Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Fruits Of Their Labour: Good Earth’s new fine china range represents the marriage of two distinct design perspectives

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Wine & Dine


Text by Ranjabati Das. Product styling by Swati Sinha. Photography by Joshua Navalkar

Clockwise from top: Bosporus Rosa Square Tablecloth (used as backdrop), Rosa Stem Glass, Rosabagh Oval Platter, Pomegranates & Roses Pasta Coupe 8”, Bosporus Rosa Placemat, Pomegranates & Roses Salad Coupe Bowl placed on Pomegranates & Roses Cake Stand; all from Good Earth.

Conscious luxury inspired by the culture and aesthetic philosophies of India is the cornerstone of Good Earth. Over the years, the lifestyle design house has popularised various indigenous art forms and craft traditions through its yearly design collections covering segments like home furnishings, tableware, wellness, kids wear and clothing. Nurtured through painstaking detailing and research, the home-grown brand has provided contemporary relevance to the country’s rich yet often overlooked artisanal design legacy by creating a space for heritage crafts in the luxury segment. Good Earth consequently became an access point for urban consumers looking for products that were in alignment with their values at a time when neither local crafts nor sustainability was in focus.

An array of brands has since tried to emulate this stylistic approach in a bid to claim a piece of the pie, but building the emotional connect and the trust evoked by Good Earth has proved to be harder to replicate. And now, 25 years later, founder and creative director Anita Lal’s largely women-led team continues to tell stories and speak to customers through world-class products that are innately Indian.

Clockwise from top: Pomegranates & Roses Pasta Coupe 8”, Pomegranates & Roses Salad Coupe Bowl, Bosporus Rosa Napkin; all from Good Earth.

The brand celebrated its silver anniversary in 2021 with the relaunch of their flagship store at Lower Parel, Mumbai. The timing of this attempt to update their legacy and vision at the end of a quarter century in business seems serendipitous, considering the current mood of re-evaluation ushered in by the pandemic. This spirit is also visible in the inclusion of Western design elements, in a first, in Bosporus, the new collection that had been in the making for two years. Like the region, the collection is also a meeting point between the East and the West. And the collaboration between Lal and British artist Rebecca Campbell, who brought their distinct design philosophies to the table for Pomegranates & Roses, the fine china line, is particularly symbolic of this synthesis.

Verve speaks to Lal and Campbell about their experience of working together through unprecedented times….

Anita Lal, founder and creative director, Good Earth

Why did you choose to shift your gaze to the West for the 2021 collection? How does it mark the beginning of a new design journey for Good Earth?
Every year, we present an annual design collection celebrating a particular tradition or culture from the Indian Subcontinent and from lands that lie on the ancient Silk Road. For our silver anniversary, I decided to shift our gaze Westwards, and as I thought about what connects Western cultural influences with the Eastern world, the storied legacy of the Bosporus strait was an obvious choice. Consisting of influences from ancient Greek, Roman, Persian and Byzantine eras to the Ottoman Empire, it is a rich culture developed over millennia. The Byzantines were great traders. They established extensive trading relationships with the Middle East and the Orient, including India and China. The Bosporus design collection is a true voyage of discovery. Born from a collective fantastical imagination, it introduces an all-new vocabulary of motifs, colours, and designs.

On conceptualising the new collection in the midst of a pandemic….
When the world came to a pause in 2020, I felt like time itself was compelling us to go slow. It reminded us that it is fine to step back sometimes so that you can see the world more clearly and love it more deeply.

I believe one should enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Working from home allowed me to spend more time in nature, participate in and enjoy seasonal rituals, and gaze endlessly at the star-strewn night sky. As a team, it is this gift of time that has inspired us to really delve into stories beyond an Enchanted India and look at our designs through a new prism.

Clockwise from top: Rosa Stem Glass, Blush Carafe, Rosabagh Oval Platter, Pomegranates & Roses Pasta Coupe 8” placed on Pomegranates & Roses Dinner Plate, Pomegranates & Roses Salad Coupe Bowl placed on Pomegranates & Roses Dessert Plate, Pomegranates & Roses Garden Tea Plate, Pomegranates & Roses Cake Stand; all from Good Earth.

Take us through the ups and downs of collaborating long-distance in order to maintain pandemic protocols. And how rewarding was the experience when it all came to fruition?
For our latest collection, we partnered with British artist Rebecca Campbell, who has an eye for detail. I found her to be one of the nicest persons to work with. She has a positive and open mindset, and when I gave her the theme of Pomegranates & Roses, she created a tree laden with ruby-red pomegranates and entwined with a rose creeper, and that was the start of a magical universe that went on to include so many whimsical elements and creatures – a pavilion, leopards, peacocks, hummingbirds….

The line evolved and grew into a comprehensive dinnerware collection: platters, plates, bowls and more. This very special collaboration came through in an unprecedented time. We conducted online meetings amidst lockdowns and across two continents and time zones! But when there is like-mindedness, the challenges are overcome easily.

Do tell us more about Campbell’s image of the roses threading through the pomegranate tree and how it symbolises the fusion of the East and the West – a theme that lies at the heart of the Bosporus collection….
There is a delightful cookbook named Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes, and both the book and its name have remained with me for years. I wanted to create a tableware collection that would embody this spirit by capturing the delight of al fresco dining. Our Bosporus collection carries influences of the entire region. And for the tableware, I decided to go with a more Persian influence.

Rebecca created the intertwined images of two fragrant edibles – ruby-red pomegranates and deep pink roses, elements that elevate cuisines across Central Asia and the Mediterranean. The pomegranate is an integral motif in Eastern cultures symbolising fertility and abundance; and in Western cultures, the rose is symbolic of love and romance. Together, they make a potent romantic combination.

