I met Kangan Arora when she was exhibiting with other Central Saint Martins graduates at Pulse last year, so it was great to see her with her own stand at designjunction. We talked inspirations, childhood dreams, 60s Bollywood music and masala chai…here is the designer describing her work in her own words:
My country inspires me endlessly. I like visuals more than words. My work is about color, print and pattern… and a bit more color for good measure.
Textiles really run in my family; my great grandfather started a fashion textile business in Punjab over a 100 years ago, so when I was five years old, that’s all I wanted to be involved in when I grew up. Somewhere along the line I decided to specialize in interior fabrics rather than fashion, and that’s what I am doing now.
I find my inspiration in the crazy chaotic life and street culture in India – from graphics on auto rickshaws and highway trucks, the Ben-Day dots of Bollywood poster prints, holy cows or a carnival of kites, to the ever curious characters in government offices, local markets, bazaars and tea stalls.
There’s an inadvertent beauty and playfulness to be found everywhere you look in India and an attitude to design that’s actually very pure – necessity is the mother of invention, so the use of found objects, recycling, upcycling and constant repair and renewal of the urban fabric create a unique visual interest. Great inspiration for a designer.
I just want to transpose some of these qualities to products that add some verve and vitality to people’s homes and lives – we’re becoming surrounded by ever so chic and tasteful shades of downpipe-gray at home, in restaurants and in shops. An eye popping injection of color will always help raise a smile.
When I’m designing something new, I start with hundreds of photos of things that inspire me – walls, signs, objects… then I abstract forms and motifs from one, color from another…
A lot of the designing actually happens on the go in the studio: when I have put two or three patterns I’m happy with on silkscreen, I just have a play around to see how they work together and in which color combinations. This experimentation is really the fun part of the whole process – it’s like unwrapping presents and never knowing what you might receive next.
Once I’m happy with a final print, the making happens on our dinner table at home with a background score of old 60s Bollywood music and masala chai on tap.
If I get stuck, I just revisit my archive of thousands of photos taken on my various trips around India and invariably, something clicks. Another more hands-on approach is to take a blank silk screen and use rough hand cut shapes and stencils to create patterns – it’s like doodling for screen-printers. My studio partner Jonna Saarinen and I have been known to spend a whole day riffing for ideas in this way, inspiration generally arrives sooner or later.
On a good day, the sun is shining, a riot of color is coming together perfectly in the print room, endless cups of tea and creative company are keeping me going and I can take a leisurely bus journey back home (top deck of course!).
On a bad day, I mess up a complex four color print when I’m three-quarters of the way there, a big pot of printing ink explodes in my bag, Photoshop crashes at the crucial moment, I run out of chocolate and I have to get the Northern line home.
Being part of the London Design Festival makes me feel as though I am contributing my bit from the Indian design fraternity to the cultural melting pot that is London. The world needs to become aware of Indian contemporary design and being part of LDF felt like my first tiny step in this direction.
I am so excited about the future! I met so many amazing people at designjunction – I can’t wait to start working with them. I am more or less a cushion lady at the moment, but I’m looking to make more heavyweight woven textiles like blankets and throws in near future, ultimately utility bags and tableware would be nice too.
I managed to have a quick whizz around the rest of the show, and am so glad that I did. Lubna Chowdhary is one of my design heroes and it was a real honor to see her work in person. She transforms interior and exterior spaces using color, and makes the most incredible compositions with her handmade glazed tiles exploring shape, geometry, and pattern.
“Good” design is subjective and it means different things to different people, but at its most simple it should be functional, ethically sound and, for me, visually stimulating.
I’m really proud of being invited to showcase my work alongside designers I admire like Manish Arora and Pero at the ‘New India Designscape’ exhibition at the Triennale Design Museum in Milan last year and exhibiting at designjunction – my first appearance at London Design Festival felt like a big step.
Portrait at designjunction by Adam Hollier.
Our trip to the London Design Festival was supported by Airbnb.com.