Threads of Creativity Woven Across the Sands of Time: An Exploration of the Cultural Resurgence of Contemporary Indian Design, Narrated by Studio Wrap and IKKIS’ Gunjan Gupta

Venturing on a journey spanning two decades, the narrative of design and craftsmanship in India unfolds like a captivating story of evolution and transformation. At its heart lies Gunjan Gupta, the visionary behind Studio Wrap and IKISS, whose creative prowess illuminates the intersection of tradition and innovation. From the vibrant streets of Bombay to the historical tapestry of Delhi, Gupta’s exploration of design transcends geographical boundaries, inviting us into a world where each stroke of creativity tells a tale of cultural resurgence and artistic reinvention. As we delve into his narrative, we are beckoned to witness the profound impact of design on shaping identities and narratives, redefining our perception of Indian artistry on the global stage.


Venturing on a journey spanning two decades, the narrative of design and craftsmanship in India unfolds like a captivating story of evolution and transformation


Foyer (F): As a furniture designer, you’ve mastered the art of blending traditional with contemporary design. Can you share more about the creative process of achieving this balance?

Gunjan Gupta (GG): My inspiration is a mix of what I see around me. As one can imagine, India is an exceptionally inspirational environment. Our heritage, historical appeal, and 21st-century emergence as a superpower create a rapidly changing landscape brimming with ingenuity. There’s a lot of creativity on the streets, with people constantly finding innovative solutions to improve their lives at a fundamental level. This grassroots creativity truly inspires me.

In terms of contemporary design thinking, the world is searching for new ideas and aesthetics. We’re at a saturation point, exhausted by the familiar. When we talk about novelty and freshness, it’s something I think about often. I’ve used the language of furniture to communicate these ideas, believing that furniture is not just about functionality but also a way of looking at and communicating ideas. From my experience, I seem to have found the sweet spot between extremes, targeting the right people in the right ways.

Gunjan Gupta, the visionary behind Studio Wrap and IKISS, whose creative prowess illuminates the intersection of tradition and innovation


F: So how do these two entities (Studio Wrap & IKKIS) complement each other, and how do they contribute to your personal design philosophy, overall?

GG: As the creative director of Studio Wrap and IKISS, as well as my eponymous brand, Gunjan Gupta, I express my vision through various forms. Studio Wrap specialises in interiors, offering complete solutions for spaces. Naturally, IKISS complements these spaces, as do GG Artifacts. At the end of the day, it’s all a language of design—an interpretation of a certain philosophy.

What’s really special about the synergy between GG and IKISS within the context of Studio Wrap is the holistic experience they create. You can eat off objects, decorate with objects, and sit on objects, all while experiencing elevated design thinking in the artworks. They all complement each other, interconnected by the same creative process.

F: Got it, And I think it’s your ethos of how you see things that someone who’s in the design field can see. Like, this is Gunjan’s vision in three different things in three different capacities.

GG: Yes. Yes, very much.

Gunjan Gupta’s exploration of design transcends geographical boundaries, inviting us into a world where each stroke of creativity tells a tale of cultural resurgence and artistic reinvention


F: Noted, and then your everyday yesterday collection at IAF this year, which we happened to see. So that was. We happened to see that it showcases the complexities of Indian culture, which is also, like, the rooted thought of everything you do. Can you delve into the inspiration for this specific collection and its significance in today’s design landscape?

GG: I believe I addressed this in my first answer regarding how everyday life connects with my work. The ingenuity found on Indian streets the rapidly changing landscape, and how people adapt at a street level, are deeply inspiring. This inspiration is evident in pieces like the Aloo Gori Couch Potato. It’s a beautifully sculpted piece of design, almost a piece of sculpture, yet it’s inspired by the simple use of potato sacks as seating in warehouses—a common sight.

Imagine walking around Jaipur in the blazing heat of the afternoon and seeing someone in a warehouse lounging on a wet potato sack to stay cool. This kind of ingenuity and cultural identity fascinate me. It’s been gratifying to see the global response to these objects and the vision of India that I’ve been presenting for years.

