Over a couple of years ago, around January ’14, there was a massive sale on flight tickets on one of the travel sites. So on a whim, I booked myself on a trip for June that year to France and UK. I had been obsessed with France and anything French for a few years then and I had finally saved up enough to afford a solo backpacking trip to Europe. It felt like a dream come true, except it didn’t.
My 6 months of excitement and planning fell flat on its face because my visas got rejected. Amidst all the crying and anger strewn towards the French and British consulates and agents, I realised I had lost a decent chunk of my savings on the non-refundable flight tickets (stupid me!), hostel and train bookings. So there I was; broke, bummed and still in Bombay in June.
Why this story is important is because this little setback paved the way for me to design a whole new range of travel-inspired leather products for The Black Canvas. I introduced a range of nautical-themed passport covers, custom laser engraved luggage tags, travel backpack, laser engraved ipad sleeve, cable organisers and laser engraved travel journals.
T'was during this time that I discovered this fabulous little space called the Maker’s Asylum and I started experimenting with laser engraving and laser cutting designs on leather. For the uninitiated, Maker’s Asylum is a community makerspace based in Bombay & Delhi that provides a space for makers, tinkerers, designers, artists or creators to make their ideas come to life by giving access to tools like a laser cutting machine, 3D printers, a full-fledged woodworking lab, electronics lab and the likes. My laser-engraved world map design was an instant hit with the customers and fans alike.
Around the same time, Maker’s Asylum shifted to a massive 6000 sq. ft. space and Vaibhav Chhabra, founder of Maker’s Asylum suggested an idea that led me to create my first leather wall art installation.
What started out as a completely rustic, plain red brick wall turned out to become a 11 ft x 10 ft black brick wall with a massive world map made out of colourful reclaimed leather and MDF boards.
So here’s a little insight into the process and what went into making it. (I wish I had done a better job of documenting it properly but you lose some, you learn some.)
When I first approached the wall, I knew I didn’t want it to look like any other industrial, exposed brick walls that was setting a trend at most places in town. I wanted it to look classy and beautiful. So the red colour had to go. I decided to paint it black because it was in stark contrast to the rest of the space around which was mostly white at the time and also, how often do you come across a cool, black wall?!
So, here came the first hurdle. This was a broken down wall which still had small chips and bits of the broken bricks nudged in tiny gaps. That had to be cleaned out before I set out to paint the wall. The Asylum had a compressor that I used to jet spray water on the wall while mounting myself on a really tall ladder. Once the wall was cleaned out, the next step was to prime the wall white. I used the compressor again to spray the white primer over.
About 10 days, 2 coats of primer & learning the inner workings of the compressor later, I had a solid base coat on the wall. The next week was all about applying a couple of coats of matte black paint. The compressor had decided it had had enough of painting walls, so this had to be done manually with a brush. (I built some serious muscles doing this.)
I knew early on, that leather by itself would not hold well on to the wall for a long time. It required a hard support which concluded in using MDF boards. These boards were laser-cut into different continents and countries and were then slowly drilled onto the wall using screws. (Sri Lanka was particularly hard to drill.) Once all the countries were up on the wall, the last and final step was putting up the leather on the MDF.
Since I was mostly using leather scraps, the pieces were not large enough to cover entire continents. They had to be broken down to each country in the continents. Each country was laser-cut and laser engraved with the names and capitals on different coloured leather and then stuck on to the MDF using glue. This was one laborious process which took well over a couple of weeks to finish.
A final round of cleaning up the wall and voila!
I don’t know about you guys but I’ve managed to inspire myself to make some grand travel plans again. I have been gloriously obsessed with all kinds of stationery lately (Look out for my next blogpost!) So I’m looking at Japan this time and dreaming of traipsing through stores laden with wonderful stationery and all things pretty! (My bank account is groaning already.)
Where are you travelling to next and what is inspiring you to go there?
Also, if you happen to be in Bombay, do visit Maker’s Asylum and check out the wall in person!