Updated: Jul 2, 2021
Monthly Feature // July 2020
Product designer & Clay enthusiast
"It's not a practice what I'm doing, it is fluid. I'm going with the flow."
Influenced by the experience of mundane objects, my design practice attempts to realize the potential of everyday objects in shaping our lives. My goal as a designer is to create mindful objects that connect with the user profoundly so people feel a sense of belonging to the objects. The process phase of designing is my playground where I aim to understand, learn and reinterpret object and experience from a holistic perspective.
"What do people see when they're asked about Clay? They say ‘MATKA!’ And that was me too" Says Yashika Munjal, a designer that aims to realise the potential of everyday objects in shaping our lives. She is trying to bridge the gap between the current design industry to the new wave of international design through her work. Currently, design is still associated with luxury, craft and graphics but, for her it's mainly about creating profound experiences through objects. "It's not a practice what I'm doing, it is fluid. I'm going with the flow."
On past experiences & challenges.
When asked about how Yashika started off in design, she recalls an early memory of how she transformed a refrigerator package into a stool. That's when her mother suggested she join NIFT. "I have always been a creative person. I wanted to take up a career in the creative fields but didn't know where to start. It wasn't until my mother suggested it and that gave me a starting point." At NIFT Kangra, Most of the equipment in the workshop was for woodworking, and working with wood wasn't a pleasant experience for her. "I wanted to work on pottery. There was no wheel so I learnt slip casting first. I'm self taught and most of the things I know now, is because I had the drive to learn." We have to say, We're inspired!
One of the two challenges Yashika had to face was the lack of available resources. "I had nothing. I started from scratch. Because I didn't have clay, I started with Plaster of Paris. I dug deeper into my research to find this method called slip casting." She made her first set of lamps with this process. Out of the 10 attempts she remembers only 2 successfully releasing from the mould. This was when she knew she wanted to move in this direction and rightfully so, because the resulting products are stunning! The other struggle was more of an internal one, underappreciation and constant dismissive misunderstanding of her work, through her years at design school.
"They didn't really recognise my work. Even in the end, during the graduation jury. They said there was no craft, It's not a solid product. But that was what I was aiming for. Not a solid product but something more fluid. Something free to interpret." We can imagine how frustrating that would've been! It's no different from what's happening in design schools across the country, we're made to fit into their moulds rather than being celebrated for our individuality as artists. "I had to break out of that mould and start working by myself. Most of the time I was marginally passing, but my parents always supported me." The perseverance and confidence Yashika has in her craft is what pulled her through, along with the help of her strong support system by her side. It’s important to stand by what we believe in, and trust the process. Each and every one of us is unique, and our craft — no matter how abstract or different — matters.
“I see Design like a friend, you don't acknowledge their presence everyday but you do appreciate and love having them around.”
On learning and inspiration.
When Yashika first started at college, like most of us, It was all about soaking up all the knowledge we could. Like a dry sponge, she says. But she does recall this experience of a teacher, Asit Bhatt pushing them to make something different. "It took me a whole year to understand what he actually meant — To develop your personal taste — The people who understood it, are out there doing their own thing while the people who haven't are still confined to the norms."
While we need to move out of our comfort zones to learn and evolve, we’re all on a constant simultaneous mission to find our unique voices as creatives. It can be quite hard to achieve considering that there are so many people out there who can do what we do, but we have got to persevere. Yashika says, "When I would think about design, it would be a table. Now, it's a term. A lot of extra terrestrial terms that are associated with it." It’s important to know that you can be anyone you want to be, you’re the only one stopping yourself from realising your true potential.
"It's not exactly that I sit down with a paper and pen and think of a problem. It's like you're looking around. I observe an activity that happens everyday, repetitively." She talks about her project Pantiles (shown above), and how the idea was born by observing the slate tile roofings in Himachal. "I visualised it flipped around and then gave it that interactive element of placing things in and around the cavities." The process is very spontaneous and it's about the reinterpretation of an object from a holistic perspective. We've seen some interesting visuals on Yashika's website. But we've also seen her breaking a lot of her stuff.
When asked about that process, she says, "I'm out of clay. So I have to break it to reuse the clay. The other reason is that I genuinely feel like I can do better. So I break it. It's a very therapeutic process and it's so relaxing to break stuff." Yes, who wouldn't love to break things and recreate them! For Yashika, it's not just about breaking things, It's also about breaking those barriers. "Even if someone intentionally broke it, I still have the knowledge to create it again. Nobody can take that away from me."
On design, process and pottery.
Yashika's website shows a wide range of beautiful pieces. But she didn't really enjoy working on them. "I love them all but I hated the process. It was 2 degrees outside, in the rain. I had to take the bus for two hours to work on my project. My mentor Reyaz Badaruddin was kind enough to let me use his space and also guided me through the process." Although the process was so tiresome, she says, her most recent creation, Versatile (shown below), is her favourite. It does the job of being a tile but also has this interactive element that builds a connection between the wall, the object and the user. Because of this interaction, the object comes alive.
"My design process is that there's no set process. It doesn't revolve around an object or purpose. It's about seeing the material out of form and function. That's the baseline I try to follow." This is such a fresh perspective on design thinking. To look at something as it is, seems so extraordinarily simple yet, a little complex. It's also a process that all of us need to try to expand our horizon! How truly fascinating!
"My products should have an element of interaction. If you can share it with someone and you're excited about it, My job is done." she says.
Yashika says one of her inspirations is Japanese designer Oki Sato. "It's the idea of being humble about who you are and what you practice. Taking inspiration from everyday objects, my ideas are pretty close to his." Objects play a vital role in our everyday life, we can't escape them.
We wanted to know, what is it about pottery that calls to her? "It's easy. You can work with it as much as you want.
Clay memorises, it doesn't resist. If you nurture it, it can last centuries. Pottery has given us evidence of some of the oldest civilisations to have ever existed." Pottery symbolises flexibility, fragility and sustainability.
Yashika is going to pursue her higher education in design. She has offers from some pretty great institutions. We couldn't be more happy and excited for her journey ahead!
Takeaways for creatives
"Don't give up. If you're making something and it breaks, don't give up. Maybe the process you're following could have a few setbacks but, your ideas have value. Believe in them. It takes blood, sweat and a lot of energy. You can't escape that if you want to create something worthwhile."
A little more about Yashika
Analog or Digital?
What are you listening to lately?
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TV shows you recommend binging?
Parks and Rec, Trial and error.
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.