Published: 08th May 2019
How Odisha's Ishan Pattanaik created heritage art-meets-utility brand Karu
They also have products like the Hiran Minar Holder which draws inspiration from the Hiran Minar in Fatehpur Sikri. It is depicted as a chic toothpick holder
Have you wondered why lion sculptures made in Odisha are usually depicted with moustaches? Or why the lion is seen mounted on an elephant? The many metaphors behind sculptures and art of Odisha, and India in general, have perpetually fascinated Ishan Pattanaik, who pursued Communication Design, specialising in Graphic Design, from Symbiosis Institute of Design, Pune. Ishan felt that Indian art wasn't explored as much as he would like to have delved in it. So after receiving encouragement from his seniors and bagging the Best Degree Project Award for his project, Demystifying The Symbol of India, he worked for brands like Design Temple which understood art and Indian luxury and eventually, the 30-year-old started Karu in June 2017. Karu's luxury products, mostly carved from wood and stone, are full of symbols from Odisha and India's heritage and historical culture. One look at their catalogue and you'll see.
They have retail partners and their products can also be brought on a few premium e-commerce websites
For Karu, this Odia youngster raised in Kolkata collaborated with artisans from Puri, where his family is from. "As a child, I collected high-grade sculptures, but today, I find that many artisans are forgetting their own vocabulary and the quality of craftsmanship is going down. With Karu, my aim is to bring back the vocabulary of the artisans and make the customers understand it," he points out, by adding an example of how sculptures of lions are depicted with a fierce moustache because the artisans have never seen one. But are people still interested in investing in iconography? "Well, new power needs validation from new symbols. Like even today, having sculptures of two lions on either side of the entrance door is still seen as a symbol of power," the Founder and Creative Director of Karu explains. And how do they make their products more appealing? What they do is try to insert an element of functionality. Like for the kamadhenu (divine bovine goddess) bowl or the charbagh (a concept from the Quran which depicts paradise as having four gates) cardholder. And even the Suka Pen Drive, with a depiction of a parrot on it. You cannot get more functional than this!
The force behind Karu: Ishan Pattanaik, Founder and Creative Director, Karu | (Pic: Karu)
So, we all know the inevitable, 'Why is it so expensive?' question that customers tend to ask when it comes to handmade products, but how does one counter it? Ishan says, "It is easier when the customer is made part of the process, show them how a block of stone was converted into a sculpture so intricate. It also helps if you describe the symbolism and make them see the pride in owning it," he explains.
The minimum orders they receive in a month varies from 30 to 40
Currently, Karu retails out of about 14 Taj Hotels and they ship their products to the USA as well. But Ishan makes one thing clear—they are pluralistic in nature and are a brand which depicts Indian symbols, and not just Hindu symbols. Case in point, an instance wherein the Catholic Youth Ministry, who was going to meet the Pope and request Karu to design a sandalwood crucifix. And they totally delivered! They depicted Lord Jesus as The Good Shepherd on top of a lotus. And from what we hear, the Pope loved it. Boy, wouldn't we have loved a glimpse!
Some of their products
It'll hold: The kamadhenu bowl | (Pic: Karu)
Store 'em: The Suka Pen Drive | (Pic: Karu)
By that measure: Vishwakarma measuring tape | (Pic: Karu)
Hold on: The matsya paperweight | (Pic: Karu)
For more on them, click on karu.co.in