Meet Amrita Nambiar, an illustrative designer who always dreamt of infusing into a space that ethereal, unpredictable beauty and meaning that would change moods and create experiences. Drawing was something she always fell back on as a child. With each passing hobby, she realised that this was the one thing that continued to hold her interest and she decided to go to art school. She discovered illustration a few years into art school, the sheer whimsy of detailing a complex thought through a few intricate lines in pen intrigued her. And then when she moved to Pondicherry a couple of years ago, to work with Hidesign, she was hooked. “The creative folk that lived there, the quaint streets, the ashram life that takes you back decades, the sea that always beckons with answers to your questions — life in Pondi was infinitely slower, calmer and allowed one to dream,” she observes. Eventually, she was inspired to dream of a brand that would bring this feeling of freedom and serenity into people’s lives. And so OLIE, a home decor label, was born.
What makes OLIE unique is, Amrita says, “its unusual combination of exquisite hand printed stories with the luxury of hand-twisted natural fibre.” By bringing together the art of the contemporary with the beautiful craft that abounds all over India, each product is crafted with the greatest care for the smallest detail. Her collections are based on the idea of ‘impermanence’. She adds, “We capture a wondrous moment that is fleeting. We reflect the movement and the beauty of those seconds in our printed collections.”
Amrita believes in classics and not following trends, but she constantly experiments and works with different fabrics, textures, colors and prints. “I adore working with beautiful, soft cottons and of course, the exquisite natural fibres,” she says and adds, “We draw inspiration from the things we see around us and work to bring a delicate balance in each signature accessory.”
Outlining the process from conception to the finished product, she says, “Color is one of the most beautiful and key features. It starts at the very beginning, when I illustrate. I usually use watercolors for my initial sketches and choose the palette for each collection. Then we sit with the women artisans who bring my illustrations to life on fabric.” Here we mix pots of gorgeous colors and create the absolute perfect, unusual shade that make a cushion cover or a lamp stand out as unique and beautiful. She adds, “The teals, olives, bright yellows and indigos in our collections are strong colors, each complimenting the other in that particular print, bringing out the best in each other. The handprinted fabrics are then combined with the artisan-woven natural fibres to create a signature product.”
Moving from illustrating in a two dimensional form, to creating something that is not only more tangible but also functional has been an incredible journey for Amrita. “I’ve enjoyed donning different hats to get the brand started. It is very fulfilling.”
The most rewarding aspect, she says, is when she sees a customer connect with the brand, it’s beliefs and take OLIE back home. “The first few months, I had the joy of interacting directly with our customers and have been to their homes, helped them set up their spaces and learned a lot from them.” And what’s the most challenging? “It lies in the little details, the perfect colors, the softness of the fabrics, the weave. We work hard to get every detail right, and that’s what makes it all worth it!”
Published on July 19, 2014 in The New Indian Express.