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Rabari by Doshi Levien

New collection for Nanimarquina

By Brian Gallagher 15.09.14

Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien together form the design collective Doshi Levien, a London based design practice which recently collaborated with the renowned Nanimarquina to produce the Rabari collection of rugs consisting of three separate models. Recognised with a Delta de Plata award this year 2014 for its ‘love at first sight’ quality, the carpets are hand knotted and woven using traditional techniques in India using 100% New Zealand wool and were inspired by the Nomadic community of the Rabaris from the Kutch (Northern India). Nipa Doshi who was brought up in India, she visited Barcelona recently to present the Rabari collection for Nanimarquina.

This is not the first collaboration between Doshi Levien and a Barcelona based design company, they previously worked with BD Barcelona on two pieces of furniture Chandlo and Shanty, a dressing table and sideboard respectively. So how did the practice first come in work with local manufacturers? “Our collaboration with BD started with Ramón Úbeda, the creative director of BD Barcelona, we had worked with him for Camper (the Majorcan footwear design company). We were invited to produce an idea for a dream house by the city of Cologne in 2012 and we wanted to create a piece which was to do with personal grooming. Nowadays we don’t spend any time looking after ourselves, enjoying the simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning so we wanted to do a piece in our house which was about your daily chores so to speak and how can you make them into rituals and a dressing table for me was a very important icon which everyone used to have where you used to spend time looking after yourself getting dressed. We showed it to Ramón and asked him if he would make it as a prototype, he did and then it became a product, I have to admit it’s one of my favourite pieces.”

  • Rabari

    Rabari was recognised with a Delta de Plata award this year 2014

  • Doshi Levien

    Jonathan Levien and Nipa Doshi

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  • Chandlo

    Chandlo, dressing table designed by Doshi Levien for BD Barcelona

  • Chandlo Das Haus

    View of the Das Haus installation Cologne, Germany 2012

    Chandlo was designed as a prototype for the Das Haus exhibition for IMM Cologne 2012 and later commercially produced by BD Barcelona. It is a piece that recalls another era, when people had more time to pamper, groom and dress themselves, it consists of an abstract geometric composition of mirror, storage cabinet and surface area together with a matching stool. The word ‘chandlo’ means moon shaped, it is one of Nipa Doshi’s favourite commissions, “I think of it as a spatial piece, you can have it as a dressing table but it’s also as a barrier, it could be your desk it could be so many other things and I like pieces that have space around them. All our pieces are designed so that you can walk around them so I also see it as architecture, furniture as architecture. I do think of it as a building as well the way all the elements come together and I don’t know if you know Giulio Cappellini but the first thing he said when he saw that piece was that it’s just like a work of architecture.” 

    Doshi and Levien first met at London’s Royal College of Art in back 1994, Nipa had come from an internship with Jasper Morrison while Jonathan Levien who is originally from Scotland trained as a cabinet-maker before attending art college. They founded their practice in the year 2000, their clients are highly eclectic, Doshi Levien has designed a range of goods from furniture to shoes (John Lobb), cutlery and glassware (for Habitat) to a commission from Intel (the computer chip company). Lateral thinking and the art of making however are common threads that run through everything they produce. For both the Rabari collection and Chandlo the level of detail and workmanship is exceptional, on the one hand the Rabari rugs are actually hand knotted and woven while Chandlo is an industrial designed item furniture with the sensibility of a crafted piece of furniture. “I think for me it’s irrelevant in a way how something is made because I think there is a level of craftsmanship in all design and furniture. Jonathan and I always talk about craftsmanship rather than crafted or mass manufactured and I think that craftsmanship is there in industrial design as well as in something that is actually made by hand.  I always take the example of a Rolls Royce, it is highly crafted but its crafted industrially. There is a precision to everything that we do whether it’s by hand or not. Chandlo is crafted, it’s crafted using machines it’s not hand crafted but again it’s that element of loving the thing, that’s the only way I can describe it. It’s that level of having precision and detail that makes you want that thing at a very human level.”

  • Shanty

    Shanty is a cabinet designed by Doshi Levien for BD Barcelona

  • Shanty

    Santyt is inspired by the temporary constructions using corrugated metal cladding which can be found around the globe from India to Brazil.

  • Rabari

    Rabari 3, flat view

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    Rabari 1, flattened view

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    Rabari 2, flattened view

    There is a marked Arts & Crafts sensibility to the Rabari collection, a graphic quality which reflects the design process that translates into a delicately crafted piece which manages to be both contemporary and timeless where the human hand is obviously a defining element. Is the Arts & Crafts tradition a conscious influence for the collection? “Jonathan comes more from a making background and I think that he’s more influenced by the Arts & Crafts than I am because I grew up with a very strict education in the Bauhaus tradition by a school that in fact was founded by Charles and Ray Eames in India (The National Institute of Design or NID located in Ahmenabad), so my education was very Modern but I think the rugs really reveal my mathematical mind. Every time we do a design there is a very strong grid and then we play with the grid but of course the rugs are also inspired by folkloric embroidery techniques which are always quite geometrical and quite detailed at the same time. I always say to people I feel like I’m schizophrenic because I love the very strict, very utilitarian designers as much as I love the hand crafted or the celebratory and I think our work sort of goes between the two and when we see the finished work there’s more of me but you have to remember that it’s within the context of working with Jonathan so the work is also about us working together.”

    Doshi’s aunt had an embroidery workshop in Ahmedabad (the largest city of the Indian province of Gujarat, North West India which borders Pakistan) where skilled craftswomen created luxury goods using silk and cotton thread, metallic sequins, mirrored surfaces and other non-precious materials. The Rabari collection makes reference to many of the techniques that Doshi would have observed at the workshop, “my aunt had a workshop with about fifty very fine craftsmen and they used to make a lot of things for companies like Hermès so they made things that are almost couture in nature, I mean you could see the fine detailing and of course I grew up in that environment and I used to love to see these women sit on the floor doing the embroideries and there would be five or six of them making one piece. What I loved was the serendipity of the hand made process because every day something would appear that was not there before. And for me the Rabari rugs are also celebrating the embroideries in progress and the beauty of the incomplete, the unfinished – in fact with the design of Rabari it started as a series of sketches and when Nani saw them she said well that’s a rug whereas for me they were just little samples of different techniques that I was just drawing.”

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    There are three formats for each of the three rugs forming the Rabari collection, the smallest one measures 170 x 240 cm, the intermediate 200 x 300 cm and the largest is 300 x 400 cm. The collection can be seen at the Nanimarquina showroom at Roselló 256 or online at www.nanimarquina.com