Between Bangalore, Mumbai and Indore, Kashmira is always looking to be somewhere else. Inspired by everything Indian from mythology to Madhubani, she co-founded the Sleepless Summer Collective and her work has been exhibited at the Museum of American Illustration and published in their annual book, Illustrators 57. Her clients include Penguin India, Manta Ray, Brainwave and NH7 Weekender. Meet Kashmira Sarode,our latest addition to the Kulture Shop platform.
KS: What is the earliest memory you have of drawing. What were your favourite things to draw as a child?
Kashmira: According to my mom, I have been drawing since I was 3! She being an artist herself taught me how to draw and paint. Although, I can only remember as far as when I was 10 years old. I had just started to draw portraits then and I was on a spree! My first portrait was a self-portrait, copied from my mother’s portrait of me. I don’t have it anymore because when I showed it to my school teacher, she insisted on displaying it on the school’s notice board and a week later, it went missing! After that, I made portraits of famous people(mostly freedom fighters) for the school magazine every year. Ever since then I wanted to be a portrait artist, little did I know I will end up being a commercial illustrator. I think other than portraits, I used to hand-make a lot of greeting cards for my family members, especially my grandparents. The drawings on them were of either cartoon characters or dolls holding flowers. Another obsession was drawing flowers which changed to drawing robots as I grew older.
KS: Your style is full of intricate patterns. How did you adapt your style from analog to digital and evolve it to create your niche in the industry?
Kashmira: I have some very early influences from my childhood on my illustration style. My mom used to teach drawing and henna designs. So the intricate patterns of henna kind of stuck with me since then. While others used to doodle or make cartoons, I used to create elaborate mehendi patterns with pen on paper in my mother’s class. And then actually use those designs while applying henna on my hands and feet during summer holidays. While working at Locopopo, Lokesh Karekar’s style influenced me a lot too. Some of his illustrations are inspired by Madhubani and his style broadened my knowledge of mixing the intricacies of Indian art with modern elements of geometry. This especially worked out the best when I assisted him in creating the Ikat inspired products. We mixed the traditional patterns of Ikat with daily use objects such as sewing machine, air planes, piano, shoes, wine glass and so on to create beautiful compositions for greeting cards and badges. I always go to back to this experience while creating illustrations that are inspired by the Indian traditional/folk arts. It always helps me to think about what kind of patterns/elements can be used along with certain kind of content. I guess I also learnt at Locopopo, how to create digital illustrations. I had studied Typography in college so illustration was a completely new world to me back then. Over the years, my brain has learnt to break down what I see into geometrical forms and so my illustration style evolved. Most of my personal work is a play with symmetry so its actually quite easy to create it digitally! I just have to illustrate one side and then replicate it. I once read something about style, I can’t remember who said it though, it went something like this: “Every artist has a unique voice because every artist has a unique life”. And it’s true! You draw inspirations from the experiences that you’ve had in your life and its all about telling that story and it automatically becomes a niche.
Kashmira at the School of Visual Arts. New York Exhibition | Sample Art from her collection
KS: What was your SVA residency about? How did add to your bachelors from JJ? We love the Sleepless Summer Collective. What’s the story behind it?
Kashmira: Ever since I graduated from JJ in 2010, I wanted to get a Master’s degree and up until last year, I couldn’t make a decision which out of Graphic Design and Illustration did I want to pursue more. So I decided to take up a summer short course in Illustration at SVA (School of Visual Arts, New York). The course basically made you reset and think about what kind of work do you want to do and focus on it. The program was amazing! It was like meditation through illustration! The instructors Lisel Jane Ashlock, Paul Hoppe and Viktor Koen are all award winning illustrators and they designed the assignments in a way that made us draw inspiration from our own lives and experiences for both the content and the style. It was a great experience, I got to study illustration alongside 14 other people from 13 different countries! Everything was so inspiring there, right from my classmates to the city itself! Like I said before, I studied Typography while at JJ and didn’t really know much about illustration. The SVA residency really helped me get up, close and personal with the illustration world. It was here at SVA, that the idea for the Sleepless Summer Collective was born. When the 5 week long residency came to an end, my classmates and I were all very sad to be leaving especially because we all had become such good friends. I mean we were living together, working together in the same studio, eating and traveling together the whole time. We just needed a reason to keep in touch and possibly work and collaborate even after the residency got over. Moreover, working alongside each other made us so much more inspired that we had to keep on doing it, and hence we decided to start this blog. Once a month, we illustrate on a topic chosen randomly, and share those artworks with the world. Its always very interesting to see what everyone will come up with. The illustrations, although based on the same topic are always so different culturally and stylistically. We came up with the name “Sleepless Summer” because with the tight deadlines of our assignments during the summer residency, we ended up pulling all-nighters every alternate night and were forever sleepless! Also, the members of the blog reside in countries starting from China to USA, so at least one of us is always awake and sleepless at any given time.
