"I met somebody who said, describe yourself in one line. And I was like, what do I say? It’s such a challenge,” says Eeshaan Kashyap when I meet him at his beautiful south Delhi home to discuss his exhibition, ‘Artist Proof’, which was on display at The Stands at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai from September 6 to 12. I totally understand where he is coming from because I, too, find it difficult to describe him in one line. Over the years, I have known Kashyap as a chef as well as a food and beverage curator. However, that was prior to the pandemic. Since then, he has evolved into a designer, an artist, a curator dabbling in everything from ceramics and metal, to paper and resin—a total of 27 different materials! He works with artisans from across the country—from Tamil Nadu to Kashmir and Bhopal to Moradabad—to craft tableware, home décor accents, and even clothes. His latest, ‘The Shawl Project - I Forget to Remember’, has been in the making for over two years.
His brand, Tablescape by Eeshaan, was born during the lockdown when he decided to design interesting tableware by steering clear of the usual motifs of parrot, gainda (marigold), and gulaab (rose). “I started working very closely with ceramic,” says the multi-hyphenate. “Ceramic is really important but it’s also taken a back seat, especially when it comes to designing objects or art in that category. So, I decided to really shake the system by doing design interventions. The idea was that ‘great, there is a technique, but how do we do something different? How about we break things? How about we bring the idea that broken is beautiful?’ There were many challenges, because in India, there are myths that you don’t keep things if they’re cracked; it should be perfect, etc.,” says the 38-year-old. It was during this journey that he started working with metal, semi-precious stones, marble, rock, and so on. “Basically, anything and everything to make something beautiful,” he smiles.
It was also during this period that he started collecting embroidered borders from Kashmir. These were typically from old shawls, though some were also from quilts and the like. “The idea was, how do we make something for ourselves, which was more like wearable art. I went to the Venice Biennale and I saw references there of how borders and threads were put together into something so simple, elegant, and timeless. And then came the idea that how do we put borders, which are not meant to be on the border, but in the centre as an idea,” explains Kashyap. And so was born ‘The Shawl Project...’ in association with Anupam Poddar of The Devi Art Foundation who helped him put the whole thing together.
The first collection of six shawls—all sold out—was displayed at Bikaner House in New Delhi. Each shawl, be it Pashmina or wool, has four to five different types of borders from Jamawar to Kaani. Kashyap brings his creative element into play by means of the placement of borders and the way they have been appliquéd on to the shawls. “They are not for everyone, yet they are meant for daily wear. So the people who have bought them are the kind who wear blue jeans and a white shirt and just a scarf. And it looks incredible. You don’t need to be dressy,” says Kashyap, adding that what is special about them is that they can be worn to the office or to a wedding. “These will always be limited. They cannot be replicated. They are one-off pieces. Scarves are priced at ₹40,000 to ₹45,000 and larger shawls are between ₹115,000 to ₹150,000,” explains Kashyap.
So what’s next for him? “I am already working on denim and Jamawar,” he smiles as he shows me a jacket in the former fabric with beautiful pieces of Jamawar appliquéd on it. “This one is for me,” he says as I admire it.
He is working on making simple white and black shirts with a Jamawar pocket, cuff, or collar.
However, what really excites him is mixed media. “I think I am very visually sound when it comes to putting patterns together. I see colour differently. I am able to navigate through the chaos,” he says, adding that a lot of his interesting ideas have come from accidents. “It’s like ‘oh no, this broke! But it’s looking good’,” he smiles.
Kashyap is currently designing Jamun’s third restaurant in Hyderabad, having designed the chain of restaurants in Goa and Delhi. He is also designing and conceptualising a new restaurant in Kolkata. “I think retail is so hard and I am learning each day how to navigate through it. But I think, overall, whatever I’m doing in terms of design, whatever vertical it is, it’s all very instinctive,” he signs off.