Tiipoi, a London-based brand with operational studios in London and Bangalore, crafts products not just with a bid to invoke a sense of nostalgia but to present the unknown and unappreciated designs and materials of India.
Rather than keeping with design trends, Tiipoi, chooses to highlight existing and often ignored indigenous design concepts and techniques from the Indian sub-continent, which are realised through contemporary expression. Spandana Gopal, Founder and Creative Director of Tiipoi, tells The Inside Track how the studio manages to celebrate the ethos of India without compromising on the ‘Londoness’ of their brand identity.
Tell us about the inception and intent behind Tiipoi.
I started Tiipoi in order to create a new narrative for Indian design in the West. I have lived in London for 15 years now, and I felt the narrative around Indian made objects and craft seemed that it could be validated by only repeating the past and relying on stereotypes of how the world perceived India, rather than how we perceived ourselves. I felt there was more to say, it could be new, and so in a way it’s quite a personal reflection of what I believe to be Indian.
Your practice prioritizes minimal wastage. How do you ensure the ideology is duly followed through?
Rather than prioritising, it feels like its part of our design and manufacturing process. I guess hasn’t it always been part of Indian life? Being frugal? Innovating from a lack rather than excess of something? I feel like this can’t really be a selling point for any business, it should be the norm really. So in terms of it being followed through, we don’t really have a check sheet in that regard, but it starts at the design itself, so it’s all inbuilt into the design. For example, our Ayasa containers are spun from the excess material left over from spinning our Chakra trivets.
Tiipoi is an interesting name. What’s the inspiration behind the name of the brand?
Oh, yes – it actually comes from the word ‘Tin Pai’ (Teen Pai, or 3 legs in Hindi – a stool essentially standing on 3 legs) like Charpai is 4 legs. Basically I liked the story of a piece of furniture called the ‘teapoy’ (this 3 legged stool) that came to exist as something that was lost (or gained) in translation between two cultures (basically during the Raj in India) Essentially, I am reclaiming the space in a way I feel – but also its making something quite serious (colonial rule) into something quite lighthearted.
Essentially your studio started with the idea of reviving design concepts from the Indian sub-continent and what they can offer to the global market. Has the ideology evolved since conception, if yes, could you elaborate further?
Rather than reviving, I think it was highlighting features of Indian objects and Indian life. I don’t think we are revivalists! Also, the designs are created by our studio – so they are ours – but they pay a kind of homage to the anonymous objects of the Indian household, but also stories of Indian life that are quite particular or nuanced – that we feel are especially Indian. I think its only one part of the process though, because the story can not be told without a good, functional design – ultimately it’s the design that is our strength, while India is a kind of brief. Also, as much as we are based in Bangalore, we are also based in London which I think I will talk about in your next question!
Since your studio operates out of London and Bangalore both, is your design driven by commonalities or the studio customises individually for diverse lifestyles?
Yes, we are very much a London studio! Our lead designer is from London – he graduated from Kingston, and I studied here too. I think as much as we are celebrating India, we are also very proud of our Londonness. I think we are very much engaged with the design community here – we are active here and our friends are here. We have a workshop in India, so it’s not as interactive in that sense – which is a shame as I would love to have more of a community in Bangalore as well. But short answer to the second part of your question – we don’t design for trends, we design based on what problem we have to solve. It’s not so much of a question of lifestyle.
What factors are taken in account to achieve a successful design crossover?
Be true to the brief! Don’t try and impress too many people. Believe in yourself. The more needs you try to satisfy, the less satisfying your design would be. Focus and then make it the best there is. You don’t need to try to be different, if the design is good it will surface.
What are the materials you essentially work with? Any plans to explore new materials?
We work in mostly natural materials – i.e. which can be returned to the earth with minimal impact. If we use more than one material, it’s because we don’t have an alternative. So, metals like aluminium, stainless, brass and copper, also wood, stone and now clay (ceramics)
What role does India’s extensive craft heritage and craftsmanship play in your own signature style?
We work with craftspeople and smaller workshops, and also run our own. We want to actually move away from this heritage space because its very problematic if you are making functional design. Also, it’s a label that just gets put on you whether you like it or not. This actually can work against you if your work is not about crafts and heritage. As an industrial design studio, our concern is more towards how as designers can we make crafts relevant again – what is the evolution of craft going to look like? How can we challenge the idea of craft being primitive?
What are you currently working on and any plan to expand you’re work portfolio in future?
We are working with ceramics. Our new collection is called ‘Longpi Cookware & Bowls’.