Conceived and drawn through her sensitive artist’s eye, the tableware evokes images of orchards, gardens and promenades down the Bosporus, a dreamlike world of wonder. Each piece is a work of art with its own visual identity; yet, they come together beautifully as a collection.

Last year was a landmark year for you on account of the brand turning 25 and the revamp of your Mumbai headquarters. Has the way you celebrate milestones changed in the post-pandemic world?
I am an optimist so I try to find the positive in everything. For those privileged to be able to stay safe at home, the lockdowns gave us time to think while technology helped us to stay connected. For us, the essence of celebrating lies not in the scale. It is about being able to share a moment of joy with each other and living a life rich in experiences and stories.

Clockwise from top: Rosa Stem Glass, Rosabagh Oval Platter, Pomegranates & Roses Pasta Coupe 8”, Bosporus Rosa Placemat, Pomegranates & Roses Salad Coupe Bowl placed on Pomegranates & Roses Cake Stand; all from Good Earth.

On the shift towards sustainability brought about by the pandemic considering this is an area championed by Good Earth….
At the core of Good Earth is the philosophy of sustaining traditions, livelihood and the planet. This is something we have always believed in and worked towards. And this cannot be done in isolation. The philosophy of van vaibhav or splendour of the forest teaches us about the interconnectedness of everything and has been our guiding design philosophy.

Millions of artisans in our Subcontinent are the repositories of thousands of years of craft heritage. Sustainability in our context as a design house is about valuing the craft and appreciating our artisans, who are at the core of our culture. It ensures longevity through patronage and sensitive support by creating relevant designs that have a pride of place in modern homes.

Forging relationships with artisanal communities and investing in the revival of Indian traditions, both beneficial to the environment and society, is what we strive to achieve. It is our responsibility to keep them alive and share that legacy with future generations by reinventing a balance between the old and the new.

When this is the foundation of your business, collaborating with artisan communities is seamless. They understand that our aim is not to take away from them but to add to their repository. To work with them, one cannot work in a silo. We have worked towards investing in their communities and providing continuous forms of livelihood. We do not “commission” work, but rather collaborate to create products of a certain quality and aesthetic that can take the craft to a global audience.

Rebecca Campbell, artist

The Pomegranates & Roses line marks a new artistic journey in your oeuvre – the shift to watercolour. It was your first outing with ceramics as well. Can you tell us about the joy and challenges of taking on these new creative pursuits and collaborating during the pandemic?
Out of the blue, I received a message that Good Earth would like to work with me. I already knew of them as I had visited their beautiful shop in Delhi in 2012. It was a leap of faith on Anita Lal’s part to commission me, as I had never designed for ceramics before. Also, I usually work with oils, but I quickly realised that this was not suitable for this project. This led me to experiment with pen and watercolour until I was happy with the results.

Clockwise from top: Bolsover Tumbler, Kokand Linen Napkins (Ivory), Pomegranates & Roses Garden Tea Plates, Pomegranates & Roses Broth Bowl; from Good Earth. Fork and knife; stylist’s own.

When Anita shared the brief about her 25th-anniversary celebration with the theme of Bosporus, she allowed me to explore different avenues. I sent back rough sketches. She was accommodating to work with and there was a constant dialogue through the wonder that is WhatsApp, but there were some delays on account of being on different continents and time zones. I fell in love with the idea of pomegranates and roses – it was a great way to illustrate the meeting of the East and West.

It was a fantastic project to work on in such dire times, as it was so much fun to work with Anita, and it is such a beautiful and uplifting collection. Also, it was extraordinary to be able to work with someone virtually and get to know them that way. That was a first for me. Although we were on different continents, we were both experiencing the same situations of being under lockdown and all the difficulties that it brought. One day, I hope Anita and I will meet.

Image courtesy: Good Earth

How did the pandemic influence your artistic sensibility?
Life has become still, and yet it carries on. In many ways, artists are very self-contained, usually working by themselves. I was incredibly lucky to have shows lined up, and the subject matter for these were definitely more reflective. I was also very lucky in terms of the timing; the first one opened between the first and second lockdown. The theme for this show was gardens, based on my realisation of the pivotal role they play in creating a sense of solace and well-being and now more than ever. The exhibition was called Gardeners’ World, taking a journey through time and around the world to show how they have been created, curated and cultivated across cultures.

For the second show in 2021, I created a collection of paintings titled Still Life as I thought that pretty much summed up the current situation.

The biggest compliment for me is when people say that my work makes them smile. We can definitely do with a smile in these difficult times.

Good Earth champions sustainability, is this in line with your lifestyle?
It has been a pleasure to have worked with Good Earth, especially because of their ethos. I am conscious that I can always improve my lifestyle. I feel lucky to have travelled the world, but now I’m very conscious of the carbon footprint this created. I have planted some trees, and I intend to plant many more. Regarding my own lifestyle, I cycle on my way to the studio and also to get around London. In my practice, I try to use natural paints and materials as much as possible.

Your favourite picks from the Bosporus line?
You are asking me to choose! I love them all but particular favourites are the cushion covers, especially the Dianthus, Yasmin, Emiri, Bulbul and Bukhara. I also love the beautiful hand-painted ginger jars. But my top choice would be the Panthera Platter from the Pomegranates & Roses collection. I’m beyond thrilled at how this has turned out with its jewel-like rich colours and touches of gold. There’s a sense of the exotic with the cheetah ambling along. It brings back childhood memories of my introduction to the East through the stories of One Thousand and One Nights. I loved the stories but I loved the illustrations more…bejewelled colours, exquisite detail and compositions…. It was their depictions of gardens which left a lasting impact. This piece is my salute to East meets West.





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