The best thing about visiting lifestyle stores like Sarita Handa at Arrti Mahalakshmi in Mumbai, is discovering fresh talent in design, art and craft – apart from their exquisite seasonal collections.
I was intrigued by the landscapes, seascapes and human portraits displayed on the walls. They looked like paintings rendered with confident brush strokes – but when I examined them closely, I realised that they are collages created with layers of textile waste painstakingly sourced, cut into strips and pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle.
“The possibilities of working with textiles are limitless and magical,” declares Arrti Mansinghka, founder, Blue Bicycle Design. A professional graphic designer and muralist with a degree in Applied Art and Communication Design, she stumbled on her calling quite by chance.
While using fabric for an installation at the site of a client who was into textiles and garments, the medium instantly felt like a perfect fit for her and she began to diligently explore its various facets.
Arrti’s works are an attempt to use the material meaningfully and to re-embrace it into the circle of creativity – to look at things with a new perspective and find sustainable solutions through invention and innovation.
Inspired by nature and life around her, she thinks of compositions and finalises an idea after many sketches and references. Her first installation was a world map for a client’s office, and she found the act of piecing the fabric strips together most interesting.
“Getting the right piece to sit next to one another is challenging, as each fabric comes with its own texture, colour and tactility - forming an endless and rich palette. The work gets layered fabric on fabric, relying purely on my instinct,” she explains.
The fact that she predominantly uses waste, each piece bringing to the table its own story and element of sustainability, adds another interesting dimension to her engaging artwork.
While she hasn’t worked on public art projects, Arrti has done murals for public spaces in the corporate and hospitality sectors. “I have been fortunate to work with architect Sumessh Menon on multiple projects and have learnt so much along the way,” she acknowledges. “Restaurants like 145 Kamala Mills, The Good Wife – to name a couple.” She hopes to collaborate with textile brands and use their textile waste to create art and installations that would spark a conversation and connection between waste, consumption and the environment.
What Arrti finds truly exciting is the unpredictability of the medium, the intuitive approach and the intrigue it creates. Considering the laborious process, it’s surprising that she does it all alone with no assistance. “The entire process is very time consuming,” she admits.
“It’s more about experimenting, as I cut the fabrics apart. It’s an unpredictable journey. But as the process starts coming together, a story begins to unfold. I feel so immersed when I am making the work. It’s all about slowing down, filtering out – almost meditative in nature.”
During the course of our conversation, I learn that Arrti initially wanted to be a doctor. Maybe this is her way to heal the world. Using textile helps to define a wide range of conversations on the discarded and disregarded.
“Textile waste is an aspect of global waste crisis that is rarely discussed,” she points out. “This presents an opportunity to rethink how we can reduce and reuse the waste more intelligently by creating value.”
The growing interest in her textile art has triggered off numerous requests for workshops, and Arrti is working towards it. So, save up those old garments and home linen, and follow her on Instagram @arrtimansinghka…
From waste to hip
“I work on a lot of commissioned artworks which are tailor-made according to clients’ briefs. After we decide on the initial subject, it takes many photographic references and sketches for an idea to come about. Yes, the composition is pretty much thought of – but the interesting part is piecing the fabrics together, which is a matter of chance.
“Once the subject and composition is formed, I take a base fabric on which the initial sizing, gridding and sketching is done. Process is a huge part of my works.
Then it’s all about scouting for that right shade and quality of fabric, which is a matter of chance. The work gets layered fabric on fabric, relying purely on my instinct. It takes on a life of its own and leads me to its completion, in an organic way.”
— Arrti Mansinghka