Indian design comes of age with IKKIS, Gunjan Gupta’s new brand

How the cutting-chai glass became a champagne goblet and the balti became a centrepiece with Gunjan Gupta’s vision to give the most common objects in the Indian landscape the spiffiest makeover

“The things I make are expensive and intellectual.” Gunjan Gupta’s words are arranged snugly, like matches in a matchbox with unquestionable potency. But then the New Delhi-based interior and product designer has every reason to mark her league. She has walked the talk more than once in the past 13 years, ever since she first set up Wrap in 2006, India’s first contemporary luxury and lifestyle brand, to explore internationally relevant Indian product design. There have been outings at Sotheby’s in London; design commissions with Swarovski in Paris and Dutch design studio Droog; displays at Salone del Mobile and the Triennale Design Museum in Milan—and global recognition made dense with the most prestigious awards in the world.

With her new practice IKKIS, which launched with a series of 21 objects, Gupta engages with a larger community of makers to develop a global offering rooted in distinct Indian rituals and utility—all of it embedded in indigenous craft and materiality. “Twenty one objects for 21st-century living could be a simpler way to sum it up,” says Gupta, who is amused when asked what makes the collection unique in the clamour of decor accessories and luxury craft available in the market. “It’s about going beyond the ‘made in India’ tag. IKKIS is all about Indian product design, rooted in heritage craft, that is also relevant internationally thanks to uncompromising production and design standards. Let’s say I started by thinking how such classical Indian forms as the cutting-chai glass or the matka be relevant for someone in Paris or Denmark!”

The collection, which sparked much excitement and delight at the Maison & Objet in Paris where it was launched earlier this year, is consistent in its stunning beauty and design twists. Sample some of the creations: the kullar—an earthen cup widely used in north India for serving chai—has been elevated to a goblet with copper insides and a terracotta exterior. The cutting-chai glass turns into a bona-fide champagne holder complete with an elegant brass stem. The matka or the earthen vessel commonly used to hold water is the inspiration for the matka tiffin, a set of terracotta-coated copper bowls that can be separated into three pieces. The balti, a brass bucket, is reintroduced as a beverage chiller with fine Mughal-era craftsmanship. The down-to-earth paraat that is traditionally used to knead dough is transformed into a posh centrepiece with deft use of marble and hand-beaten brass; and the humble diya, or earthen lamp, is reimagined as a fancy, copper candle holder that is not so humble anymore.

Gupta has also made sure that IKKIS is not merely about innovation but invention too, with the terracotta coating on all the objects soon to be patented. “No one has done that—terracotta on copper.” And what could be more emblematic of a coming-of-age story for Indian design in the 21stcentury than that?

NEED TO KNOW

Collection: IKKIS Unlimited is a series of functional design objects which infuse beauty and character into the everyday.

Product range: Bowls, glasses, water goblet, tiffin boxes, vase, platter, decanter, jug, lamp, serveware, flatware, tray, stool

Materials: Sandstone, terracotta, marble, glass, copper, brass, enamel

Price range: Rs 1,850 to Rs 21,550

Website: Ikkis.in

Availability:  Orders can be placed on Instagram at @IKKIS.21. Alternatively, visit the brand studio in Jaunpur, New Delhi (strictly by appointment; call +91 9820999786)

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