Pune Artistry Works Is Breathing New Life Into The Art Of Linocut Printing In India

Limited-edition linocuts make for more personalised gifting.
Limited-edition linocuts make for more personalised gifting.instagram.com/puneartistryworks

It’s been almost five and half years since Aishwarya Jadhav graduated as an architect, and in that time, her professional life has undergone a creative overhaul the likes of which she had never envisioned before.

Embedding her own recollections into the linocut prints she produces, Aishwarya has found a more intimate way to be a part of the connections that people forge with their living spaces. “When you are passing by maybe after three months, you will not even realise it’s there”, she muses. “But the moment it’s not there, you will realise oh-my-God something is missing.”

Such is the ineluctable quality of her illustrations that capture the ephemera making up our physical, everyday reality like the impressions of a moka pot or a banana tree, seemingly mundane objects that find resonance with her clients for their deceptive simplicity. 

'Moka Pot' represents the everyday objects that make up our lives.
'Moka Pot' represents the everyday objects that make up our lives.Abhay Singh

Pune Artistry Works, is a homegrown business that makes stamps from linoleum on locally sourced, handmade paper and Aishwarya conceived it from the ground up as a limited-edition operation. “Linocut is expensive and it also cannot be mass-produced so that helps me gather a more respectful audience,” she illuminates on why her creations are not your average fare of commercialised collector's items. "So there are only 100 prints of each design that gives me more than enough time for them to sell while I start working on my new collection".

Even though she does accept commissions for custom-made prints, she is very selective about these orders because of how painstaking it can be to churn out just a couple of pieces for every new carving.

'Breakfast' is a throwback to the artist's first few dates with her husband.
'Breakfast' is a throwback to the artist's first few dates with her husband.Abhay Singh

Aishwarya’s ideas are the echoes of her own personal memories like the snapshot of a breakfast table. “One of my first few dates with my boyfriend, who is now my husband, inspired my earliest design.” She would carry her sketchbook and pen everywhere while her husband always had his camera on him and they would meet for coffee at the beginning of their courtship. Transitory moments like these sometimes register as fully composed images in her mind, that she then transmutes into a digital representation on Illustrator or Procreate while bearing in mind that anything too intricate wouldn’t be viable for the linocut medium.

The drawing then must be carved out from the linoleum sheet with a v-cutter to make a matrix or ‘stamp’. “I roll ink on my stamp and place it on the press while making sure it’s aligned properly”, Aishwarya takes me through the labour of love, commenting on how she used to be someone who couldn’t just sit in one place and do the same thing for too long. It's the big reveal of the first print swishing out from the press that is so calming to her, almost an act of surrender to quiet introspection.

“It makes me so happy that I am practically jumping to show it to my husband,” she marvels.

'Little Red Balloon' reminisces upon her childhood memories with her grandparents.
'Little Red Balloon' reminisces upon her childhood memories with her grandparents.Abhay Singh

I feel like the word ‘therapeutic’ in art is overused but that’s exactly what I have experienced over the past year.

Aishwarya Jadhav

Spending close to seven years of her girlhood with her grandparents, Aishwarya harks back to the times she would go to the park with them, stringing along a balloon and feeling strangely comforted by the mountains that must have seemed so imposing to her tiny self. This sense of awe has found its way into the Little Red Balloon, a vestige of nostalgia resurrected in the living rooms and offices where her prints are mounted, immortal in its posterity. She reveals how her friends can shrewdly guess when she wants to hold on to or romanticise an experience, digging up the old inside joke, “Okay, now go make a print out of it.”

Speaking to the trepidation that many have felt when their major at university does not translate seamlessly into ideal work environments, the 28 year old businesswoman and artist pivoted from her mainstay architectural background around three years ago, venturing into calligraphy and eventually stumbling upon linocut. Largely self-taught through trial and error after she took a brief course with an artist based out of the Netherlands, she is unabashed about how she almost gave up after her first print, embarrassed at how unremarkable it turned out to be. “So now I am not that scared," she insists. "Because I know that things fall into place when you are disciplined, more than anything else.”

From thoughtfully picking out the packaging to making sure all the paraphernalia was in place, the day Aishwarya launched her website, she recalls how nerve-wracking it was. “My phone didn’t even ring once for an order,” she mentions the terror of feeling relegated to oblivion so soon but quickly enough, she realised that the payment feature was inactive. When she delved into the records for that day, she found dozens of people who had unsuccessfully tried to place their orders, paradoxically elated that there was no dearth of those interested in her work. 

Lately experimenting with fabric-based products like tote bags and T-shirts, Pune Artistry Works is coming into its own with a distinct aesthetic encouraging individualism and imperfection, gently reminding the clients how these flaws add to the character of the art piece that can take close to 80 hours from chiselling to inking. “Just regular people like you and me who like things done differently,” she speaks of her target audience, “and want something more niche instead of just buying something on Etsy”.

Aishwarya carefully picked out her tools and inks to ensure premium quality.
Aishwarya carefully picked out her tools and inks to ensure premium quality. Abhay Singh

Branching out, on popular demand, into sharing her know-how through an online workshop is a recent development for Aishwarya. “I barely know anybody who does linocut here in India”, she remarks “but my class sold out in three days”. This proves that there is a small though dedicated smattering of people who are interested in this method of printmaking. Dispelling the misconception that something esoteric doesn’t sell, Pune Artistry Works is living, breathing proof that linocut printing can be made relevant and profitable purely because there are such few professionals in the tradition. Reclaiming a craft that is so lean in its output, Aishwarya's brand is thriving in the contemporary scene of decor and gifting.

You can order your own prints from here.