Manvi Vakharia's Vivid Illustrations Are Compeling Reasons To Stop & Smell The Flowers

Stills from Manvi's project.
Manvi's project for Obeetee Manvi Vakharia

Manvi Vakharia is an Indian artist who was recently commissioned by homegrown rug company Obeetee to create a series of illustrations that depict their artisans and the involved processes that they execute to create the brand's craft rugs. We caught up with the young artist to find out a little more about this project as well as her creative vision as a whole.

Tell us about your project. 

Obeetee is one of the largest and oldest carpet companies in the world. They work with 30,000 weavers across 7 villages in the Bhadohi district, which is the carpet weaving belt in India. Since weaving is not taught in schools, it is learnt from parent to child, and so the lineage of weavers is sometimes centuries old, with 3 generations having worked with Obeetee over the last 100 years.

I was commissioned by Pallavi Nopany Studio to create illustrations for their website, that depict the different ways in which a carpet in woven - methods that have been followed since centuries by the company. There is a cost difference between a hand knotted versus tufted, and the illustrations help the user understand the time, skill and effort needed for each method.

What are some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?

If I'm being honest, I'd say my artistic journey started when I was about 3 years old. I studied art in school from the 1st grade right up to the 12th grade. As a result of that I was exposed to different styles of art early on, one of them being traditional Indian art whether that was Warli or miniature painting or Kalamkaari or Madhubani. Every form of traditional art is so detailed, I think that is something that stuck with me through the years. Early days of Instagram back when I was in school led me to find the art of Dina Brodsky; an oil painter, and Mister Vi, an ink artist that practiced different forms of realism. Both of them had a huge impact on me growing up. When I was 16, I visited the Kew Botanical Garden and the Shirley Sherwood Botanical Art Gallery there, it was my first understanding of what botanical art is which is one of my main areas of focus now.

Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create. 

If I had to give you a single phrase that defined the purpose with which I create; it would be, quite literally, "to stop and smell the flowers" which to me means to take a minute and observe the world around you; to find joy in how the sunlight is falling through the trees or how the sky is changing it's colours; to pay attention to something you might have never noticed otherwise in your busy schedule; to pay attention to what we might think is mundane, but is actually quite extraordinary.

What are some of your biggest influences as an artist? 

My biggest influence has always been and will always be the natural world around us. Now more than ever, with the rapid loss of biodiversity and nature being treated like an infinite commodity, it's important to highlight the non-human world that coexists among us in any way that we can. After this, my biggest influence would probably be travel. To experience places around the world, how each one is so distinct from the other through its sounds, smells, scenes, people, clothing, natural history, architecture and culture and to document them through my art.

What are some things you learned while putting this project together?

One thing that I will definitely take away from this project is to always double check my research. I'd misunderstood how one of the methods worked, and we figured that the composition I'd created wasn't actually feasible with how the carpet is made. I had to re-do that composition, but luckily we weren't too deep into it and had some time. So, always make sure your facts and research are accurate. Another lesson I had while working on this project was how to use my references. I didn't have direct references to create these illustrations, they are all an amalgamation of maybe 10-15 different reference photos pulled from different archives. For one of the illustrations I photographed myself and used that as a reference for the artisan! Find a way to be creative with your references.

Who are some artists who are currently on your radar? 

This artist I recently discovered on Instagram called Fujiko Rose, I absolutely love how traditional yet experimental she is with her approach. I also really like Namrata Kumar & Svabhu Kohli.

A project you wish you were a part of? 

I've been wanting to paint murals for the longest time now, no specific project comes to mind right now but I wish I was a part of any mural project.

You can follow Manvi here.