Opinion please ?

As a designer, I am constantly asked -“So, what’s your opinion on this design? “…. Hmmmm these are the times I actually wonder whether they are really asking, or if it is just a formality!  Infact the other options I can think of are, maybe they’re taking a poll on how many more people like something… and during conversation, they can tell – Oh you know the designer Bargs? Even she liked it! Gosh!! I hate being caught in such sticky situations….

No way am I endorsing a bad design! Or atleast what I consider not good enough! Call me a snob or someone who feels superior when it comes to design for I have very clear likes and dislikes…. If a design or a product is ordinarily designed or executed, I might really have nothing much to say! Most of these people who want feedback, want to hear me say “Oh Wow…its really nice”. Little do they understand that its embarrassing for a designer who knows better to mince words! If I stay quiet, just know that I have nothing good to say, and leave me alone! The famous “I scratch your back and you scratch mine” does not work for me….

I was a lecturer for two and a half years in Singapore…. One of the feedback I received as a student, from both my classmates and faculty was, I had to learn to give constructive criticism. While I got all defensive initially, I learnt the importance of it. As a lecturer, I had the opportunity of putting that learning into action. Had a brilliant time grooming young designers :)  Also, I realised how much it helped me open out to various approaches to design. With every new batch I would be teaching, I would tell all my students that I am opinionated, but objective about it… for they need to understand that here is someone who has an opinion, but who is open to hearing their thoughts and approach to design… But, here’s the catch, it would not be possible for me to do the same with the general jantha that asks me for an opinion.

Design is subjective. Its probably best not to ask one designer’s opinion of another designer’s work. There are a few things that might happen… 1. Every designer approaches design differently. Until and unless the other designer understands this approach, a feedback would be an unfair feedback. 2. Every designer has their own style… Which is signature! It would be inappropriate to make comments being a designer. 3. It can cause problems in interpersonal relationship…. No one wants to be told what they designed or bought was not good….What could be worse is to be shot down for giving true feedback! Save everyone embarrassments please :)

You might wonder, why am I writing this blog! I’m now becoming a columnist and as a part of my job, my opinion is sought on other’s designs and execution. It is nothing but a design review. Otherwise, I am not interested in sitting and crossing swords with the people involved ! If my opinion is sought during design stage, it is possible to step in and help, but post execution, it might not be unfair on both the designer and the client. The money has been spent and then what’s the point?

Whether you’re an relative or a friend of a designer, know that you’re putting the designer on the spot…. Sometimes there can be a situational or a physical impossibility to redesign based on a designer’s feedback. If the final product turns out bad, it could rupture a designer’s credibility, especially if its in the areas of applied design.  I don’t mean to talk down to people who want suggestions, but do know that someone’s professionalism is at stake here….

As a designer, part of my job is to have an opinion. It is probably important to be aware of one’s tolerance level to take criticism before you ask for feedback… Truth can be bitter and its unfair to shoot the person showing you the mirror (remember, you asked for it??).. This is a sensitive zone and either stay happy with the designer you’ve employed for the job or replace with the one you’ve faith in… Please be easy on artists, designers and copywriters… :D I seem to be getting the same feedback from everyone in the profession! Glad its not just me, but I know that I’m the only one who will say it :)

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Temple Photography & Me…. What sparked it!

Temple Architecture has been an area of fascination for me. I am historically challenged, amongst others. Thanks to reading and learning about the World History of Art, the need to want to understand and appreciate our temple architecture increased. When I moved back to Chennai, I was looking for some content to be able to understand but failed – Maybe I did not look for it in the right places!

A business trip took me to Madurai and I had less than 45 mins in the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple and I decided to quickly capture the marvel of the Ayiram Kaal Mandapam (1000 Pillar Mandapam). I walked in and I was awestruck by the sheer magnificence of the place…..



Sure, the atrocious choice of the newly laid polished granite flooring ruined it for me, the lighting (again badly executed with wires hanging everywhere) seemed very harsh… but still…. these did not remove my enthusiasm to pick my cameras and shoot! I went in with 2 cameras mounting a fish eye and wide angle lens. I so wished I could capture the gorgeous details using a tripod, but hey, temples have these weird rules about using tripods inside, so it was completely hand held. I knew B&W versions of these images would do justice to what I saw and that’s what I finally did……

While shooting, I noticed that the noses of all the figurines were broken and when I asked a local person there, he said that during a Muslim invasion, they wanted to break the nose of the Amman and when they came into the temple to do so, they got confused. They did not know who the Amman was, so they went about breaking the nose of every figurine in the temple! Sad huh! However, they did not reach Amman at all….. This story rekindled that need for me to understand our temple architecture, history and art better. Lucky for me, my images turned out better than I expected and the response to them were nothing short of brilliant :)

So, my quest for finding someone to guide me began…

Someone once told me, when the student is ready, a Guru finds them….and here’s what happened to me…. Poppy (Suresh Sir) mentioned that at Apparao Gallery, they were having a talk by Ms. Chitra Madhavan which he was attending and suggested I come for the talk, but because of professional commitments I couldn’t go! But hey!! Surprise Surprise ….. he somehow invited Dr.Chitra Madhavan, an authority on the subject to visit Edge…. I was pleasantly surprised and stunned by her simplicity. We got chatting and we bonded and when I told her about my quest, she was happy to be a part of it.

