Interview with Studio Kohl

Interview with Studio Kohl

Studio Kohl is a small boutique studio based in Mumbai, run by visual artist Mira Malhotra with a team size of about 2-3 people. Mira’s rare approach to design is rooted in logic and common sense but enriched by her distinct aesthetic and creative flair that characterizes her studio. Learn more about the studio behind Unfolding the Saree Zine & the viral Cut OK Paste in its Kulture Shop Studio Interview.

KS: What kind of work does your practice specialize in?

Studio Kohl: We take on niche jobs for specific clients that resonate with our mission and highlight our strengths. This includes game-changing clients who are looking for solid strategy, common sense, originality and beautiful, charming design. Lifestyle, fashion, etc. are the more typical clients. We take on a lot of social good clients especially in the fields of disability, mental health, sexuality and education. We work primarily on branding, packaging, publication/editorial all with an image-based approach. The rest of the time we try to make visual culture more accessible and engaging to people, by designing independent goods and publications with an alternative view point.

KS: What are some of the challenges you have found being an Independent studio in India?

Studio Kohl: Clients are not as literate or knowledgeable in visual communication in India as we'd like. We want to release the work we see on Behance, but it's not possible :D Being new and upcoming, they tend to take our opinion less seriously so a lot of groundwork needs to be done to acquire trust and show them genuine concern for their work. One thing we're really particular about is taking clients whose work we love so that it's easy to feel that concern and ultimately camaraderie.


Mira Malhotra in Studio Kohl 

KS: Which is your favorite project in the last year and why?

Studio Kohl: Definitely the painting/woodwork we did for the Facebook Mumbai Office at One BKC . It was our first time doing space graphics of that size and our first try was the Facebook office! What luck. Facebook is a very forward thinking brand in terms of how they treat their employees and how they want their office to feel and it was great also to work with other visual artists we admired.


Studio Kohl's Work for Facebook Mumbai

KS: Tell us more about one of the products you are retailing with us.

Cut OK Paste is a paper product of 4 DIY toy characters arranged in a book. It's a craft kit, that can be constructed by kids or older that I first released in early 2009. I'd seen a lot of products like this available abroad but none with Indian characters, so I decided to make my own. The base is formed out of a simple box structure that was first created on graph paper, and several mockups were created before the surfaces were designed on. At first they were available for download, but then I converted them into a print product. You can now get the A4 book, with a fun screenprinted cover and high quality digital prints inside on firm paper. The product has been part of New India Designscape at La Triennale Di Milano in Italy (2013), Designwallah exhibit at Alchemy of the SouthBank Centre in London (2014), and ELCAF 2016 (East London Comic Arts Festival) in London as part of our Kadak Collective Table, and will soon be a part of The Feminist Library table at Safari Festival 2016, London.


Cut Ok Paste

Unfolding the Saree is a combination of my interest in zines, self-publishing, local flyers, serigraphy, DIY culture and Riot Grrrl feminism besides my obvious fascination with paper formats and yes, the ever experimental format of the Saree. I localised my inspiration from Riot Grrrl zines into this very fun foldable zine that you get on a hanger. I wanted to make a publication that was fun, educational, women-centric and also with specifically, an alternative viewpoint. Publications about art in India are generally either very superficial or extremely high brow and 'esoteric'--read, 'inaccessible'. Here I'm contemporising, playing with the format, making an old thing new, comparing the experimental value paper holds with the experimental value of a saree. It is my first formal attempt at writing a comic (though I'd more aptly call it a visual essay). The zine covers how women's sexuality is perceived via the saree, from 'sexy' to 'modest' and tracks the saree through appearances in plotics, culture, religion, Bollywood, rituals and so on. It's open to interpretation though, to be read just as superficially as to recognise deeper meanings of how women are perceived in society. The entire zine when folded out is 24 frames or folds, in exact proportions of the average saree, serigraphed in one colour on either side, one comic, one saree pattern. It's to be packed in an additional serigraphed envelope, and the hanger is bent iron wire, electroplated for maximum wear and tear. This zine has since been featured at ELCAF 2016 as well, where it sold out, and later in Midday newspaper and Indian Express. It's also Zainab Akhtar's (of Comics & Cola and Shortbox fame) favourite pick from ELCAF 16! It will be accompanying Cut OK Paste at the Safari Festival this year as well.


Click on the image to purchase the Saree Zine

KS: Any future products we can look forward to get out?

Studio Kohl: Enamel Pins. They're coming to poke you soon and a new batch of MMMPops! Diwali Candy for Diwali 2016.


MMMPop 2015 edition

Fun Stuff about Studio Kohl:

A song that represents Studio Kohl's vibe: Deceptacon by Le Tigre

Quirky items Studio Kohl collects for inspiration: Woodblocks, Animal based folk sculptures (Studio Kohl is like a Menagerie) and local toys from my travels in India


Find Studio Kohl at Kulture Shop: