft industry which renders them more eco-friendly and non-toxic as compared to the other products. 

There are definitely a few artisans who have started developing contemporary products as a result of intervention but still, there exist a major percentage of craftsmen whose crafts are now endangered. Most of them have also started getting involved in other businesses like farming and construction. They work in terracotta only when they receive orders and during festivals. 

The visit and conversations with these craftsmen have burdened me with a larger responsibility and a greater role as a person who can create work and better opportunities for them. I do not wish to let their confidence down and make them believe that anybody who comes just comes and goes away and never comes back. Indeed I am a little scared right now but at the same time I know that the first step will lead to the next.

A Road Trip! First official visit to Channapatna

I was all prepared and set to have my first official visit to Channapatna – a town nearly 80 kms from Bangalore which is famous for its toys crafted by lac-turnery. I was heading towards the bus stop for venturing into my new project of development of products by the use of the Lac-turnery craft of Channapatna when I received a call from a friend who with her family (husband and kid) wanted to join me for my excursion. Soon enough, the four of us including me, my friend her husnband and her 5 year old child left for the ‘toy town’ or ‘Gombegala Ooru’.

 Heading towards the south-west of Bangalore we reached the destination in an hour and a half while enjoying the beautiful Bangalore-Mysore highway.

 We landed at the Lacquerware Craft Complex which is looked after by the Karnataka Government. This is a factory which produces the traditional lac-turnery crafted objects and toys for the Cauvery Emporium.

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Although this was my first official visit, I had visited Channapatna very recently for getting acquainted to the area and the place. The artisans working there recognized me easily and were very welcoming. I thought that this was a good start to intervene and know more about the artisans, their craft, their tools, their life, their problems their way. I started taking photographs of the factory where the process of toy-making was happening. I recorded all the tools and the process of their work for my documentation.

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It was an interesting observation to see how these artisans had a competition among themselves to sell their products. I saw the way everyone opened their ‘pitaris‘ (boxes) and surged towards my friends to sell their products. The same thing happened with me the last time I visited them. My excited was short lived when on talking to them I discovered that they get their money based on the sale of their one product and not collectively by completing their order.

After various visual recordings of the processes we moved further into the village to map more people working on the craft. While I walked, I felt refreshed to be in a typical village and watch the streets filled with huts and mud houses. Although the sun was radiating scotching heat, but this could not let my enthusiasm down. It was the peak hour of the afternoon and thus the streets were barren. Somewhere here or there we could see some Muslim ladies walking and reaching their places. The whole place seemed like being dominated by the Muslim community.

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While walking through one of the streets, I spotted a person through a small door who was working on his power lathe. I wished to enquire more about his practice and then I knocked and entered. To my amazement, the man was working on the power lathe in about a volume of 336 cubic feet (8ft. X 6ft. X 7ft.). As I entered, I was choked with the dust and other small particles of wood which were entering my nose and mouth as I spoke. I came out for a breath and felt pity. On my enquiry, the artisan informed me that he worked there for 10 to 11 hours a day. I could only think of the health hazards that were being faced by these craftsmen. In a larger space, these are not evident, but in a smaller space, the hazards seemed deadly.

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(The two extreme ends of the photo are the extreme walls of the room)

I was made to acknowledge the presence of zinc compounds in the lacquer sticks for use in the turnery craft. Recently, the use of zinc in lacquer has started due to less prices of the zinc mixed lac over the vegetable dyes lacquer. This information about the lacquer sticks, made me worry about the toys for the children. I was further told that in the toys the vegetable dye sticks were used. The zinc lacquer was used only in the utility items which were used by adults for home decorations.

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After listening to all this, I could only think about the words by Jaya Jaitly where she mentioned that the crafts of India have a greater importance – that of being environmental friendly. I thought to myself, if I really succeed in providing a better market for this craft, I might just be able to improve the economic conditions of these artisans. This may lead to solving their problems related to the availability and prices of raw materials. This still solely depends on the ethics of the craftsmen.

Further, as the day was passing by, I with my small group that day kept walking towards the interior of the village to discover something that I had read about in text books, which was being used by only the women – a hand lathe for producing lac-turned products. I read in a case study based on the Lac-turnery craft of Channapatna that women’s position in this craft was deteriorating because of lack of technological inputs and training. I had read that women were not given a platform to keep themselves involved in the lac-turnery craft as much as the male counterparts.

Before going for this field visit, I had a perception that there is a need of women upliftment in this craft and if I impart knowledge to these women in terms of the market requirement and design, they could probably establish themselves better. To my horror, when I visited Channapatna officially, to observe various things, I became aware of the current fact that women no longer work in this craft. They have stopped their work in it completely. I couldn’t see a single woman working in this sector. On my enquiry to people about whether women work in this craft all I could be answered was, “Madam, aurat isme kaam nahi karta, sirf aadmi karta hai. Wo aurta sab bidi banata hai.” (Madam, women don’t work in this field, only men do. All those women make cigarettes). This was indeed sad but true.

The women in the town of Channapatna have shifted their profession from being a craftswoman to being a cigarette filler. Despite having infinite adverse effects due to inhaling tobacco which is filled in the cigarettes, these women have chosen to work there because of better incomes. On being questioned about the reason for not working as an artisan, all they had to answer was, “Paisa nahi milta madam, bachha paalna hota hai, ghar sambhalna hota hai, ghar rehke bhi bidiyan bhar sakte hain. Isme paisa achha milta hai.” (Don’t get money madam, have to grow kids, have to take care of the house hold, can make cigarettes from home. Get good money from this.)

