Bringing Madhubani to Modern India

Warli, Gond, Kalamkari, Pattachitra, Tanjore… The list of India’s magnificent art forms is endless. Today we introduce you to Shamli Das, creative entrepreneur from Bangalore who is determined to make Madhubani – another ancient Indian art form- sustain through her brand Tamarind Tree.

A qualified Chartered Accountant by profession, Shamli started Tamarind Tree four years back when she was certain about not going back to the corporate world. She believes that the Madhubani art form, though rural in origin has a place in urban India too. It just needs to be delivered through the right medium. Her effort in that direction is quite evident in the interview that follows.

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What was the thought behind the name Tamarind Tree?

Tamarind tree takes me back to my carefree  childhood days. It evokes a sense of mischief, enthusiasm and joy!

Why Madhubani? Tell us what attracts you to the art form?

Indian folk art has always fascinated me. Of all the traditional folk art that belong to India, Madhubani just takes my breath away. I find it very vibrant and full of life. I love the detailing and the play of colours.

What products does Tamarind Tree boast of?

Initially I started with only wall paintings but slowly realised that I enjoyed designing utility products too. I explored further keeping in mind the the formal boundaries of the art form. And I received a lot of appreciation. Home decor items, stationery, fashion accessories are some of the products at Tamarind Tree. I am told that my products stand out for their uniqueness, simplicity and vibrancy. 

What are these formal boundaries in Madhubani?

There are few things that are very peculiar about Madhubani such as double lining, no shading while colouring, the typical features that make a human face and so on. One has to keep these in mind even when the medium changes.

Colours create rhythm

Many handmade artists struggle with striking a good colour combination but the colours in your paintings speak to the beholder. How you do you achieve that?

Choosing colours for any artwork comes naturally to me. I believe that when it comes to painting, the colours used for any artwork are as important as the subject matter. Colours are powerful, they create rhythm and add the right mood and structure to your work.

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Help us understand the process involved in Madhubani paintings step by step.

Madhubani paintings usually depict the figures of deities, Gods, elements of nature, human forms and animals, as well as some geometrical shapes. The specialty of this art form is that there is no room for blank space in the design. Once the central figures are drawn, the rest of the area is covered with some geometrical graphics like triangles, squares, and lines.

Borders also play an important role in these paintings. After a basic sketch of the motif and the border, you finish up with the black pen work entirely along with the fine line work called kachni leaving spaces for the colours to be filled in. You can also do it the other way round, that is fill in the colours first and then finish the product with black pen or brush. I am more comfortable with the first method on handmade paper and the second method while working with canvas.

Which is the most painstaking part of the process and which is the most enjoyable one?

No part is painstaking if you enjoy it and are completely engrossed in it. It is only when I try to do something out of my comfort zone, it gets a bit challenging to conceptualise your thoughts on the given piece of canvas. But I personally enjoy every bit of my work.

Handmade is therapuetic!

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You recently faced a setback due to a foot injury but it did not stop you. Was it the customers, the passion or the art itself that called you back at your desk?

Life gives you little surprises to remind you that it is important to thank God for everything you have. The thought of being off my foot for 3 months crumbled my plans for next 3-4 months. Every time I sat down to paint, my condition didn’t allow me to.

But being away from my palettes and brushes disturbed me even more so I got back to work. It proved to be very therapeutic because it allowed my mind to focus on creativity and nothing else. No doubt my foot had to pay a heavy price at the end of the day but it was worth it!

Follow Tamarind Tree on facebook.

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