The concept of “every day yesterday” embodies this idea. “Everyday” refers to the practical, ingenious solutions found in daily life, while “yesterday” brings an element of nostalgia and history. For example, the Totem Pole, a set of five tables, depicts a deconstructed feminine form. This form has been a part of artistic renditions for centuries, but we’ve brought it into today’s context. The Totem Pole works both as a sculptural artwork and functional furniture—tables or stools that can be arranged in various combinations. At every level, I emphasise that design is not just about functionality. Promoting and communicating this idea is crucial to my work.


Blending traditional with contemporary design, Gunjan Gupta’s creative process is a balance of India’s historical appeal and 21st-century emergence as a superpower


F: Absolutely. And I think as someone who has been in the design field for quite some time, we see a lot of people trying to reinterpret the old India into what they’re doing right now, but they end up failing miserably. What I personally feel is that it is all about the concept that one uses and how one brings that to life. This brings me to my next question for you, which is concept, craft, and context are all integral parts of your work and bringing the roots of India to your work on a global level, how do you ensure that these elements are integrated into each and every piece that you create?

GG: I feel very fortunate that I don’t need to work too hard to connect the dots between context, craft, and creation. In India, anyone privileged enough to be in the creative field has this wonderful access to history and tradition. Craft is something I rely on heavily for inspiration and creation. It’s a natural way of functioning and transitioning between these elements.

Regarding my first inclination towards this field, it was a journey. I always questioned why India never stood out in the world of contemporary design. We have incredible craft skills and a brilliant heritage in stonework, textiles, and inlay like Pietra Dura, yet these were not internationally relevant anymore. This curiosity marked the beginning of my journey. The lack of interest in contemporary Indian design and the irrelevance of our crafts on the global stage became my mission. I aimed to bridge this gap and bring our rich heritage into contemporary relevance. It’s been a long journey, but I feel that we are finally becoming priceless in the global context.

Studio Wrap and IKISS complement each other in creating holistic design experiences. From interiors to artefacts, Gunjan Gupta’s vision manifests through interconnected creative processes


F: Oh, definitely, definitely. I completely agree. You have been doing this for quite some time, but my question is, if not this field of work, what would your other profession be? Have you ever given it a thought?

GG: No, it’s fine. I didn’t have to give up my passion for writing. I almost became a design journalist, or a creative journalist, because I’ve always been interested in writing. I think my writing isn’t bad at all, and I use it as a creative tool. Before I design anything, I give it a written context. Writing has always interested me, and I feel it might become my retirement profession. I’d love to write a book, to connect the dots for myself and for people who follow my work. Writing could be a way to reflect on my journey and share my experiences and insights.

Inspired by everyday life and cultural identity, Gunjan Gupta’s ‘Everyday Yesterday’ collection showcases the ingenuity found on Indian streets, bringing history and contemporary relevance together in beautiful harmony


F: Noted. Moving on, your designs often incorporate a wide range of materials; from stone to metal, to precious materials like silver and gold leaf. How do you select the materials for each project and product? And what role does it play in innovation when it comes to your creative process?

GG: As I mentioned, I’m inspired by India’s rapidly changing landscape, full of juxtapositions and paradoxes. It’s fascinating to see a Bentley and a bullock cart moving side by side. I interpret this both philosophically and materially in my work, using materials like gold, silver, bamboo, jute, and terracotta. It’s an amalgam of the every day and the luxurious, the high and the low.

Regarding the dining throne chair and the Murawala throne chair, let me delve into their specific stories and inspirations. The dining throne was my first chair, created as part of my master’s project at Central St. Martin’s in London. There are three main aspects to its story:

