Women In Design
Monthly Feature // December 2020
A textile designer finding herself fluctuating between a design and an artistic practice, working on a vast range of projects from independent personal work, independent commissions and consulting.
Isha, a textile designer by profession, finds herself constantly fluctuating between a design and an artistic practice; finding her space and focus. If you've had the opportunity to look at the highly innovative work Isha does, you would know the depth and level of detail she goes into with each structure, creating a masterpiece. Besides her personal projects, she works on a wide range of projects, "I work independently, on independent commissions. I keep myself busy working on art pieces, but otherwise I also work as a consultant for studios where I develop textile products for them. I like to work on large scale installations as well. I've had a few opportunities to do that!". Throughout her journey, she's focused majorly on textiles "For me, it's been quite a mix of things that I do, but my medium has always been textiles, which kind of remains a focus of everything that I'm doing right now." From the start of journey at the National Institute of Design, India, to the Royal College of Art, London, Isha has managed to find her calling and create wonders with it.
"For me, it's been quite a mix of things that I do, but my medium has always been textiles, which kind of remains a focus of everything that I'm doing right now."
On her creative journey and design education
"My formal trainings pretty much paved my way for choosing my career" NID was the starting point into a career in textile design for Isha, "What drew me to textiles was always how hands on it was, and it was such a perfect balance of something that's so mathematical and technical, yet you can then find your creative balance there." she describes how the complex technicalities and the physical format of the medium grounds her in the simplest way "Whether it's to do with weaving and the maths behind it, or the dying and printing processes that go behind it, there's always something that's grounding you." The unlimited possibilities that lay beyond the processes allowing you to expand and push them within your own creative capabilities is something that has always excited her about textiles.
"I then went on to do my masters at Royal College of Art, London, which was again an eye-opening experience, if I have to say so. It was definitely an experience that I quite cherish, because suddenly I was thrown into this space, and it was a very different form of education to begin with" Through her self-led masters at RCA, Isha mastered not only in Textiles, but also in multiple other skills such as time-management and building both agenda's and timelines (and learning to diligently stick to them). "RCA was definitely a time where I started asking myself those right questions about what it is that I believe and what it is that I want to do, or say through my work and my practice. It was a big turning point for me."
We were interested to know how her unique experiences at both NID and RCA helped shape Isha into the creative she is today, and if there was something she wishes had been done differently. "I always wonder if the kind of freedom I got at masters to really explore everything and anything without any constraints, had I gotten the same freedom when I was on my BA, would I have been able to make the most of it? I don’t know." Isha says, "The biggest difference is age, I guess. Because when you're doing BA, you're still quite young, still learning." It's quite a challenging comparison since you're at different stages of your life. Each stage brings with it it's own challenges and uncertainty which holds you in the present. "In terms of lack, I definitely do feel that maybe as designers or creatives, we're not really equipped to face the commercials of the real world for sure." Unsure if it was a good thing or a bad thing, Isha says "Maybe it's a good thing, because it helps us to be more pure and closer to what the core of our subject is, and not really involve ourselves with the marketing side and the functioning of it, and not let that adulterate our work." A point we stand by alongside her. Understanding that there is an evident lack upon entering the industry is inevitable, but there's always something you can do about it. Teaching yourself these skills and empowering yourself to tackle any problem at hand can be your superpower. (Here's how you can teach yourself basically anything, learn how!)
On developing her craft
Beyond her educational experiences, Isha also had the opportunity to work in the multidisciplinary studio space Wari Watai; "That was quite an interesting space again, because it wasn't very focused on textiles, but more of a space where there were all kinds of designers — right from graphic to textile and exhibition designers." It was an exciting time for her as she was able to work on multiple projects, she says "Everyone was working on various projects, but there were times when we would be required to work on projects together, or, maybe you needed a textile input on a project related to exhibition design, or setting up a space". That context was something that really excited her, one where she wasn't necessarily working solely with textiles for homes or creating garments "It was more of textiles in terms of whatever context you put it in — whether it was a product, exhibition or space, whatever it may be." This versatility was something she always wanted to have in her practice as well.
The thorough project management skills Isha gained through her Masters stuck with her beyond just her educational years. Even today, she makes it a point to have an agenda for the day, writing down the things she has to focus on. "I'm not always constantly working on a project, maybe I might be giving a couple of hours to a certain project, but the other hours I'm either ideating or thinking, or reading about something" Isha can't imagine constantly sitting at the table and sketching out ideas on hours on end, she likes to keep her days fluid; shuffling between projects, readings, and life. "It's been about a year and a half for me since I've been back, I've really been trying to kind of push an independent practice, and yeah that also comes with its own challenges." not having the safety net that provides job security and a strong income can be challenging at times, but to learn the art of hustling and doing what you love is a different type of job satisfaction. Isha credits the positives of working for yourself "You learn to hustle and start to re-question your work, reflecting back on your work constantly and I think that's a learning process in itself, when you're working independently — where you start critiquing yourself every step of your way. Because that's the only way one can grow." There's no one telling you that, you're your own boss and you define success in your own way. Isha mentions she's still at the beginning of her career, and is finding her way through things as goes. We're excited to see where her career takes her!