Indeed, the cigarette factory pays Rs. 150-Rs. 250 to their workers per day for making 1000 bidis daily.

I learnt about this scenario when I went inside the village with the help of a local 12 year old kid named Zishan, who showed me a house where a man with his wife worked on a hand lathe machine to prepared lac-turned items. I could not see any woman working in the whole village. The range of items produced by the hand lathe is limited to three products due to the use of the hand machine. They only produced 10mm diameter beads, 10-12mm disameter flat buttons and some keyrings. On being questioned about the non usage of the power lathes, they simply answered cannot afford it and they get a lot of orders for the these items. I could only gaze at their way of working and limitation due to which they could not grow much.

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I took some photographs with Zishan, his sister and a few more kids who had gathered around getting attracted by the camera and may be the language and attire. But they all were smiling and yet welcoming. There was a conversation problem due to the language which could not be solved even by my Telugu friends. Thus, I could not question them more and just thought that next time I will get a Kannada speaking friend with me.

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My next step was to interview the artisans to know how they felt working, if there were any problems that they were coming across in any context of the craft or due to it. On speaking to a about three-five people, it came to my knowledge that the main problem is the raw material procurement. The artisans had a huge problem getting the material from the forests as they had to pay taxes to government which they said they couldn’t afford. Their other problem was they had no growth in the field. They were producing goods as per the demand but did not get any profit. By the time money was transferred to the bottom of the supply chain, it was over. The last layer of the chain – the artisans had to convince themselves with the wages that they earn generally.

I was thinking throughout, that will increasing the market solve any purpose for them? I thought that I have to find a way to eliminate intruders from the supply chain so that profit can be made for the artisans. The other aspect for development that came to my mind was the enhancement of the product range itself. A range that has immense demand for its aesthetics. But the hurdle for my thought was that only developing a new range won’t solve the purpose. I simply thought about the things that will happen once I leave this place. I don’t think that the artisans will continue producing new products.

I believe that I now have to train these men. For developing on their own. Educate them to an extent that they think anew, afresh.

While I was on these thoughts while listening to the artisans who were speaking to me, my thought process was interrupted by an artisan who was very eager to show around the various factories that his nephew was working in – stone and lac-turnery craft. I and my friend initially started with that person thinking that we will be back in 10 mins but that small visit slowly converted into a voyage. A voyage to the village on foot – exploring various kinds of factories of lac-turnery craft and wood craft which produced different varieties of products – some were small scale like key rings, small toys etc.and some were a little bigger utility items like jars, flower vases etc. Some were artists who were painting with poster colors and then turning them with lac and some were carpenters who developed school trophies and other items on their own.

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Throughout the expedition, I was filled with energy and happiness to look around so many people. My friend, Ankita, was there to continuously instill in me with the do’s and don’t’s that could possibly be in terms of work and surrounding.

This visit to Channapatna was a very informative, fruitful and thoughtful journey. Suggestions and comments from my friends who were with me were worth seeking answer to and also to keep in mind further.

Will be continuously going ahead to seek and develop something that comes my way from my research.

THE COLORFUL INSIGHT

How colorful the life is now.  This is what came to my mind the very first time those packets of colorful sand were placed in front of me. I went deeper into that thought and instantly it came to my mind what is  it that makes my life so blissful. Some sort of a negative feeling has been dissipated from my life. Yes it has. My life now is what I wanted it to be – Self dependent.

 Ever since in the workshop with Tahirey, we were given that material (colorful sand) to play and experiment with, I could only think of what I just mentioned.

 We had to produce an artwork which talked about one of our own qualities or a part of our life which described or influenced us.

 In my artwork, I portrayed me and my younger brother successfully coming out of a complex and dependant life of my house where the decisions for us were taken by the third generation elders instead of our own parents. I tried to show the problems that we faced due to the generation gap between us and our grand parents and how we conquered that and reached our goal of self driven behavior. I have carefully chosen the colors of the sand to demonstrate the state of the humans individually in that particular frame.

ImageAs seen in the picture above, I used the yellow, green and blue colors to show mine, my brother’s and my parents’ life and aspirations. Full of greenery and regardless of ‘Stop’ as symbolized by the red which is the word and feeling that comes out of my grandparents life. Always a NO for any smallest of the things

ImageI used various sizes of the character symbolizing cylinders to portray the position of the person in the house. The longest red cylinder signifies my grandfather who always is against our thoughts and ideas – who probably has his own thinking which he expects today’s generation to follow.

The middle-sized blue and yellow cylinders symbolize my parents who although have a higher position than us in the house, have a neutral say in the decisions for us – as suggested by their colors. But the fact is that they support us and know that we need to go ahead in life and face the world.

The other two smallest green cylinders – out of which one is even smaller symbolizing my younger brother, signify the ‘Go’ or willing to move ahead in life mindset. It shows they are away and won’t listen to the NOs and the IFs and BUTs.

I tried to show that how with the constant effort, we succeeded in moving ahead in life leaving behind all the negativeness.

ImageAnd even now, we have that connection with our family, but our life has become what we wanted it to be –  full of greenery and happiness.

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