Musings : Interview with Prathima and Unnati of ‘Design for Kashmir’

INTRODUCTION

NID graduates, passionate professionals, and now mingling minds, together for a cause – ‘Design for Kashmir’. It was merely an idea at first, that slowly took itself towards serious discussion between Prathima Muniyappa and Unnati Agarwal. Soon, with the inclusion of Vivek Sheth, Ayesha Parikh, T T Venkatragavhan, Dhun Karkaria and Hazel Karkaria as advisors, the idea formulated itself into a concrete plan – an effort towards a greater and sustainable contribution towards relief efforts in Kashmir. ‘Design for Kashmir’ began with the notion that art and design at its best could not only capture, but also address change. In their tryst to offer financial aid to the Kashmiri people, this group decided to build a library of artworks, which could then be monetized to raise funds that would go towards supporting relief efforts in Kashmir. With winter nearing, they hope to reach out to as many people as possible, to provide affected people in Kashmir with the comfort of warm clothing, shelter and food.

The moment we came across this project, we knew we must get involved. After quick conversations back and forth between us and Prathima, we went live with some seriously amazing artwork, contributed by a collective of artists and designers, a collective which cares.

Having associated with Cupick to ease the process of monetizing submitted artwork, here is what Prathima and Unnati have to tell us about themselves and their endeavour.

 


 

INTERVIEW

Tell us a little more about yourselves.

Prathima: I am slowly coming to the conclusion that there are not enough hours in a day to devote to love. In my day job, I work as a Museum Designer and heritage conservation professional and when I can, I steal away from that and work on achieving oyster Zen!

Unnati: I’m a freelancer assistant director for ad films. While I sell my soul to the client on one hand, in my free time I paint walls, write small scripts and generally try making scripts which help me become a better film maker. Hopefully I can help change the content that I shoot in small ways.

Talk to us about your creative process – How long does it take from ideation to your finished product?

Prathima: All of my good ideas visit me in my dreams. Most days when I’m stuck in a rut, I just arm myself with a cooperative pillow, and let my subconscious do the heavy lifting. As for how long it takes, each piece has its own story and its own process to come to life. It could take an hour or weeks sometimes!

Unnati: Most ideas creep up suddenly, when I am not expecting them to come by. But I believe either the first idea is the best or the first germ is the worst. Once having weighed those two, I take it from there – tweaking and trimming as required. At most times I use people within my close circle to bounce these ideas off – sounding boards are important. There isn’t a timeline for the process. Each one varies.

Do you have any recurring themes that you live by in your artwork?

Prathima: Most of my work is a testament to beauty and magic as I perceive it, but I can only say that in retrospect.

Unnati: I haven’t been sketching much if truth be told, but whatever I sketch is in a way, my perception of the theme. It has to be true to the thought behind it.

 


“DESIGN FOR KASHMIR TO ME, IS A WAY TO GIVE BACK AND BE GRATEFUL FOR EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE RECEIVED FROM THE UNIVERSE”


 

Coming to Design for Kashmir… What is it?

Prathima: The Design for Kashmir collective is a platform for artists and mavericks to ‘let the beauty of what they love, be what they do to help out’ – by offering up artworks whose sale will help the rehabilitation efforts at Kashmir. The collective is an attempt to revel in our scale, to acknowledge the power of the miniscule. It is the valuation of small efforts, the pieces offered up in between 9 to 5 jobs, impossible deadlines, and demanding days. It’s a testament to love, and generosity, and it’s a means to channel one’s passion and offer that, as succour to another in need.

Unnati: Design for Kashmir to me, is a way to give back and to be grateful for everything that I have received from the universe. This collective not only offers a platform for designers to give their artworks for philanthropic endeavours but also use design to make a difference. And design, I believe, is an essential cog in problem solving.

Artwork by Janine Shroff | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Janine Shroff | Cupick

So what has the journey been like so far?

Prathima: It started with a soft slow patter of raindrops, and soon there was a deluge. It’s only been a month since we started, as a humble poster workshop, and it has grown to such a scale on the backs of so many people who have carried us through. Our presence and growth is a testament to kindness and spirit. It is a wonderful feeling to be at the receiving end of so much compassion – on most days I feel like we are holding the carrot and serendipity keeps taking a bite every now and then!