KS: Who are your design heroes?
Kashmira: Stefan Sagmeister! His work and philosophy both have inspired me a lot. I relate to his theory of taking sabbaticals the most. I love his quote “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better”. Every time I read something by him or hear his talk, something just stirs inside of me. While I was in New York for the SVA residency, I was working just a block away from Sagmeister and Walsh studio and wanted to meet him desperately! Unfortunately, he was in Rome that summer. Although, while in NY, I got to meet some of my illustration heroes! I met Sam Weber(who’s podcast ‘your dreams my nightmares’ is fantastic!), Jing Wei(who’s work has inspired me a lot!), Yuko Shimizu, Ping Zoo(who is one on my absolute favourite artists!) and Leandro Castelao. Not only did I just meet them, I got to see their work process too which prompted me take a step back and look at my work from a broader perspective.
KS: You have worked with some fantastic brands,from Locopopo, Bombay Duck to Amar Chitra Katha and the Brainwave Magazine. Tell us about a couple of your favourite projects in your career yet.
Kashmira: I started working fresh out of college at Locopopo. It was a dream job! I learnt everything from writing emails to clients to how to run a studio there. I worked on a lot of projects while at Locopopo, but my favourite were the products that we created in-house. I assisted Lokesh with two product sets, one was the Ticket badges and the other was Ikat collection. For the Ticket badges, the whole process of making them was so much fun! I had to go find the materials for it in Crawford market, I collected various kinds of fluorescent papers, blocks for block printing, type blocks, coloured tapes, floro stickers, etc. and then we assembled each one of those badges manually before getting screen print over them. It was an absolute labour of love! The Ikat products were a lot of fun to make too! After my time at Locopopo, I had the chance to work with BBD on NH7 Weekender branding in 2012. This has been the most memorable project for me so far especially because of the way we worked on it. We listened all day to the music of the bands which were going to perform at the festival and tried to interpret their music in the artworks along with capturing the feel of the festival. It truly was a very happy experience! And Sameer is an amazing art director! For me it was more about learning from him than to work with a huge brand like NH7 Weekender. In late 2012, I wanted to work with publishing design and hence moved to Bangalore to work with Brainwave, which is a science magazine for children. This was the first time I was leading a design team and honestly I wasn’t very good at it. It took me a while to get things right and it was a great learning experience. I got a chance to work alongside amazing artists such as Prabha Mallya, Sameer Kulavoor and Zeenat Kulavoor again, Archana Sreenivasan, Parvati Pillai, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Somesh Kumar and many more and I would always cherish that . Brainwave opened a lot of doors for me in the publishing industry. I went on to working with Campus Diaries on their magazine called ‘Unmagazine’. And later fetched projects from Manta Ray, Penguin and some local publishers too.
KS: What have you been up to this past year? Any interesting projects in the pipeline?
Kashmira: This year started with a bang! I was featured in the Society of Illustrators’ annual exhibit ‘Illustrators 57’ in NYC this January alongside some of my heroes; Sam Weber, Jing Wei and Victo Ngai amongst others. It kind of gave me validation as an illustrator, finally! I had been struggling converting to a full time illustrator from a graphic designer for a while now especially because I never studied Illustration formally. And this was a much needed push! As per work, I collaborated with Wari Watai (formerly known as Trapeze) on an installation for Asian Paints earlier this year. The theme for which was ‘My city my home’, inspired by the cleaning and beautification of our surroundings initiatives going on across the country. The installation was exhibited in Delhi and Mumbai. Next, my first book with Penguin, which was written by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam along with Srijan Pal Singh, came out in March. There are a couple of projects in the pipeline I’m very excited about which should release by the end this year. There is another book I have been working on with Penguin and then there is this zine I just started with the Sleepless Summer gang. We are trying to establish ourselves as an International small press and this zine will be our very first product of many more to come!
KS: What is your take on the art/design scene in India? How do you see places like Kulture Shop with respect to a more vibrant arts scene?
Kashmira: Art scene in India is a topic I can probably go on and on about! I think that the art industry is booming in some parts of the country and the work is very international. I’ve worked in 3 very different cities(Mumbai, Bangalore and Indore) so far, and each of them is very different culturally and demographically and all of them have very different art scenes. I personally love to work in Bombay simply because of the abundance of resources in the city and because the acceptability and risk taking rate in the art world is much higher here. As per the rest of the country, I feel people at large are not very sensitive about art yet but hopefully we will see a change in this situation in the next decade or so.
I think Kulture shop is changing and widening the Indian illustration and design scene tremendously! It is helping artists to showcase their work on a platform which is so passion driven. What I like best about Kulture shop is the Katalyst series’. Artists love to collaborate and this is something which brings out the best from within them! Comparing Kulture shop to a more vibrant art scene, I can only say that its a great beginning and I can’t wait to see what more Kulture shop has in store for us artists and the audience!