Vernacular Furniture of North-West India

Vernacular Furniture of North-West India

Project details

2015 - Ongoing



Vernacular Furniture of North-West India is an international collaborative research project between the Design Innovation and Craft Resource Center (DICRC), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, India, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Craft Collection Trust (SADACC), Norwich, UK. Vernacular furniture is predominantly domestic furniture used by the local population of a given region to conduct various everyday activities. Simple yet elegantly crafted furniture like a machi (a low stool), a paat (a swing) or a paniyaaru (a water pitcher stand) and many others, continue to be an integral component of everyday living in India. The project aims at identifying, mapping, documenting and studying such vernacular furniture and the narratives associated with it. This is the first ever study of vernacular furniture for which a thorough methodology combining diverse quantitative and qualitative research methods has been devised by DICRC. The project methodology can be categorised into three stages: Mapping, Documentation, and Research and Analysis.

The project is being conducted in four stages: Phase I: Gujarat, Phase II: Rajasthan, and Phase III: Punjab and IV: Haryana. As of now, more than 5000 pieces of vernacular furniture have been identified and mapped across these four states with the support of over 75 scholars and 50 crafts people. 

Each phase will have two main research outputs: A catalogue, which is a curated collection of the mapped furniture that best represents vernacular types from each region, and an academic book that presents a detailed scholarship on the vernacular furniture of each region. 

Impact of the Project:
This project is a pioneering initiative in the study of vernacular furniture in India, with no previous academic research on the subject. We have managed to devise a methodology that is based on the power of human networks and trust which allowed us to do extensive fieldwork and documentation within people’s homes and private spaces. This project has generated a new subject area that has opened up avenues for further research in the field of vernacular studies. We have been able to generate awareness among people about the value of vernacular traditions and material culture.

We have also produced the first ever detailed drawings of vernacular furniture that can aid in making and conserving these furniture types over time.

Other relevant information:
One of the objectives of the project was to provide contextual research for the vernacular furniture pieces held in The South Asia Collection Museum at Norwich,UK. In order to achieve this, short research projects were conducted by the team members at the Museum. Five team members - Jay Thakkar, Mitraja Bais, Mansi Sathyanarayan, Samrudh Dixit and Rishav Jain from DICRC have been awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust and Simon Digby Memorial Charity scholarships to conduct this research. During these visits, exhibitions on various themes of the project were curated at The South Asia Collection Museum in Norwich, UK.

Publications and resources:

  1. Book: Sahaj: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat, co-authored by Mitraja Bais, Jay Thakkar, Samrudha Dixit and Ben Cartwright, Publisher: CEPT University Press; First Edition edition (2018), ASIN: B07KPH122Z 

Upcoming publications :
Catalogue (to be published in 2020)

  1. Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat: Catalogue
  2. Vernacular Furniture of Rajasthan: Catalogue
  3. Vernacular Furniture of Punjab: Catalogue
  4. Vernacular Furniture of Haryana: Catalogue

Links to the project:

  1. Gujarat
  2. Rajasthan 
  3. Punjab
  4. Haryana
  5. The South Asia Collection website 

Exhibitions and Interactive sessions

  1. Exhibition: Vernacular Furniture of Gujarat at SADACC, UK
  2. Exhibition: India Design Confluence, Ahmedabad
  3. Interactive session: Raw Collaborative 2.0
  4. Interaction session: Melbourne School of Design
  5. Interactive session: Kala Ghoda Art Festival 2019

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