Where are you now and what kind of work/projects are you currently working on?
I currently work- live in Mumbai, India and have worked as a designer for various companies ranging from branding, advertising, architecture firms and real estate. The past few years have been very exciting in terms of the variety of projects that I have worked on. From designing luxury apartments, to working on magazine layout design to illustrations for The Art Institute of Chicago, I have had an interdisciplinary approach to my work (something I started in SAIC).
My favourite project, thus far has been to design an urban farm prototype for dense urban environments such as Mumbai. In a small 800 square foot area we managed to grow 40- 50 variety to of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. Thus the farm is a community-based project where we invite people to participate in planting and harvesting cycles and to create delicious farm to table meals.
Recently I was invited to be part of a world exhibition in Wittenberg, Germany where, in collaboration with another artist, created a sculptural environment stitching together several sarees enveloping the viewers in bright, colourful, silk and cotton fabrics. The saree is an iconic object that cuts across boundaries of religion, caste, and socio economic background.
How did SAIC prepare you for where you are today? What particular classes/projects/approaches to subjects influenced you?
My first semester of graduate school was quite a struggle. I came from a very traditional architecture college with a structured curriculum. The freedom of designing my own study path to investigate ideas was very new and challenging to me. As I started to explore, the vast ecosystem of the school, I began to draw personal connections between the various art and design forms thus creating a curriculum that explored spaces via ceramics, film, photography, fibre studies, painting, art history, material study and of course the museum itself. It was through this, I started to break through exploring ideas in various medium and art forms.
I loved walking through the museum and getting lost in its various galleries, spending hours observing details in the art pieces. My favourite was the Asian gallery, especially the Ando room, an immense influence to my sensibility of understanding space.
What career advice do you have for current students, looking at how you see your field evolving, what is critical for the future practitioner?
The field of architecture and design is constantly evolving. I think it’s important to constantly challenge yourself to learn, to be open-minded to various approaches, cultural influences and to collaborate on ideas with people who have skill sets that complement your own.. I worked in the US for 10 years before moving back to India, and this change in culture and environment was a huge influence on my sensibilities and ability to problem solve in the design process. I enjoy the process of immersing myself in a place, its history and its cultural ecosystem of people, food, fashion, and craft before I start to design for it. It is in this rigor that lays the excitement of creating something unique.
With whom did you study at SAIC or who influenced you?
Everybody I studied with in some way was a great influence on me. Even when I was a Teaching Assistant, I loved my interaction with the students. Some of the faculty who absolute changed the way I thought about design and art: Robert Loescher (art history), Anders Nereim (AIADO), Javier (ceramics), HM (AIADO), Stanley Murashige (art history), Robert Davies Clark (photography), Rolf Achilles (Art history), Anne Wilson (fiber studies), Eric Leonardson (sound and 4D), Sherry Shapiro (photography) to name a few. A lifetime of friends, people who I shared my studio spaces with: Justin, Chris, Josette & Rayya to name a few. Finally living in Chicago, what an amazing city to have as a backdrop to study art and architecture.
As a young graduate student, with limited connections to design firms in Chicago, I started teaching interior design at a local community college in Chicago. Here, I brought Chicago’s rich architectural heritage and explored ideas of design thinking in the classroom. In 2010, I was given the opportunity by a branding agency in Mumbai, India to explore avenues such as marketing, branding and advertising. Given my background in interior design, it was a great exchange of ideas of bringing brands alive in spaces while learning the art of selling things to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. After spending a couple years working for advertising powerhouses Landor, Mumbai and Ogilvy India I ventured into the world of real estate. I then joined the in-house design team of Godrej Industries, a well-reputed corporate house in India. Their emphasis was on building their products through innovation and design. After a three year stint, I have now started my own design practice and work on projects involving art, culture, travel, history, restoration and of course food.