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Paint Me An Owl: In Conversation With Artist Heeral Akhaury

Revive your old furniture with bright colours and quirky owls

Unique furniture and accessories to add dollops of colour to your home

When we first discovered Heeral Akhaury’s signature Owls, we couldn’t wait to lay our hands on one of them. How could a single bird express so many emotions – from naughty to warm, cuddly, festive and “I’m watching you”? Even more, we were impressed with how Heeral was breathing life into old tin chairs, side tables, serving trays and river stones with her stunning designs and dazzling colours.

My Big Red Bag in conversation with the founder of the bright and bubbly Ulle Ke Pathe (get it?)

The Beginning

After spending over 15 years with the advertising world, the last 12 of which were with Ogilvy & Mather, I decided to quit my job as Senior Creative Director and pursue a brand new path. The first project I worked on after quitting the corporate word was decorating my new home. That led to a request by a restaurant in Bandra to design their interiors (Corniche, on Carter Road). One project led to another, and before I knew it, I had become a design consultant.

Meanwhile, I had been collecting owls during my years of travel. On a whim, I started a painting project with my young son to paint owls over stones. Soon, I had an army of owls – in different moods and colours. A friend who was visiting happened to notice the collection, and suggested I retail them. That led to the birth of Ulle Ke Pathe – a naughty and quirky name with dollops of character.

The Journey Till Now

By this time, I was hooked onto my ullus. I started painting old tin chairs – the ones that are typically used by watchmen in Mumbai’s apartments – in different owl motifs. Soon, I branched into serving trays, side tables, planters and ullu tchotchkes in natural stone. Over a period of time, the form has evolved and developed a language of its own – but every owl face that you see in my work is inspired from people around me!

Recently, I collaborated with Dhoop (a boutique for curated Indian craft in Mumbai) to Indianize the ullu and develop a special line of home products. For this collection – which we have named Owlistic – I designed a special owl with a piece of Indian jewellery ( an earring and a tikka) to adorn it. The products in this range include tableware, coasters, trivets, tables, chairs, benches, cushions, lamps and trays – everything that you need for a complete dining experience.

Dhoop Owlistic Dinnerware

Looking Ahead

I am currently working as a design consultant for an upcoming boutique hotel in Goa. Apart from that, I also preparing for the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in February next year, and developing my line of restored eclectic furniture. That’s a lot to look forward too – beyond that, will take it as it comes!

Inspirations

I am a big admirer of Indian art – there is so much variety, amazing intricacy and such brilliant colours! I particularly love Indian folk and tribal art, and you will find shades of Madhubani and Gond art in my work. I love how these painters are able to simplify art, and yet convey so much emotion and texture.

I also have high regard for Sri Lanka’s Geoffrey Bawa for his interiors, while the Impressionist painters and contemporary Indian artists are evergreen favourites.

But my biggest inspirations are life and people, and Howard Roark from fiction!

Given your passion for Indian art, what is your wishlist to preserve the folk crafts of India?

I sincerely wish that tribal art gains more recognition in India, and people start valuing the time and talent of these brilliant artists and craftsmen/craftswomen. I also wish that we could find a better way to market our traditional crafts – we have a lot to learn from the Western world on this.

Restored Tin Chairs Ullu Ke Pathe

Lastly Heeral, can you share some tips on furniture with our readers

1.  Always buy one small sofa and compliment it with other types of seating, such as chairs, stools, and lounge chairs.

2.  Don’t fret too much over matching everything! Be bold enough to have main sofa and the neighbouring chairs in completely different colours!

3.  When it comes to side tables and other smaller pieces of furniture, move them around frequently. Similarly, try to change your accessories once in a while to bring a dash of novelty to your interiors.

4.  Mix old and new pieces of furniture  -they look great together!

5.  If you are really bored with a piece of furniture, don’t just through it away – instead, give it a make over by painting it! Wood is getting more expensive by the day and good designs are even harder to come by.

So Dear Reader, the next time you buy a hand-made product, don’t forget to remember that the artist has poured all her love and imagination into creating something for you – and not even the most sophisticated factory in the world can match that.

Ull Ke Pathe’s products can be purchased by contacting Heeral at heeral.akhaury@gmail.com or 9820348203. Her ullus are also available at Dhoop in Mumbai, Paperboat in Goa and online on Daflokk.com. Prices range from Rs.1,000 – 3,500 for an ullu, and upwards of Rs.4,000 for furniture.

My Big Red Bag brings original content inspired by life’s joys and passions. Find more inspiration in our Decor Happy Issue, and stay tuned to our latest content by following us on Twitter and FB!

All images are the property of Ullu Ke Pathe

 

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