On her kinetic sculptures
If you've been following Isha, you're aware of the breath-taking kinetic sculptures she creates. "The idea has always been about how our material experiences have such a massive impact on our lives" realizing the materiality that surrounds us, Isha understands the length at which it has dominated our day to day lives. "My question has always been about how tactility and these physical materials around you actually have a psychological impact on your life, on your wellbeing, on your everyday." She points out the distanced relationships we now have with our material environments, having lost the once obtained intimacy. We live in an environment where the materials surrounding us do not respond, do not react, do not have a character. That is where it all started from for Isha. "It was also about reflecting on those (hiking, walking in a forest) experiences and thinking about how we can bring those very therapeutic, very close to nature experiences indoors. That's when I started exploring the idea of a breathing fabric, something that expands and contracts and reminds you of breathing and calming the mind, something that's alive, and that immediately creates a connect." The kinetics of it was something that helped Isha along the way in obtaining her goal. "I've been exploring these movements, the tempo of it, that slow calm movement, what impact does it have on a viewer, as opposed to something that breathes, expands and contracts at a faster speed?" From understanding and exploring how origami could help augment her to create the structures she wanted, to hunting fabrics, stitching and working techniques; Isha works on obtaining the right balance between materialism and life to create sculptures that connect with people and create such enriched experiences.
We wondered where she gets the sought-after inspiration that helps bring such wonders to life. "I feel inspiration can be sometimes too clichéd a concept also. I feel like, for me it's always been that my ideas always come to me when I'm working with the material. So when I'm creating is when I'm thinking" It's when she's fiddling, making something that she's thinking. A rather refreshing outlook on creativity, if we can say so ourselves. Of course, she's always looking up things on the side, reading up on things — which later comes back to her and helps her make the right connections at the right time.
"I feel like your personality, the person who you are what you believe in, your mental state of mind, everything trickles down into your process, how you approach your work, into how you deal with your everyday and that kind of eventually trickles down into the outputs that you really create." Isha says "I do definitely feel that there is a large part of my personality in that work. It's definitely to do with the fact that I like to live a very balanced life, I like to question what is the right balance to your life, I like to have a routine, I like to have a certain structure to my life, you know" She sees aspects of herself in the work she creates, as we all do. Personal projects and creatives are in a way, a reflection of the creative themselves.
Isha has worked immensely hard to achieve the perfect balance of speed, movement and form to imitate life in a materialistic world. Despite being a textile designer, Isha didn't let the daunting complications of technical elements stop her "The hardware side of things has completely been learning on the go" Isha comments on the hardware and back-end technicalities that act as the base framework for her work. "As a textile creative, I think what's also more important is the structure that I'm working with, and not necessarily the back-end. So I'm always creating newer structures on top" She comments on the highly iterative process that helps her refine and build on the visuals we see.
What's next for you?
I just finished a couple of projects. For me, I think, the next big step is making my move to Germany. So, since I just got married, so I'll be moving with my husband. Right now I'm at a stage where I'm really figuring out how I want to go about my practice. Because I've tried to build one for myself, in an ideal scenario, I would like to keep one foot in India and one foot in Germany, and see if I can manage the two. At the moment, I'm just trying to do as many projects, keep building on the work and portfolio that I've built so far, and let's see! I'm honestly at a phase where a lot of changes are going on in my life, and I don't know what really is next! Let's see!
Takeaways for upcoming creatives?
Keep going and doing stuff, it doesn't matter what it is, or to what end it is really. But I think it's really important to keep your head into things and the stuff that you do. Needn't be for any reason what-so-ever. Just putting in a couple of hours and thinking for your own practice, like I said earlier, doing personal work is something that really helped me, and I've learnt very recently where I keep a separate sketchbook for my personal and commercial projects, and it's been something that has really helped me! Keep reading, keep learning about new things! That never stops, and that should never stop! Especially in today's time we live in an age where there's something new that's happening, so it's very easy to feel obsolete. So yeah, keep pushing, learning about new things within your own field and really finding your focus within it all! So, yeah.
A little more about Isha
Who is your favorite artist / designer
Name 3 other inspirational Indian creatives that you look up to
One of my seniors called Shayan Chanda, my friend,Khyathi Trehan!
What is your favorite art movement?
Who are you listening to right now?
We're always open to other perspectives, opinions and a good chat over some coffee or tea. We'd love to host a conversation with you, head on over to our Discord and get in touch!
With 🧡 Team WID.