While Jaipur was an ideal place for Ayush Kasliwal to start his practice “celebrating craft and craftsmanship in products and environment”, back in 1998 there wasn’t much prospects for a furniture designer in the city. So the NID (National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad) graduate had to humbly start off as a contractor and a general handyman. Fortunately, it benefited him in the end because he discovered that “there is design in everything, not only in the end product, but also in the process and in this context — (a fact that) is quite significant and critical for a design practice.”
His first project — that prompted him to formally establish Ayush Kasliwal Design Private Ltd. — was for a project in Lunkaransar, where he developed products using the charpai weaving technique. This experience eventually led Kasliwal across the globe, as the “handyman” went on to design homes in New York, a mosque in Boston, and undertook many product development projects in small villages in Rajasthan. He even started a craft retail firm called Anantaya with architect Geetanjali Kasliwal with the aim to make crafts relevant to contemporary lifestyle. “Since then, it has gained global recognition and a dedicated following among connoisseurs of craft. We extended our footprint into the USA in 2011 by establishing brand AKMD in partnership with Michael Dreeben, a longtime friend and designer. We were trying out a cross continent collaboration with products designed in India being made in the US, and vice versa,” adds Ayush, who has also collaborated with Scandinavian brand Mater and with French brand Eno.
No matter what the scale or location, Kasliwal aims to provide examples of contextual design through his work. Instead of imposing a certain design style, he and his team choose to interpret what is available and what is appropriate — and in the process raise everyone’s expectations about what a good design should be and what it can do. In the same spirit, Kasliwal would like to urge designers to step out of their comfort zone, “do things that you are not comfortable doing, take the risk of appearing foolish, and then do whatever it takes to do it well!”

Looking Back

One of his milestone projects was in 2004 for the Folk Life Festival, that was held in Washington and organised by the Asian Heritage Foundation headed by Rajeev Sethi. “Working with Sethi was instrumental in our being able to appreciate, and get knowledge from the vast cultural resources around us,” says Kasliwal.

Looking forward

One of their current project the firm is excited about is the design and delivery of a fine-dining restaurant in Washington, which is due to open in September. “I am looking forward to this as it seamlessly blends fine craftsmanship, which is typical of our subcontinent, with contemporary hospitality design,” explains the designer.

 

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