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Postbox introduces small scale artisanal work and craftsmanship nationwide ft. Terracotta Mugs: Another step forward in terms of bringing together artisans and artists from various parts of the country, The Postbox along with Dakshinachitra, Madras launches a whole new product line of Coffee Mugs, Beer Mugs and Chai cups made out of Terracotta.

As a response to the burdening thought that not enough was being done to reach out to hands that exalt craft in its purest form, began the journey of Chennai-based Postbox in 2015. Reaching out to gifted artisans far and wide, founders Nikhil Joseph and Madhuvanthi Senthilkumar transferred tradition into everyday objects.

Terracotta Collection

Always a challenge for artists to hurdle over their daily trade, Postbox serves as a vital platform for change while maintaining the continuity of craft.

With craft at their heart, Postbox travelled to Kolkata to meet a group of Terracotta artisans. Having sat and discussed design mechanisms, manufacturing, payment and shipping process from Kolkata to Chennai with the craftsmen; the Terracotta project paved way for 65 artisans including four families of cane weavers from Chennai.

Postbox instructs the artisans who are diligently working in their own units, to filter soil, the important component for making Terracotta, twice. This keeps away impediments before molding the soil into a desired shape. Each design would have a mold of its own increasing the efficiency and maintaining the desired consistency simultaneously. Firing the terracotta at 1000 degree Celsius, the mugs are then buttered with ceramic glaze and fired back at 1250 degrees Celsius.

Each piece is wrapped in cane by the cane weavers and is plastered in varnish to glue the cane to the mug. Packed in 5PLY and 7PLY cartons with bubble wrap and straw, you could be sure of receiving these beautiful mugs just as they were packed.

Aurma Ceramic Collection

Aurma was inspired by Nikhil’s relationship with his grandmother in Kerala. He says, “The entire collection brings back fond memories of a relationship which evolved over the years. For example the Kumbilappam Coffee mug draws its inspirations from the silhouette from the outer leaf of a Kumbilappam - a sweet that is made by mixing jackfruit, jaggery, cardamom, coconut and cumin seeds and wrapped in a bay leaf before being steamed.”

Postbox usually calls for a collaborative brainstorming session with the artisans. Having pitched in the introductory theme for a product, the artisans are left to experiment with the designs. They are challenged, motivated and explained the importance of evolving with time. Nikhil says, “We don’t train but challenge. We give them a design which they would initially think twice to do. Everything needs to be experimented with at least once to know if you can do it or not.”

Sadya Plate

To understand the process employed in its making, here’s a little break up for you: The mix is prepared using materials with different properties and poured into set molds. Allowed to rest before placing it in the oven, the plates are eventually extracted. The circular pockets are painted with hot wax before being dipped in, in-house produced yellow-green paint to avoid a colour spill into the pockets following which the ceramic piece is fired after having applied the final color coat to the pockets through a brush.

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Workspace 31 May 2017

Restoring traditions, Restoring stories: Postbox collaborates with Artisans across India

A product design enterprise, Postbox creates and celebrates design through everyday objects at affordable prices. Collaborating with artisans across India, founders Nikhil Joseph and Madhuvanthi Senthilkumar bring to life stories of the artisans through the products at Postbox.

Postbox introduces small scale artisanal work and craftsmanship nationwide ft. Terracotta Mugs: Another step forward in terms of bringing together artisans and artists from various parts of the country, The Postbox along with Dakshinachitra, Madras launches a whole new product line of Coffee Mugs, Beer Mugs and Chai cups made out of Terracotta.

As a response to the burdening thought that not enough was being done to reach out to hands that exalt craft in its purest form, began the journey of Chennai-based Postbox in 2015. Reaching out to gifted artisans far and wide, founders Nikhil Joseph and Madhuvanthi Senthilkumar transferred tradition into everyday objects.

As a response to the burdening thought that not enough was being done to reach out to hands that exalt craft in its purest form, began the journey of Chennai-based Postbox in 2015. Reaching out to gifted artisans far and wide, founders Nikhil Joseph and Madhuvanthi Senthilkumar transferred tradition into everyday objects.

Between September 2014 and April 2015, Nikhil travelled across the country with a singular goal – to research Indian arts and crafts and niche consumer behaviour.  “In April 2015, the decision was taken that we would pivot and start creating our own products which would be largely accessible, sensible in design, aesthetics and it’s functionality. One of the things we were also clear about is the combining of two materials.”

Always a challenge for artists to hurdle over their daily trade, Postbox serves as a vital platform for change while maintaining the continuity of craft. “[In this manner] not only are craftsmen adopted across India but also good design is now accessible to a large audience at an affordable price and not just a small subset of people”, says Nikhil. He also goes on to say, “Our goal is also to develop new designs and techniques with our artisans which haven’t been done by them before. To make them aware of what the current market is like for their trade through various trend reports and show them the importance to evolve with time.”

Scrolling through the Postbox website, our eyes wallowed in love for two collections the platform produces, namely Terracotta and Ceramic. Wasting no time, we began understanding how the team put together the collection.

"In April 2015, the decision was taken that we would pivot and start creating our own products which would be largely accessible, sensible in design, aesthetics and it’s functionality. One of the things we were also clear about is the combining of two materials."

How did the Terracotta Collection come about?
Terracotta Collection

With craft at their heart, Postbox travelled to Kolkata to meet a group of Terracotta artisans. Having sat and discussed design mechanisms, manufacturing, payment and shipping process from Kolkata to Chennai with the craftsmen; the Terracotta project paved way for 65 artisans including four families of cane weavers from Chennai.

