And it’s a labour of love…
Delhi saw the launch of a recent exhibition titled Basically Bamboo, promoting design development work done by E’thaan - a design studio which stands for creative contemporary Indian design rooted in traditional skills infused with a new spirit. The exhibition launched by INBAR’s Director & Regional Co-ordinator of South Asia, Mr. T P Subramony mainly focused on homeware design products in bamboo and handcrafted wood from the states of Manipur and Nagaland. E’thaan showcases the work of architect and craft designer Ritu Varuni, based on the exploration and development of different Indian craft techniques. During the launch, Ritu expressed her gratitude to the people who have supported her and have inspired her to continue to make endless efforts and bring about design innovations.
Over two decades back when Ritu Varuni, pursuing her Masters in Architecture, chose her thesis topic on “Architecture in Nagaland”, little did she know that it would be the beginning of a life changing journey. The thesis set the direction for the rest of her life. It was one of her earliest encounters of working with bamboo, a material extensively used in the vernacular architecture in the north eastern region of the country.
As a result of her one year research on the subject, she developed an affinity not just for the architecture, the place, the people but also for the ever versatile bamboo. It has been longer than two decades and the labour of love has fruitified into a design studio
by the name of E’thaan in Delhi. Over the years she has worked with artisans, to understand the traditional use and craft of making bamboo products. She has experimented and trained several local artisans in developing innovative bamboo products. Ritu’s design studio E’thaan is a Naga word meaning “new”. Through her many trainings and workshops which she has been conducting in the north eastern states of Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, she has been trying to translate the old into the new to ensure that the products are more acceptable and locals get recognition for their craft too.
“I have seen the craft dwindling in some regions, the youth is not necessarily interested in bamboo craft and hence the skills are not getting transferred, the way they have been for centuries,” explains a concerned Ritu. She adds saying that, “In order to keep the craft alive, aligning it with the current market demand is essential and that is what we have been trying to do – striking a balance between the old and the new, by using the traditional skill to create a modern product.”
She acknowledges that, “Basketry is one of the most intricate skills when it comes to bamboo weaving and in olden days every family would weave their own set of utensils for the kitchen but that is not the case anymore.” This is one of the reasons, less and less people are taking interest in basketry. Ritu ensures that her products are developed using these vanishing skills and she even trains the younger generation about the traditional techniques, with a hope that the innovation would help keep the tradition alive. Of the recent products on display at the India International Centre Annexe gallery, Ritu is confident that most cater to the taste and needs of the urban “ethnic” crowd and if marketed well the products as well as the craft have a long way to go.