Unnati: The journey so far has been truly humbling. For the most part, design for Kashmir just happened suddenly, where two women got together and a series of events brought about a wind of change. And it was overwhelming to see such response from the global community of designers. More than anything, I feel truly blessed to be a part of this.

Why this team? What has brought you together?

Prathima: Friendship.

Unnati: Friendship and faith, I would say.

 


“IT IS THE VALUATION OF SMALL EFFORTS, THE PIECES OFFERED UP IN BETWEEN 9 TO 5 JOBS, IMPOSSIBLE DEADLINES, AND DEMANDING DAYS.  IT’S A TESTAMENT TO LOVE, AND GENEROSITY, AND IT’S A MEAN TO CHANNEL ONE’S PASSION AND OFFER THAT, AS SUCCOUR TO ANOTHER IN NEED”


 

I am sure you get a lot of artwork from people – How do you decide what actually goes up for sale? Do you take a collective decision or is there a division of labour during this process?

Prathima: We have a team who curate the artworks that are donated to us. While we value every single piece that arrives at our inbox, there are some that get rejected. We are currently working on a solution to exhibit all works, whether or not they make the cut. Having said that, most of the work that has come to us has been of an incredibly high quality to begin with!

Unnati: It’s an objective, unbiased effort to ensure that we don’t miss out on any good pieces. Given that, we have received superb pieces leaving us spellbound every time.

Designed For Kashmir by Harini  | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Harini | Cupick

Have you seen any international entries? Or are they largely based in India?

Prathima and Unnati: Yes, we’ve seen a few and most of the responses have been pretty heart-warming. Stephen Silver, of ‘Kim Possible’ fame, wanted to send us a signed sketch for the cause, but the majority of the works remain from artists based in India.

Are you planning on expanding the base of the project, somewhere down the line? Maybe taking up persistent social issues…

Prathima: An expansion of the scope would imply that our current efforts are successful. For now we are committed to making sure that the Design for Kashmir Collective is successful in its fundraising objective. We feel privileged to be the caretakers of such amazing compassion from our artists, and are committed to fulfilling that objective. If our model is successful, certainly we would like the ripples to spread towards other social causes.

Unnati: Expansion is a subject for later. Currently we are focusing on the fundraising objective.

How do you plan on directing funds towards the rehabilitation efforts, once production becomes full-fledged?

Prathima and Unnati: We are working in conjunction with a civilian volunteer group called ‘Volunteers for Kashmir’ (VFK) – regular people who discovered in themselves the most extraordinary potential when the floods hit. Their operations began out of a cafe in Delhi. In the first two weeks alone they had sent over 300 tons of relief material to Kashmir, with over 300 volunteers all over Delhi and Bombay! They are doing some remarkable work on the ground, from relief to rescue and rationing. Irfan Dar, founder of VFK, has been backing us from the very first day, and we will direct the funds we receive to this organization.

Designed For Kashmir by Unnati Agarwal  | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Unnati Agarwal | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Ritaban Das | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Ritaban Das | Cupick

Considering that some of you are graduates from NID, will we get to see your work for the collective?

Prathima: I should certainly hope so. Many of my artworks are already on your site and I feel privileged to have been the first contributor to the collective!

Unnati: Yup. We have put up a few personal pieces and the idea is to keep them coming!

How does one contact you apart from Facebook?

Prathima and Unnati: We are available on designforkashmir@gmail.com, and our website is currently under development.

According to you, what is your greatest work so far?

Prathima: I hope life never confers that unique privilege upon me – it will give me something to work towards.

Who are the top three artists alive that you draw inspiration from?

Prathima: Aitch, Diana Sudkya and Gustav Klimt (he is speaking through the grave)

Unnati: Ai Wei Wei, Banksy and Imran Qureshi

Designed For Kashmir by Dhun Karkaria | Cupick
Designed For Kashmir by Dhun Karkaria | Cupick

Procrastination – How would you define your relationship with it? And how do you deal with it?

Prathima: Procrastination and I are in a long distance relationship. I’ll tell you about it another time.

If you could give one piece of advice to the community, what would it be?

Prathima: Let the beauty of what you love, be what you do to help out.

Unnati: Be the change you want to see.

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Design for Kashmir collective, get in touch with the team through their facebook page or email.

You can support their efforts by spreading the word and buying from their collection of artwork. All proceeds from sales will go toward the rehabilitation and rebuilding of Kashmir. Visit the Design for Kashmir Store on Cupick.

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