Always a challenge for artists to hurdle over their daily trade, Postbox serves as a vital platform for change while maintaining the continuity of craft.

With craft at their heart, Postbox travelled to Kolkata to meet a group of Terracotta artisans. Having sat and discussed design mechanisms, manufacturing, payment and shipping process from Kolkata to Chennai with the craftsmen; the Terracotta project paved way for 65 artisans including four families of cane weavers from Chennai.

Terracotta is a very common material in India, but its methods are precise. Here’s why. Postbox instructs the artisans who are diligently working in their own units, to filter soil, the important component for making Terracotta, twice. This keeps away impediments before molding the soil into a desired shape. Each design would have a mold of its own increasing the efficiency and maintaining the desired consistency simultaneously. Firing the terracotta at 1000 degree Celsius, the mugs are then buttered with ceramic glaze and fired back at 1250 degrees Celsius.

Postbox instructs the artisans who are diligently working in their own units, to filter soil, the important component for making Terracotta, twice. This keeps away impediments before molding the soil into a desired shape. Each design would have a mold of its own increasing the efficiency and maintaining the desired consistency simultaneously. Firing the terracotta at 1000 degree Celsius, the mugs are then buttered with ceramic glaze and fired back at 1250 degrees Celsius.

The mugs are now ready to go through the final process. Each piece is wrapped in cane by the cane weavers and is plastered in varnish to glue the cane to the mug. Packed in 5PLY and 7PLY cartons with bubble wrap and straw, you could be sure of receiving these beautiful mugs just as they were packed.

Each piece is wrapped in cane by the cane weavers and is plastered in varnish to glue the cane to the mug. Packed in 5PLY and 7PLY cartons with bubble wrap and straw, you could be sure of receiving these beautiful mugs just as they were packed.

What’s the Aurma Ceramic Collection about?
Aurma Ceramic Collection

Aurma was inspired by Nikhil’s relationship with his grandmother in Kerala. He says, “The entire collection brings back fond memories of a relationship which evolved over the years. For example the Kumbilappam Coffee mug draws its inspirations from the silhouette from the outer leaf of a Kumbilappam - a sweet that is made by mixing jackfruit, jaggery, cardamom, coconut and cumin seeds and wrapped in a bay leaf before being steamed.”

A.U.R.M.A was the second collection we began exploring. Understanding the significance of this ceramic collection; we came to understand that Aurma was inspired by Nikhil’s relationship with his grandmother in Kerala. He says, “The entire collection brings back fond memories of a relationship which evolved over the years. For example the Kumbilappam Coffee mug draws its inspirations from the silhouette from the outer leaf of a Kumbilappam - a sweet that is made by mixing jackfruit, jaggery, cardamom, coconut and cumin seeds and wrapped in a bay leaf before being steamed.”

Postbox usually calls for a collaborative brainstorming session with the artisans. Having pitched in the introductory theme for a product, the artisans are left to experiment with the designs. They are challenged, motivated and explained the importance of evolving with time. Nikhil says, “We don’t train but challenge. We give them a design which they would initially think twice to do. Everything needs to be experimented with at least once to know if you can do it or not.”

A favorite from the ceramic lot, the Sadya Plate showcases three circular pockets resembling Kerala and the way people are served Sadya on a banana leaf.

Sadya Plate

To understand the process employed in its making, here’s a little break up for you: The mix is prepared using materials with different properties and poured into set molds. Allowed to rest before placing it in the oven, the plates are eventually extracted. The circular pockets are painted with hot wax before being dipped in, in-house produced yellow-green paint to avoid a colour spill into the pockets following which the ceramic piece is fired after having applied the final color coat to the pockets through a brush.

“We don’t train but challenge. We give them a design which they would initially think twice to do. Everything needs to be experimented with at least once to know if you can do it or not.”

Collaboration & co-creation: working with artisans

A process so crucial, we were curious to know how Postbox even got in touch with artisans in the first place. Nikhil explains, “We get in touch with craftsmen through government sponsored handicraft exhibitions which take place all through the year. We’re currently collaborating with 200 artisans.”

Even with 200 artisans to look over, the team makes sure to dig into the tiniest of details. Postbox usually calls for a collaborative brainstorming session with the artisans. Having pitched in the introductory theme for a product, the artisans are left to experiment with the designs. They are challenged, motivated and explained the importance of evolving with time. Nikhil says, “We don’t train but challenge. We give them a design which they would initially think twice to do. Everything needs to be experimented with at least once to know if you can do it or not.”

Are we simply reviving or also reinventing?

We asked the Postbox about the elephant that’s been in the room ever since craft revival’s been the hot trends for years now. Does revival groom experimentation? “There is scope in reviving and bringing together handicraft businesses in India,” says Nikhil, but he goes on to tell us what he thinks of tableware and ceramics scene in India. “My observations currently remain what I had when I travelled around India a while back. No experimentation in Shape or form but essentially only in terms of colour. Don’t see people taking too many risks with combining two materials together. For example, how they combine Leather and Ceramic in London and make at scale some great designs”.

Perhaps it is upon designers and enterprises such as Postbox to break that cycle.

We do hope to see such experiments in the coming years across the country. Until then, we’re excited that Postbox is targeting an offline launch by the beginning of next year. You may want to take note of this somewhere in your pretty dairy!

 

 

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