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New Delhi Diary: A Textile Designer’s Visual Playground

24 February 2016 by Editor

Texprint 2015 designers ÁineByrne and Bryony Bushe have just spent several months interning with interiors and home accessories company, Cosmique Global, based in Delhi.  Both designers agree, their experiences were sometimes tough, but hugely enriching personally and creatively – India proving to be an extraordinary visual playground.

·      What were your first impressions of New Delhi and India?

Áine: The disturbance to all my senses, nothing was familiar - the smells of spices, the loud honking of the erratic drivers, and the mounds of rubbish on the road-sides - salvaged plastics, metals and textiles, used to build ragged shanty communities. I arrived in the middle of Diwali festival when the noise was even more exaggerated, with crackers constantly being set off on every street corner, heightening the excitement I felt in this magical and very new environment. Everything was so colourful, from the food stalls and bedecked wedding horses, to the elaborately decorated lorries with their tassels and finely painted signage. It seemed overwhelming at first – but by the time my internship came to an end, strangely it all seemed quite normal!

 

Áine& Bryony: We loved the genuine warmth that greeted our arrival at the Cosmique Global offices in the industrial area of Naraina, New Delhi, and soon felt part of the ‘Cosmique family’.  Everyone was so friendly, Sandeep Manaktala and Sonali, the design manager, helping us feel more and more at home in this strange other world.

Outside of the workplace, in the home where we were to live during our internship, we were warmly welcomed by our host family – and blessed with a stroke of orange pigment on the  foreheads, a Hindu welcoming ritual.

Bryony: On our days off we did a bit of sightseeing and shopping, but found the bargaining in the markets very hard to get used to -  ‘auntie’ and ‘uncle’, our hosts, would always ask how much we spent, and then would ‘tut’ in disapproval if we didn’t get a good price!

·      At Cosmique Global, were you given particular projects or product lines to work on?

Áine: It took me a little while to get used to the workings of the company and to navigate my way around the factory, but I was soon given the task of researching autumn/winter 2016/17 trends, then attending material and product development meetings, and gradually getting to know everyone’s role in the company.

I worked closely with the print and hand-painting team experimenting with a combination of hand-painting and screen work, which was to be developed into cushions and throws for the upcoming collections due to be exhibited at Heimtextil in Frankfurt and Ambiente in Paris. Although I felt so at home, it was quite isolating at times being there on my own, so I was delighted when Bryony arrived in early December to join me - someone to share and comment on the strange situations we found ourselves in every day.

 

Bryony: Sonali was excellent at setting design projects to suit our individual handwriting and interests – giving us the creative freedom to try what we wanted and to experiment.We worked on wall hangings, cushions, and prints for throws and bedding, also tote bags, wash bags and purses. Interesting too to hear about all the factors at work in the industry such as costing and competing with China for price. 

Another of our projects was to design the window displays for the fairs – a fantastic opportunity to work on presentation and visual merchandising concepts.  The feedback on our designs was very positive – and I was particularly encouraged to hear that English buyers were taking an interest in my work!

·      Please tell us about the skills of your co-workers - were the methods of working different to what you expected?

Áine: I was blown away by the talents and the skills of our co-workers. It was strange at first, but amazing to have such skilled craftspeople translate our design ideas into reality, and everyone was so enthusiastic and willing to help. Although I am a weaver, I was introduced to the worlds of print and embroidery, and learnt about techniques such as screen printing, chicken (or chikan) embroidery, dori (cornelli), bouclé, tufting and chain stitch. Everyone had such a fine eye for detail and colour, and were quick to point out if you hadn’t picked the right colour of fabric or embroidery thread.

 

Bryony: I also did a lot of hand drawing, and worked with the artisans in the sampling room to translate my designs using different techniques and effects.  Frustratingly, it was quite difficult to communicate due to the language barrier and I wished I had learnt a bit of Hindi before I went out.

 

The workers could sometimes be quite literal in their approach to things - I would create an intentionally messy design and they would try so hard to neaten it up! It was difficult to say make it a ‘bit more like this or that’ – quite a learning curve to work with such skilled craftsmen but who, not surprisingly, have little concept of western design.

The men in the sampling room soon got used to me but when anyone new visited they would stare in fascination at a woman operating the embroidery machine!

 

·      Did you work with any traditional techniques like hand-weaving?

Áine: I found it really interesting seeing the different ways in which people use the loom. Although I had learnt bits of Hindi, it was much easier sharing the language of weave, and communicating ‘warp’, ‘weft’, ‘shuttle’, ‘beam’ and ‘heddle’ seemed to get me far enough through the process. Having help setting up my warps saved me so much valuable time, although I slightly missed the ritual of it.

·      What would you say were the real learning ‘takeaways’ of your internship?

Áine: It was a truly humbling experience - the cultural heritage, living in a completely different world, witnessing the misery of the poverty along with the energy and colour of the city. I so appreciated experiencing something that no one taking the regular tourist routes through the city would ever see. Working at Cosmique has given me an invaluable insight into the workings of the real textiles world, the part that a lot of people can only imagine, or see very briefly. I will take this experience of working in India for this length of time and properly being part of the company, with me wherever I work in the future. Sonali and Sandeep were incredible mentors teaching us so much about how the industry works.

 

Bryony: It was extraordinary, we were given so much creative independence that it almost felt like an extension of our masters at RCA – and working with fantastically attentive technicians who, for the most part, were excited and keen to work with us - one man who did the tufting embroidery was particularly excited to be creating “London designs”!

·      Have you had a chance to think about your next career steps?

Áine: I realise I still have much to learn about the industry, and also about running a business. I’ve enjoyed discovering the world of interiors and hope to continue my relationship with Cosmique Global and maybe work with them in the future. Aside from my own career, being here in India has made me think of ways I might help the poorer communities - I would love to come back again and set up skill-sharing workshops with children, or get involved in local charities and educational initiatives.

Bryony: I have loved working for interiors – before I only though about fashion, but now I am seriously investigating possibilities in this field.  It was also great to see my work developed for the Surface View EDITS project - another opportunity I gained through Texprint and which has shown me how my work might be used in different contexts.

I have some more teaching lined up in Loughboroughand De Montfort universities, and through the charity Blindaid, am continuing to teach textile and art skills to blind and visually impaired people.  I feel I have so many more valuable skills and experiences to share since my time in India.

 

 

 


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