Sonar Bangla at the museum

Howrah Bridge, hilsa and hand-pulled rickshaws are some of the influences that fired the imagination of young furniture designer, Ipsita Johri, who will unveil her first collection, Quintessential Bengal this weekend. It will capture the flavour of a city known for its football crazy fans and infamous power cuts

As a little girl who spent most of her childhood marvelling at the carved balustrades and colonial bungalows in remote areas of India, Ipsita often wondered about the imposing architecture and imperial furniture that the British had left behind. Her obsession grew with the years especially when she decided to weave her own nest with similar masterpieces. But where was she to find such beautiful poetry in wood, except perhaps at Chor Bazaar or Sharma Farms in Delhi?

No more storage problems Baksho dining table and chairs
with storage:
Polished mahogany with gawar inlay and brass handles.
DIMENSIONS: H 42" x D 42"; Square cabinet 18.5 square inches; COST
Rs 17,000; Chairs: Sold separately or with a Baksho table DIMENSIONS:
H 43" x W 16" x D 16"; COST Rs 11,900

Not satisfied with having to scout for unique masterpieces, Ipsita decided to dig into her cultural roots and create a line of stunning furniture-one in which each piece would be, well, one of its kind. Not just exclusive, but each work of art would be like a tribute to the master creator; the collection had to be simply divine; befitting royalty. It is this divine mystique that each handcrafted piece reflects, under her label, Aiza.

Pride and passion
For Ipsita, a long journey had begun -- one that spurned mediocrity and brought to life traditional motifs in teak, sal, mahogany, kapur and gawar. Each detail that embellished and enhanced had its own story to tell. Like the betel nut leaf held coyly by the demure Bengali bride which found its way on a set of drawers, making it look resplendent or the intricate jaali work on the windows that now cast a spell. Then, there is the Bankura chair that transports you to the district of little terracotta horses.

Ipsita elaborates that she had the imagination and the drive to infuse life into her dream, but needed help to translate her vision into functional, practical units that would radiate their special aura even in a tiny corner or at a desk. A case in point is the little organiser she has conjured. "I discovered three talented students from NID (National Institute of Design) who infused a freshness along with their zeal. Even though none of them had been to Kolkata, each of them worked on ten exemplary pieces. Their readiness to experiment and push frontiers complimented my resolve to create exclusive furniture," she says.

Merging into Mumbai
But given the matchbox flats of our overcrowded city, will Ipsita's brand get space to call its own? In fact, keeping space constraints in mind, Ipsita has designed novel concepts like a dining table and chairs that very cleverly disguise drawers for storage.

At: Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya, Colaba; on September 17, 10 am to 6 pm, September 18, 10 am to 1 pm

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