Product Design > Experiments with Dhokra by Tejas Soni
Nidhi Dube from the Indian Institute of Craft and Design wrote to me to introduce Tejas Soni and his experiments with the Dhokra craft. Dhokra is an ancient craft practised by nomadic tribes who have since settled into parts of West Bengal, Jharkhand, Orissa and parts of southern India. One of the earliest known pieces found was the Bronze dancing girl at Mohenjadaro. The craft is practised by both men and women and the objects are cast in metal using what is known as the lost wax process. Today it features more as a exotic buy rather than a relevant ingredient in our daily lives as it was in the ancient times when religious figures, jewellery, diyas, animal figurines and vessels were essential in many homes.
The revival, support, reinterpretation of any ancient art is often met with skepticism – will reinterpretation dilute the legacy or turn it into something commercial and ubiquitous and most important of all, will it benefit the ones who started it all. Tejas Soni works with artisans to reinterpret Dhokra in the modern context – the work is clean and the objects are utilitarian thus can merge in our daily life easily. The forms within it make me wonder – a platter with a cowherd and his cows, a jug with a tribal man on the handle, tribal girls in a trivet – the forms used by the metalworkers in ancient times were an interpretation of the times they lived in – for us, these forms, though lovely, are far removed – how will we choose to interact with them – will we be conscious of their presence or will they perhaps be, just another design element. Let’s explore his work and views.
In conversation with Tejas Soni.
Indian By Design: Where did you study and what were your formative inspirations?
Tejas Soni: I graduated from the Indian Institute of Crafts and Design and am a trained Product Designer working through Crafts. My inspirations have always been my surroundings, especially the pure forms of nature.
Indian By Design: Tell us a bit about Dhokra work.
Tejas Soni: Dhokra is a craft practiced in the areas of Chattisgarh. It is metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This craft is being practiced in India for about 4000 years. The most popular forms in Dhokra craft are decorative human figures, containers and animal forms.
Indian By Design: What drew you to the Dhokra craft?
Tejas Soni: The process and the potential I visualized before I spoke to the artisans and the enthusiastic support they offered me when I discussed with them the possibilities of this craft, drew me towards this craft. It’s very rare that an artisan is enthusiastic and open to changes in his craft and allows anyone else to explore! The potential of the craft people and their positive energy was also one major reason why I started working with this Craft.
Indian By Design: In your opinion, how do your designs contribute to/enhance this ancient craft?
Tejas Soni: I have always believed in exploring the unexplored and stretching the limits of the crafts. When I first interacted with the artisans I realized that they are open to change and would love to explore the new ways to use the art of Dhokra. I design lifestyle accessories and utility products. I use the same old technique of Dhokra casting and make and encourage artisans to make a well defined product that needs minimum finishing. I use mix materials that enhance the value of the craft. My Champagne glasses and the set of cutlery are perfect examples of the above.
Indian By Design: Who are your designs primarily aimed at?
Tejas Soni: I design for a market where people appreciate handicrafts. When I design I try to look at a market where the contemporary form of a traditional craft will be appreciated. This market includes both Indian and Foreign clients.
Indian By Design: What are you planning on next?
Tejas Soni: I am planning to work with these artisans regularly and create more designs in Dhokra so that I can take this craft to an international level but with a truly different perspective, which no one has imagined or explored.
> Tejas Soni’s Dhokra range ranges between INR 1600 to 6000 and can be seen or bought from the New Delhi International airport shop, Ishana. Tejas can be contacted on his email – tejassonidesign(at)gmail(dot)com
Filed under: Indian Product Design | 21 Comments
Tags: Dhokra, Dhokra Art, IICD, Tejas Soni