Nipa Doshi—one half of the highly versatile product design firm Doshi Levien—was introduced to the intricacies of great craftsmanship at a very early age. Her aunt’s embroidery workshop was located in the veranda of her aunt’s home, designed by Le Corbusier’s assistant (Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, known as a pioneer of modern architecture). There, 50 master craftswomen would make a variety of pieces exclusively by hand for fashion heavy hitters such as Issey Miyake and Hermes.
But it wasn’t just the physical work they produced that inspired Doshi. It was about the care they took and pride in their everyday appearance.
“In India, in the case of my aunt’s embroidery workshop, very often the women came from very humble backgrounds. But the way they tied the sari around, the way they combed their hair or they put a bindi on their forehead, and the way they dressed according to the seasons—they were very humbly dressed but there was a lot of grace in the way that they dressed,” she explained.
“The ingredients for embroidery (vignettes of different techniques, sequins, threads) became the components of the rugs,” Doshi explained. She also plays with color perhaps in a more subtle way, but with an approach that creates more drama than simply throwing around vibrant splashes here and there.
“I like to take bright colors and make them a little bit dirty,” she said. “It’s that play of making the colors dusty, muted, and then have accents of a fluorescent for example or a line of silver. So in my view it brings the colors alive. Because it’s very easy to use a very bright color, but it’s more complex and subtle to take a bright color and say, ‘How do I tone it down or pair it with another material or another color?’”
“Grace is very important in everything that you do in your life. And you can introduce it in very simple tasks—in how you lay a table or how you make a bed,” she noted. “It’s beyond the object in a way. And for me that beauty is caring about everyday activities.”
Doshi’s Rabari collection for the more than 25-year-old rug manufacturer nanimarquina illustrates just that. The minute details woven throughout these four rugs make them more than just a piece of flooring; they represent an attitude to life. From small delicate shapes, to the random layout of the threads, to the way the hand-knotted weaves are finished, the line expresses the joy and sense of care Doshi Levien infuses into all the objects they design and which they try to live by in general.
But Doshi also wanted to capture the feeling of a work in progress, as well as the serendipity the craft process allows for, as one can make changes as they go along. “Many of the embroideries took hundreds of hours,” she said of the creations coming out of her aunt’s workshop. “I love to see the embroidery in process, and for me the unfinished piece was more beautiful than the final.”
“There’s a philosophical connection between nanimarquina and Doshi Levien,” said Nani Marquina. “Craftsmanship is one of nanimarquina’s differential values, and Doshi Levien’s work explores the coming together of cultures and craftsmanship as well. Craftsmanship contributes toward the innovation of our designs, and each technique used helps to achieve perfect harmony between the design and the finished product. In the end, we both make tradition contemporary,” she added.