  1. Historical Context: Traditionally, India didn’t have chairs. We were a society comfortable on the ground, using mattresses and carpets for sitting, eating, and socialising. This is also tied to our yoga-based culture, where many asanas (postures) are floor-based. Elevated seating like thrones was reserved for nobility or deities, symbolising power and hierarchy. This aspect of Indian furniture intrigued me, leading me to research the social significance of the chair.
  2. Symbolism: The chair in India carries powerful symbolic meaning. Just as the bindi symbolises various cultural aspects, the chair symbolises power and status. This symbolism deeply informed my philosophy, starting with the dining throne. Additionally, India has a rich tradition of using pure gold and silver in decorative arts. Historical artefacts like Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s gold throne and the peacock throne exemplify this. These craft traditions, using pure materials, still continue today
  3. Aesthetic Concept: The Ganga Jamuna aesthetic, representing the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, inspired the chair’s design. In Indian jewellery, Ganga Jamuna refers to the combination of gold and silver. This aesthetic is reflected in the chair’s design—a circle and a convex shape where gold merges into silver. This interplay of materials set the tone for my practice. The Dining Throne, produced in 2006, gained international attention and was featured in major magazines, highlighting India’s historic traditions and contemporary relevance.

The Murawala bicycle throne continues the theme of thrones in my work. I was invited by Droog Design in Amsterdam to bring a cultural element from India to the streets of Amsterdam. The Murawala bicycle throne contrasts Indian bicycle culture with Western bicycle culture, inspired by Indian bicycle vendors carrying an array of objects on their backs. This throne was the first chair from my collection acquired by a major museum and is part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, part of the Louvre.

These thrones reflect the historical and societal context of power and status, while also showcasing India’s rich craft traditions and contemporary design potential.

Gunjan Gupta’s work bridges the gap between concept, craft, and context, bringing the roots of India to the global stage


F: Absolutely. Well, and now we have Gunjan Gupta, a pioneer in that, in India.
Okay, moving on. What advice would you give young collectors of design in India who are looking to build meaningful collections?

GG: Firstly, it’s all about taking risks and understanding that design is about collecting elements you perceive could be part of the future. To determine if something will last, it must have an inherent element of storytelling. Design is not only about functionality. Consider why certain iconic chairs, like the Pierre Jeanneret chairs or Le Corbusier chairs, are so famous. They are part of an artist or architect’s body of work, and they were among the first chairs to be mass-produced in India, playing a role in the building of modern India.

Design of the future is always contextualised by its origins and its current relevance. It’s a form of storytelling. We need to view design not just as decorative or functional objects for the home but through the lens of its narrative and cultural significance. Collecting design also involves taking risks and stepping outside conventional perceptions. Young collectors should look at design from around the world and learn to categorise what excites them visually. Are you drawn to it because it’s pretty? Because it’s functional? What’s your reason for acquiring it? There should be a connection, a story that resonates with you. When you see a piece of design that truly speaks to you, you’ll feel that connection. That’s the piece worth collecting.

Almost a design journalist, Gunjan Gupta finds writing to be a powerful creative tool. She envisions writing a book to connect the dots of her journey and share her insights with the world

F: Got it. Thank you. And, okay, this is an interesting one. If you could invite any designer, alive or dead, to dinner, who would it be and why? And what aspects of design would you discuss over the meal?

GG: So, because I create these vertical thalis, which are all about experiential dining, I mentioned that I would invite Brancusi for dinner. Brancusi is a sculptor who has always been a huge inspiration to me. His use of materials and the way he works with them aligns perfectly with my interests, although he never really made vessels. I’d love to invite him to share a meal and discuss design. During the meal, we would explore geometry, history, and culture. I think we’d really connect and have a fantastic time—a thali full of design, so to speak.


Incorporating materials from stone to precious metals, Gunjan Gupta’s designs are inspired by the juxtaposition of everyday and luxurious elements in India’s rapidly changing landscape


F: Your career has seen remarkable growth and recognition internationally. What changes have you observed in the design world from 2006 to 2024, and how have these changes influenced your approach to design?

GG: The world has changed significantly over the past two decades. When I started in the international context, around 2006, the concept of collectable design was just emerging. Many of the now-famous collectable design galleries were only just establishing themselves. Conversations about the liminal space between design and art and the blurring boundaries between them were just beginning. Today, these ideas seem concrete and well-established. In India, there was no real concept of contemporary design back then. People were more interested in importing contemporary designs from Italy or China. Now, there’s a significant shift—Indians are buying Indian designs with pride, and there’s a noticeable improvement in quality.

