An umbrella is a must to survive the showers and beat the heat. And if you prefer to add a bit of quirk when the heavens open, Nikhil More and Santosh Shelar, the duo behind multidisciplinary urban design studio Black Balloons, have the right shelter to take cover under. While Nikhil is a freelance graphic designer, Santosh is a trained sculptor from the Sir JJ School of Art and runs his own business.
Their range of handpainted umbrellas are adorned with doodles, images inspired by the movie poster of Deewar and the song Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si picturised on Madhubala and Kishore Kumar. For the god-fearing lot, they have an Oh My God series that features deities like Vishnu and Shiva and music lovers can check out the colourful Bob Marley and Madonna umbrellas. They also have umbrellas etched with pictures of beautiful girls looking lost in the rain. The images are hand-painted using fabric colours and there are two artists who help them to execute the creations.
The One Love umbrella
Black Balloons was launched in May this year but the duo got the idea a year back. Since it was already late in the monsoon, they couldn’t procure the requisite white coloured umbrellas from the wholesale dealers and shelved the plan for a year. “While we design umbrellas at present, we hope to broaden into designing coasters, jute bags, T-shirts and toys very soon,” says More. He admits that painting on umbrellas can also be a tad difficult at times as you have to stretch the fabric and then paint without knowing how it will look once finished.
The name Black Ballons is inspired by the concept of an inflatable flexible bag filled with a creative humorous gas. More’s sister, Shriya Patil Shinde has shot the photographs for the Black Balloons Facebook page. It juxtaposes the umbrellas across various places in the city, such as the railway stations and tracks, Banganga Tank, Kala Ghoda footpaths and the Asiatic Library. In the process, you can get a bird’s eye view of life in the metro as well with images of bicycle clad ice delivery boys, harried commuters, college students and more visible in the periphery of the photos. “We went across Mumbai to shoot the photographs as we didn’t want the usual photo shoot. We wanted to give a feel of street art by showcasing Bombay and its locals alongside the umbrellas,”
Thanks to the images, Black Balloons has come under the radar of foreigners as well and they have been featured by foreign blogs. They also keep getting orders from places such as France and Canada. “We have to politely decline as the shipping costs are too high for us to send them abroad,” explains More.
He admits that their Oh My God and Bollywood series of images of deities have got a great response. “We make the images look very attractive by using a lot of bright colours, chose themes that are close to people’s hearts and have nostalgia value,” concludes More.