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Geetanjali Kasliwal is simply boundless, a facet beautifully echoed in the multitude of stunning products developed by her Jaipur based company, AnanTaya Décor. Be it translating traditional Indian crafts for contemporary lifestyles, working to revive the livelihood of artisans, or seeking to create economic independence for women – the sheer number of things that Geetanjali does while being an inspirational mother to her three daughters leave you wondering, “How does she manage to do it all?”
“I am enthused by people,” says Geetanjali, rather simply. And while interacting with her, you realize that it is people, and the different ways in which her products can impact them, that really drives her.
Finding Her Calling
Born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, Geetanjali was introduced to the process of creation at a very young age, through the family owned mill that produced specialized machinery to refine the quality of yarn. “My grandfather set up the family business from scratch and he was a huge influence on me,” says Geetanjali. “I grew up in a joint family which had very strong spiritual values.” Today, those values, centered on integrity, form the ethos of AnanTaya. “My mother pushed my sisters and me to go out and do things,” says Geetanjali. “Our household was very open; there was no differentiation between a boy and a girl.”
(Geetanjali Kasliwal and Ayush Kasliwal)
Though Geetanjali completed a degree in Architecture, it was the experience of collaborating with her husband Ayush Kasliwal (Founder of AKFD, a furniture design company) on his projects, that furthered her interest in art and craft. AKFD utilizes the skills of local artisans to create contemporary products, and this experience made Geetanjali Kasliwal more sensitive to the process of how and why things are made.
(Umaid Bowls by AnanTaya; available for purchase on Artisera)
In Search of Balance and Meaning
After her first two children were born, Geetanjali felt the need to strike a balance between motherhood and her profession. “We had already done so much work through Ayush’s projects, that was rooted in utilizing local arts and crafts,” says Geetanjali. “I thought - why not bring them together and establish a consistent line of home products? Not only would I be doing something that helps me find balance between work and parenting, it would also provide stability for our artisan community.” With her mother-in-law’s support, Geetanjali put together a range of products in their home’s basement, and got Ayush to cut the inaugural ribbon. And with this, AnanTaya, meaning ‘ever flowing’, was born in 2006, combining the names of Ayush and Geetanjali Kasliwal’s two older daughters, Anunya and Tanaya.
(The stunning AnanTaya showroom in Jaipur)
Rooted in Tradition
During the initial years of AnanTaya, Geetanjali would invite groups of designers, architects and professionals together in Jaipur every month, to understand contemporary lifestyles and what was happening in the Indian design landscape. “We knew what was happening in Paris because of our international projects, but not what was happening locally,” says Geetanjali. “We wanted to make products that were sustainable and that appealed to a contemporary design sense. Meeting diverse people helped us understand the market.”
Over the years, AnanTaya’s collection has grown to include lighting, furniture, mirrors, vases, serving ware, jewelry, textiles and now clothes. Each product created at AnanTaya seeks to either give new meaning to a traditional Indian craft, or give a traditional object a new identity. Take for instance the Karwa Lamp, inspired by the Hindu tradition of ‘Karwa Chauth’. The lamp combines the traditional steel mesh sieve with Parsi embroidery, resulting in a stunning piece of decor.
(Karwa Lamp by AnanTaya)
AnanTaya’s crescent shaped thalis, kalam tables and hammered metals bowls are just a few other products that have been created using traditional art and craft forms such as Thatera, miniature painting and kalai.
The fact that many of AnanTaya’s designs have surpassed trends and been produced multiple times, is a testament to the sustainability and uniqueness of their design. “Our specialty is small batch production and the uniqueness that is inherent to handcrafted products,” says Geetanjali. “Take for instance our Spire Jars - even though we have been producing them for years, the designs have evolved with time.”
Lifting Artisan Communities
AnanTaya’s journey has been a process of evolution, based on building value centric partnerships with artisan communities. “Our relationship with artisans is based on transparency, collaboration and mutual transfer of knowledge,” says Geetanjali. “We’ve helped them understand the integrity of relationships with designers or buyers, and to respect the product and material. For example, we’ll tell an artisan not to unnecessarily colour wood if it is beautiful in its natural form. Our artisans have grown to trust us and value our inputs tremendously.”
AnanTaya embodies the meaning of its name in entirety. Their creations transform not just the buyers’ homes, but that of thousands of artisans as well. “When we revived the ancient birdcage wire craft, which originates in Sultana, Rajasthan, we didn’t realize that we were literally setting a bird free, by turning the craft inside out” reminisces Geetanjali. “We took this highly skilled craft, which was no longer useful in its traditional sense, and gave it new meaning by applying the form across lamps, bowls, furniture and others products. We gave away many of our designs, and gave other designers direct access to the craftsmen. Now, wire craft has become mainstream and applied across countless mediums,” she informs us proudly.
Through AnanTaya, Geetanjali has also been successful in introducing technology that assists in the upliftment of artisan clusters. Simple tools like WhatsApp have helped artisans reach out to more people and increase business. We ask Geetanjali if she feels that technological advancement has hurt the handmade products industry. “There are some things that only the hand can do, and that is the strength and beauty of handcrafted products,” she says with a smile. “Having said that, technology isn’t always bad, it depends on how you use it. At AnanTaya, we identify processes that don’t need human intervention, and introduce technology into our work accordingly. This way, we can make crafts viable, and future generations of artisans will be encouraged to pursue it.”
(A shot from the AnanTaya store in Jaipur)
For a brand that has achieved so much, won acclaimed awards including several UNESCO awards, shown at renowned platforms like Maison & Objet, and has set a goal of transforming the lives of a million artisans, the road ahead for AnanTaya promises to be exciting. “Our design philosophy isn’t about following short-term trends like which colour is in or out this season,” says a fervent Geetanjali. “We constantly push ourselves to design the most beautiful yet usable products, believe in what we do, and do it.”
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