A Colonnade of Local Craft- Ashiesh Shah’s ‘STAMBH’ series used two dozen regional crafts to design exquisite pillars for living room

Creating quite a continuum in craft, the recent exhibition titled STAMBH: Craft, Collaboration and Continuity community and collaboration by Ashiesh Shah at Kala Bhoomi Odisha celebrated indigenous living craft practices as a part of Sustain 2023 curated by G20 Culture Working Group.

Titled STAMBH: Craft, Collaboration and Continuity, the design exhibition showcases and reflects on the creative expression of ongoing explorations in indigenous living craft practices.

The exhibition highlights the continuous engagement with over two dozen craft regions across India, combining traditional artisanship with contemporary expression.

Drawing inspiration from Hindu scriptures, especially the Atharva Veda, where Stambh is described as a cosmic column connecting heaven and earth, the exhibition explores the significance and symbolism of pillars in various forms. From the Mana Stambh (Pillar of Humanity) to the Deep Stambh (Pillar of Light) and Dhwaj Stambh (Flag Staff) in temples, to the Vijaya Stambh (Pillar of Victory) and Kirti Stambh (Pillar of Glory), these pillars have represented strength, glory, faith, and hope for centuries.”

The Temple City of India with the best display of Kalinga architectural style, Odissi dance and music, and the many traditional craft practices of the state. It is this side of contemporary designers who want to bring indigenous and infamous art and crafts to a wider audience, raise awareness and bring it the long-due appreciation it deserves.

According to Shah, STAMBH didn’t happen overnight or suddenly when a designer decided to start vocalising craft. It happened gradually, over the years, by questioning where it fits in the design language of a contemporary designer, by debating how to present them to an audience, without blurring its authenticity and finally from wanting to look inwards—towards Indian craft culture.

The Various Pillars Designed after engaging artisans from different region across the country are as follows :

Coconut Shell Dumroo Stambh in Coconut Shell, Cast Brass and Vegan Leather by artisan Anil Jain.The pillar is inspired by the crafts of Goa and Maharashtra, is a marriage of materials, the combination of coconut shells and brass creating a sculptural, minimalist pillar.

Dhokra Stambh in lost wax process, cast bronze by artisan Mansaram Baghel.  Another made in wrought iron and glass by artisan Narayan is one of the most unique stambhs, the craft of which has been seen in Shah’s early works as well. Dhokra, from Chhattisgarh’s Bastar District, is a non-ferrous metal casting process using a lost wax casting technique.

Jaipur Blue Pottery Stambh and Channapatna Bead Stambh combined and created by artisan Raj Balabh Yadav and Noor Salma.

Channapatna Stambh Red made from ivory wood and beeswax lacquer, and cast metal by artisan Noor Salma.

In the corridor are the Moonshadow Longpi Stambh and New Moon Marble Stambh.“ Attributed to Goddess Panthobi, the Manipur Pottery tradition is most famously practised in Longpi village of the state’s Ukhrul District.

The New Moon Marble Stambh, made from the superlative skills of Rajasthan’s artisans, is a six-foot sculpture made from a single block of stone, and also a composite of three functional design objects.

The copperware craft of Maharashtra-The Copper Damroo Stambh is a composite of four individual copper perch stools. The lean centre of the stools radiates outwards to form bulbous edges, appearing as a protruding kaan (ear). The Multi-ball Brass Stambh is crafted from hand-beaten brass, and standing at five feet is reminiscent of the moons.

Raw Crystal Mini Stambh which utilises handpicked pure crystal stone, and is delicately carved from a single piece of semi-precious clear quartz.

The Monoform Candle Stambh is composed of a series of candle holders, in the form of wide bowls, each punctuated with grooves, vegan leather cording, and brass plates.

The White Metal Patrawork Stambh has four silver-clad metal stools and central spheres with a textured and hammered look.

The Multi-Crescent Bone Stambh is a vertical stacking of three perch stools, where crescent-shaped forms are connected with discs–a play of form and proportion. The craft of stambh comes from the exquisite crafts skills of artisan clusters in Jodhpur who have long been celebrated for their intricate bone carving technique.

The Samaya Kerala Stambh presents a traditional function—the deepmala—in a contemporary format. The stambh is a tall structure inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s work, intertwined with the deepastambha seen at the entrance of Kerala temples.

The Sholapith Stambh, inspired by the plinths in Puri’s Jagannath Temple and the Talisman Blown Glass Stambh composed of an elliptical glass globule had to be one of the most intriguing ones among all.

The wabi-sabi philosophy was the natural transition when the design moved to the artisan’s workshop and hands.The Atelier’s beliefs of advocating the localisation of resources through a re-contextualisation of Indian craftsmanship, and the inception and journey of STAMBH.

In addition to celebrating craftsmanship, STAMBH also engages with the concept of circular economies, emphasising responsible practices that minimise waste and maximise resources

After the exhibition, the pieces might be dispatched to a villa in Alibaug, as per Shah.

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