An exclusive interview with Shibani Dasgupta Jain, Founder & CEO of Baaya Design
Shibani, where did the love for designs first begin?
My love for designs began very early, in my formative years, wherein I found myself always interested in spaces and designs. While I was born and raised in Mumbai, I also spent years from my early childhood in Kolkata in a large joint family.
Often, I would decorate rooms and other spaces for special occasions like birthdays or functions. In most Bengali families, art typically runs through our veins. My grandfather was an expert etching artist while my mother was a prolific singer.
We also travelled a lot within the country for holidays. I remember taking vacations with my mother to places of artistic significance like the magnificent Ajanta and Ellora Caves or the Cave Rocks of Jabalpur.
Was your decision to study design a result of your initial passion for space?
Yes. There was a deep desire within to study architecture or design. I applied at some of our leading schools like CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi. I finally took up an intensive course in Visual Communication and Exhibition and Display Design – a rigorous five-year course with the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.
At NID, my eyes really opened up to designs in various
forms and I got the opportunity to channelise my creativity. Post-NID, I worked with Tata Interactive Systems as Head of Design, and as the CEO, Craftsbridge India for over a decade and a half.
How was the seed of Baaya Design sown then?
Once my professor from my alma mater, NID, told me that the crafts of our country were languishing and artisans were not being celebrated in the way we ought to and I should do something for them before they were lost forever to modern times.
Many art forms as you know were being forgotten due to the lack of exposure and skilled artisans were letting go of our country’s great heritage due to a lack of recognition or a steady market for their products. Thus, the seeds for Baaya Design were sown.
Interestingly, I thought of the name Baaya too. One morning by chance, I woke up after a magnificent dream about this Indian weaver bird and I knew that this is what I could call my store. Just like this simple, little bird weaves its home meticulously and intricately, Baaya Design was meant to add similar simplicity and traditional beauty into homes and spaces.
How is Baaya Design different from others and how have you positioned it differently?
Baaya was conceived with the thought that art has to be meaningful. I believe that art needs to also have a social relevance, and the thought of positively impacting the dying art forms and heritage of our country and its artisans who were practicing our local crafts for generations was imperative.
This was the foundation for Baaya, which was born as a social venture in December 2009. We sourced art from all parts of India and began customising them to the urban needs of the consumers. It was also important to bring forth lesser known art and make it more available to consumers who were mostly unaware of our own art.
We source directly from the artisans in the way we feel it would suit the market and also hone their skills to meet with our expectations.
Can you take us through some interesting pieces of art that you have come across?
Initially the art that I was exposed to in my earlier career was mainly from Rajasthan or Gujarat. It was more widely known – whether handicrafts or fabrics or art like miniatures etc.
India has over 50 different kinds of art – ranging from Madhubani paintings from Bihar, Sohrai and Khovar art forms from Jharkhand, Bengal and Orissa Patachitra scroll painting, Cheriyal scroll painting from Andhra Pradesh, the terracotta tile work from Kerala, wrought iron and brass Dhokra work from Chhattisgarh, painted art forms from various states, black pottery from Manipur, Kutch Clay Mirror Lippankam and many more.
Baaya works with over 70 varieties of art, surface crafts and handmade skills which can be used to create hundreds of customisable options.
What is the core ethos of Baaya Design?
Baaya believes in making contemporary expressions in spaces using traditional art and the skills of an artisan customised to a consumer’s liking. We work with architects and designers, hotels, offices and residences to infuse traditional art and craft into interiors, while contemporising them. We help empower the artisans, who do the actual production towards such projects – either at their own sites or at customer sites to implement the design work created by Baaya Design.
Art in Baaya is simple, traditional and minimalistic and, meets today’s expression of homes and spaces. Through Baaya Design, we preseve our heritage and bring these skills back into modern interiors.
The ‘Tree of life’ piece at Baaya’s is one of the most sold or ordered pieces of art. Does it hold a deeper meaning spiritually?
The mystical Tree of Life in India and other cultures is known to bring positivity, prosperity and good fortune to a home or a space.
This concept has been around for hundreds of years and is considered by many to be a map of the universe and the psyche, the order of the creation of the cosmos, and a path to spiritual illumination.
A tree always gives you its bounty and takes very little. It also symbolizes a spiritual path – the roots stand for the foundation, the trunk for the journey one has taken and finally the abundance at the top denotes your presence in the universe.
We have custom orders from those who wish to customise this piece to their life journey or super consciousness, and it serves as a visual affirmation to many on where they need to be in regards to their goals.
What is your input on styling one’s home or space?
There is no right or wrong in choosing the way you wish to do up a space – it should reflect what you stand for. It should speak about your travels, your memories, your education and your passions.
Your space is yours and you should make it comfortable and worth living in. It should be able to connect with you and have an eclectic mix.
Mostly, it should adapt to you and your changing needs as a person. The use of natural things has a calming effect on you and gives it an uncluttered, clean look. You have to feel confident about yourself and your space when you do up your home or office, and that’s the only tip that one should follow.