Another major change is the global perception of craft. When I started in 2006, and even in 2004, the craft was not seen as part of the design language. The focus was more on machines and how they could mimic craft. There was no emphasis on handmade work or the holistic benefits of craft, including social sustainability and cultural preservation. These dialogues were absent. Now, there is a resurgence and respect for craft. It’s become fashionable, with every website talking about craft and organic materials. For those of us who have been part of this journey, we realise we have reached a critical point in understanding craft. The big question now is how we redefine it. Are we preserving, restoring, or reinventing craft? These are the questions driving the current discourse in design and consumption.


Young collectors of design in India are encouraged to take risks, appreciate storytelling in design, and build meaningful collections that resonate with cultural significance and personal connection


F: Okay. As someone who has lived in both Bombay and Delhi, how do you think these two cities have influenced your design philosophy?

GG: Bombay and Delhi offer distinct design aesthetics shaped by their unique characteristics. Bombay, as the commercial capital, has an urban, industrial outlook. It’s dynamic and embodies a certain commercial energy. In contrast, Delhi has a strong cultural and historical connection. It’s surrounded by prolific ateliers in places like Muradabad, Agra, and Jaipur, which imbue it with a rich, artisanal heritage.

Bombay stands out to me because it represents a unique blend of high and low culture. Although not literally a flat society, it comes closest to achieving a sense of equilibrium between different social strata. This philosophical blending is reflected in my work. Conceptually, my designs embody this mix, drawing inspiration from the juxtaposition of luxury and everyday elements. In Delhi, I’m deeply inspired by the craft culture and the rich historical context I’ve encountered over the years. This profound connection to craftsmanship and tradition informs much of my design philosophy.

However, the “Made in India” movement has a nuanced reality. While I create full concepts, contexts, and products myself, many brands exploit this label by sourcing products from smaller vendors in places like Agra and Muradabad, then white-labelling and selling them. This practice doesn’t truly represent “Made in India” but rather appropriates and commercialises the hard work and creativity of local artisans. It’s essential to distinguish between genuinely original work and mere replication, ensuring that true craftsmanship is recognised and respected.


If Gunjan Gupta could invite any designer to dinner, it would be Brancusi. Over a meal, they would explore geometry, history, and culture, creating a thali full of design


F: What are your aspirations for the future of your design practice? And how do you see yourself shaping the trajectory of Indian design on a global scale?

GG: It’s been an organic and rewarding journey so far, and I believe it will continue to be so. Opportunities have consistently presented themselves internationally, underscoring India’s cultural significance and the value of Indian crafts on the global stage. I see numerous incredible opportunities ahead, with platforms where I hope to participate.

Currently, we’re engaged in several endeavours. Firstly, there’s our research-based work, which focuses on materials and production at the highest level. Then there’s IKISS, which aims to spread our design philosophy to a wider audience. We’re excited to announce that we’ll be launching IKISS in Milan during the Saloni del Mobile with Maria Cristina Didero, one of the world’s foremost design curators. This collaboration is prestigious and fortuitous, given Maria Cristina’s expertise as a design scholar and historian.

Additionally, on the India side, we have other projects in the pipeline. We’ll continue to innovate and make our mark with our vision and commitment to excellence. This journey is ongoing, and we’re eager to see where it takes us next.


From 2006 to 2024, the design world has seen remarkable growth. Gunjan Gupta observes a shift towards appreciating craft, storytelling, and quality in Indian design, influencing her approach to creating timeless pieces


In the tapestry of Gupta’s journey, we find threads of inspiration and innovation woven seamlessly together, creating a narrative that speaks to the essence of contemporary Indian design. As we bid farewell to this captivating narrative, let us carry forward the torch of creativity and cultural preservation that Gupta so brilliantly embodies. With each step forward, may we embrace the fluidity of design as a conduit for storytelling, celebrating the harmonious fusion of tradition and modernity that defines the soul of Indian craftsmanship. In this ever-evolving landscape, let Gupta’s legacy serve as a guiding light, inspiring us to seek beauty, authenticity, and innovation in all that we create.

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