We started Art@Edge with her talk….. While Madurai Temple was not the subject… I learnt so much more in just one talk by her…. Look forward to more! Within a few days, another speaker on the subject, Pradeep Chakravarthy got in touch with me! It almost felt like, it was a message being sent from above… let’s see what happens….

I am looking forward to share Dr.Chitra’s first talk and share Pradeep’s presentation too…. God’s been kind :) I will do my bit sharing :)

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Double Trouble

Oh! There is just so much to say with regards to Double Trouble! So, Kota and me were discussing what are the kind of programmes we need to have for Art@Edge and the humor lover that he is, insisted that we must have stand up comedy! The first name that came to our minds was Rajiv. Rajiv used to work with good friends of ours and has decided to take up his acting and media career seriously as is freelancing (I think so) with them now… So we called him and he immediately came over to the studio. Infact, it was with Rajiv we decided where the stage needed to be and how to plan the seating arrangement.

While chatting, I told him that we might need more than 1 speaker as both the speaker and the audience needed a break and he was in agreement with my feedback. Well, I was secretly hoping he had this huge list of stand up comedians and we could re- enact the “Whose line is it anyway” the Chennai way….. but, Rajiv explained that it might not be possible as yet, though we could look for an option of the kind in the long run. So, he said he would come back to us on who might be the second performer….. A week later he mentioned Aswin Rao and I was fine with it, as Aswin came referred and I can slit Rajiv’s throat if Aswin goofed up (he he the devil within me!). I met Aswin only on the day of the performance and my oh my….. the two of them just made all of us roll in laughter! Here are the videos…… Oh yeah!

Disclaimer1: We shot this using our “Web Camera” and the audio isn’t great…. try to plug your system to speakers or headphones if you want to enjoy their performance…. Disclaimer 2: There’s quite some Brahmin bashing that happens …. so if you’re a purist and lack the funny bone, maybe you should save yourself some agony.                   Disclaimer 3: TNEB was just not easy on us that day…. but the show went on!

Rajiv talks about how he might be out of Madurai, but Madurai will never be out of him!

I have always wondered why some brahmins have this habit of collecting and folding plastic bags (especially the ones you get abroad) and save it like it means something! Thanks for your insight Aswin!

Very true! Outside India, if a man were to be spotted with a handbag, he would be considered a metrosexual carrying a man purse or sometimes gay and how in India, if you see a man carrying a purse, its highly likely that he’s married :) He talks about how there is zero privacy in Brahmin marriages, and the kind of “creative” gifts that one can get! ha ha the guy was hilarious!

Oh the Second Choice!!!!! Many of us prefer not to face home truths… and here Aswin just slapped it on across our faces! Ha ha he was brilliant! I can never use the words Plug in play and handsfree without having a laugh! Aswin Rao!!!!!!!!

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My first ever blog!

Participants at the event – Sculpt your Brand Image – by Kiruba Shankar, for Art@Edge

Most of us know what is good for us and works for us. What always surprises me is, how is it that despite knowing what is good for us, we tend to either not follow it or worse, rebel against it? Hmmmm…

Well, I have been hearing so much about blog for so many years but somehow never attempted to start! I was happy to come up with excuses – My written english is not all that good, what if someone judges me based on my blog, what if my Ms.Opinionated self starts crossing swords because I do not agree with the norms…. blah blah! Beleive me, my creativity is at its best when I have to come up with excuses to avoid doing something that I do not want to do or to cover up! ha ha

Art@Edge has been a vision for a while, ever since I decided to start my own company and more so when I decided to have my office exactly where my father had his! The space was fundamentally too large for me, but I told myself, I will put it to better use. Coming from a very artsy family, I couldn’t think of a better use for the place… Why not make it a space for Chamber music was my first thought ! Ooops! I reminded myself that I was a walking disgrace to my family when it comes to music….. so I quickly shot it down…. Why not this? Why not that… and the list kept going on…. and then I decided, why even create a boundary! There is so much talent and so much knowledge out there, why not make it a space where the best in their respective business can meet? – Now that thought is what started Art@Edge!

Entrepreneurship, in my personal opinion is slightly over rated! While its always about one man’s/woman’s vision, you always need a team to make it happen! A team that believes in your vision and is willing to hold hands with you and is happy to stand by you! That’s when, 3 men entered my life – Suresh Sir (who I refer to as poppy, for he is a father figure to me), Kota ( aka Kotu, Kots) and our office assistant Suresh!

Before these guys, I had shared this idea with many…Typically there would be 2 responses

1. Hey! That is awesome! Let us know what you’re upto and we’ll try to be there to support you

2. You are a new entrepreneur! Why are you wasting your time and money doing all this? Put your time to better use and make money :D

With Kots and Poppy, their only response was – “Fantastic! So what can we do to help you kick start this? We’re in!”…… When I shared it with Suresh, our assistant, his immediate response was “Akka, so what if its Sunday ka? I will be there to support you!” Could I be any more grateful? Art@Edge started!

Our first 2 programmes were received very well! We had Dr.Chitra Madhavan who introduced us to the History, Art & Architecture of the stunning Lepakshi Temple, followed by Double Trouble! Seriously, the two of them, Rajiv Rajaram and Aswin Rao left all of us with a stomach ache with their stand up comedy…and then came the talk by Kiruba Shankar!

Well…… the very fact that I started my personal blog today, should tell you how good his talk was! Need I say more? Thanks Kiruba… I am going to keep at it! Let me see how it goes :) Thanks for the fantastic talk! I did not realise how much yesterday’s talk affected me, till I decided to start my own blog on WordPress.com today!

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