How storytelling enhances design value

Thinking craft

A niche presentation at the India Design 2016, put forward a theory of how market sentimentality can be influenced by cultural ethos. In the Design pavilion, a man was seen deeply engrossed in drawing a Kalamezhuthu painting, a powder art that is an age old practice of storytelling and idol worship.

Though the fair was extravagantly decorated, but this provincial man’s powder decoration was not causing any imbalance in the plush ambience, but rather gathered more heads than any other designer decor items could.

The idea of incorporating this as part of the fair was a collaborative effort of Asian Paints and Centre for Gravity (CfG), a consultancy that understands the power of story as a tool to emotionally attract an audience towards design.

“When you tell someone a story about Kalamezhuthu, they will understand its significance better. If you see something beautiful, you just see it. But when you know where it comes from and how it started, you start getting more intrigued,” says Rajesh Sahadevan, from CfG.

The provincial town man, quietly drew the powder painting of an idol till it finished. The painting nearly took five hours. After which with the help of a translator he explained the painting he drew.

“A story can have various ‘vectors’, one vector can be what is Kalamezhuthu, the other can be this nameless man’s story, another can be about the tradition in Kerala. Each of these vectors act as means to introduce people to something they can only see. But they can appreciate it better if they know about it through any of these vectors,” says Sahadevan.

For instance, the fact that Kalamezhuthu is older than temples. When architecture did not develop in the civilisation, people would pray to Kalamezhuthu idols. It is still practiced in Kerala and is mostly observed in Bhagavathy/Bhadrakali temples of Kerala. This piece of information may influence one to incorporate the painting in their home, or a designer may want to fuse the hues in their design, which in turn will raise the value of a tribal art like Kalamezhuthu, by making it far-reaching. Such a design will be seen as something that is developed integrally from ‘Indian’ ethos. To elaborate further, Shreya Biswas, a storyteller explains the story of indigo, a blue colour which is dyed on cloth by artisans in Kutch, Rajasthan. Today, it has become an indispensable item in a wardrobe for many in the city. The story of indigo dying has a lot to do with it according to Biswas.

“When I went to Kutch, I realised the way we see indigo, is not the way the artisans see it. For them, it is not just a colour but a person,” Biswas tells Metrolife.

She says that the artisans often quote, “aaj toh ye ruth gayi hai, isse manana padega” (today she is angry, we must consol her).

“When the blue colour does not develop properly on the cloth, the artisans get worried about the indigo. This colour influences their entire life, it is their livelihood and passion,” says Biswas.

Hence, what is understood from the story of a mere colour is that it can be as influential on a population, to make it last as an evergreen design.

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