She is an architect. He is a designer. Their work is tied together in taking traditional crafts, especially from their home state of Rajasthan, and combining it with contemporary expression through home accessories, gifts, lighting, furniture, textiles, tableware and more. Through their brands Anantaya and AKFD Storey, Geetanjali and Ayush Kasliwal infuse their collections with ancient craft practices and a sense of place that travels beyond the colorful city of Jaipur that houses their workshop.
They have collaborated with several artisans in the past, including traditional block printers of Sanganer, who cut hardwood design blocks with hand tools, mix colors and turn each block into a story on patterned cloth. Working with these artisans, Anantaya created contemporary designs for the block-printers. They have also designed bags with self-felted pockets working with namda (felt) artisans in the Tonk area of Rajasthan. The process involves layering and kneading to make felt, a nonstructural cloth that is warm and waterproof. Another range involved home textiles created using the two harness loom on which Panja Durrie weavers make the simple cotton rugs of Rajasthan. They introduced a metallic lurex thread to the weft to give it a glittering effect.
The design studio gave the historical sand mold design a new application through their ‘jaali coaster’. For generations, artisans have followed the Moghul way of making sand molds using their feet to knead the sand and their hands and tools to prepare for casting with molten metal. Thathera craftsmen of Jaipur, named after the sound ‘thath, thath’ of their hammers, have made gold and silver utensils for Kings and brass and copper for common people for years. In a contemporary range of tea light holders by Anantaya, which received UNESCO’s seal of Excellence, the traditional work was replaced by stainless steel. The varakh artisans, makers of gossamer thin sheets of gold and silver leaf, have retained a tradition of making these sheets that are printed on the finest cloth, and even used as a garnish on special sweets. These sheets also illuminated Anantaya’s white marble and hand-hammered metal products.
The studio has been providing the artisan communities with design, technology, capital, and creative collaboration. “At AnanTaya, we believe that crafts should be a part of our everyday life and that crafts, like any other industry, should be a source of meaningful employment. We practice fair trade, promote the empowerment of women and support artisans’ livelihoods through innovative designs and processes,” says Geetanjali.
For the duo, collaborating on Anantaya is combined with running a design and manufacturing brand AKFD Storey that creates contemporary furniture, lighting, and accessories. Using local, sustainable woods and metals, repurposed common materials (including seat belt webbing, twine, and industrial leather belts), the products are an inventive combination of ancient techniques with high-tech modeling. The brand’s project experience includes VIP lounges and the ‘Mudra’ installation at the T3 Delhi International Airport, Boutique Hotels, Retail spaces, and Restaurants. Ayush, a National Institute of Design alumnus is also the recipient of the EDIDA India, Designer of the Year 2013, and was a finalist in for British Council’s Young Creative Entrepreneur 2011 Awards.
Through their work they envision promoting the use of artisan-made products as a way of life, a tool for global connectivity and cultural integration and hope to achieve it by creating a profitable business with, at its core, master artisans collaborating with designers. “Our mission is to directly and indirectly, with passion and profitability, improve the lives of one million artisans in an honorable and sustainable manner,” concludes Ayush.