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Indian design is usually, and stereotypically synonymous with bright colours, loud patterns and a wide motley of expressive prints. As Indian as that is, is that all India is? Breaking away from the vibrant monotone, Spandana decided to create products that are a narrative of stories from India and its unique lifestyle. Her same decision devised Tiipoi. CQ speaks to her about her story and the stories Tiipoi brand portrays.
Away from home, living and working in London, Spandana Gopal realised the lack of design, products and experiences that justified the Indian way of living, that could truly capture the chaotic, enigmatic soul of India. The little things and the choices that compose the daily lives of people in India, qualities seemingly invisible to the eyes of localites, are what held her fancy. The idea began to spurt as Spandana resolved to adopt the existing dynamic of the Indian way of living, eating, and even prioritizing, and translating them into products. Much like the Japanese brand Muji, Spandana aimed to bring a sense of the quintessential Indian lifestyle to the high street.
Her background in contemporary arts, and work experience with galleries, fairs and collectors, helped her make up for what she lacked in her unfamiliarity with product design. A solid core in art history helped her get direction with initiating Tiipoi. What was started 3 years ago by Spandana, and her industrial design intern, Andre has now grown to be a full-fledged design enterprise with a concentrated design team in London and engineers and an in-house craftsman in Bengaluru, India.
To begin the journey of Tiipoi, Spandana and her team of one, excursioned to the markets of India. “We just went to the market, observed, took photographs and came back with a whole lot of random things in a suitcase! Deconstructing each of those things, speaking to people about how they lived, what they ate, and then following the elements we found most exciting lead us to uncover this whole different vocabulary of what I feel is Indian design,” she elaborates.
Tiipoi’s products are always inspired from a story. Looking at life via design, the kitchenware collection is derived from the typical Indian household and its primary dependency on metals, such as stainless steel, copper, brass and other alloys – a simple Indian kitchen, with a contemporary outlook. Her collection of rugs on the other hand, comes from the story of Indian habits connected to the floor as opposed to that with furniture. The large floor coverings often used in weddings, prodded Spandana to collaborate with the local weavers to translate that into modern rugs.
The materials that shape Tiipoi’s tales are primarily inspired from the mundane materials that are part of a typical Indian. Aside from the more quintessential materials like metals, stone and wood, Spandana explains how certain briefs by the clients also lead them to new, experimental materials, that they then mould into Indian forms.
One such instance would be the Kolam lights. Intending to create a beacon at the gateway to White City Place – a group of re-imagined buildings in White City from RIBA award-winning architects Allies & Morrison set around a central avenue with high quality retail spaces, restaurants and gardens –Tiipoi designed the Kolam Lights.
The area, formerly a property of BBC, held a history in broadcasting. Inspired by which, Tiipoi was led to the rudimentary style of image-making with sheets of acrylic and a moving light-source underneath. Combining the old-school style of broadcasting, with the Kolam, the traditional South Indian ritual of hand-drawing patterns daily on the threshold of a house to offer both an auspicious welcome to guests, is what contrived the Kolam Lights.
Essentially a light beacon to welcome the public into the White City Place, Tiipoi’s artwork upgraded the concept of Kolam by using layers of acrylic through which a series of strip lights draw a subtle pattern, taking a different colour and light path every day. A refurbished, traditional South Indian welcome.
Currently working on a collection inspired by the failure of brutalist architecture in India, Spandana explains, “People in India find a way to engage with the building, in ways that are very unusual, whether it’s worshipping it or adorning it with photographs and garlands, the building itself, gets activated. When brutalism in India didn’t appeal to the vast public, they started leaving their own marks upon it, often by painting them for instance. This relationship that the people have with their local architecture is what I’m interested in exploring.”
Having worked with clients aside from Tiipoi’s, she says the brand aims to add value to designs, as opposed to just manufacture products. Tiipoi’s products have a narrative and a relationship with the user. Spandana aspires to continue to tell the Indian story with her collections as the brand continues to grow and flourish. Creating a shift from the usual western trajectory of design, her products communicate the elements of the traditionally well designed India, to the public, in London and in India.
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