Thirty six-year-old Mumbai resident Pooja Doiphode may have never visited the Ajanta and Ellora Caves but the stunning site is a source of constant inspiration for the designer. It egged her to collect and cut out images from greeting cards and magazines. Over the years, this art-and-craft obsession took a backseat, as she busied herself working as a customer service executive. However, her dream of designing a range of Indian artefacts remained at the back of her mind.
Eight years back, she started Poi Doi Handicrafts (from the first three letters of her name and surname) by collaborating with artist friends and rural potters. What emerged was a range of earthenware, terracotta curios, Ganesha idols and mugs, which she began showcasing at small exhibitions across the city. Today, her products are available online, and she runs Poi Doi Handicrafts from her workshop in Juhu. The designs are conceptualised by Doiphode, two friends who are co-owners, and an artist who fleshes out the designs.
“Based on the nature of the design, we collaborate with potters from different locations, be it Dharavi, rural Karnataka or a spot near the old Mumbai-Pune Highway. Each offers a different finish. We also provide a platform to newer artists to showcase their creativity,” shares the self-taught artist. The range of products includes terracotta necklaces and earrings, cloth handbags, ceramic and hand-painted terracotta mugs, coasters, trays, clocks, vases, Motu Ganesha idols (featuring a rotund idol), wall hangings and animal planters. Most designs are based on frescoes at Ajanta and Ellora, Khajuraho and Hampi, Jain temple art, colourful Rajasthani miniatures, Lord Buddha as well as Warli and Madhubani motifs. They also customise products for buyers.
Doiphode believes that the key to their designs lies in their focus on expressions, be it of Rajasthani women, or of Ganeshas: “The eyes denote emotions, so we emphasise on it. Besides, traditional Indian motifs are always in fashion; I prefer it to contemporary, pop art.” She adds that these are one-of-a-kind products. “These artists don’t use stencils, so designs are made freehand. Thus, each item sports slightly different expressions.”
These products are aesthetically appealing and functional as well. “The utility factor is important. Most products are created to help the space-starved Mumbaikar. So, the mugs double up as pen stands and the animal planters help in growing plants, adding to the home decor,” she elaborates.