A Slip in Time

Jackie Pinto | April 9, 2023 | Art

Whether she brings in the aesthetic of Kashmir into a contemporary apartment in Bangalore, creates immersive exhibition experiences, builds giant cakes and fake airplanes, a boozy retro diner with a dark twist or a perfectly detailed Doll house – Kamini Rao, the founder of Studio Slip, a
multidisciplinary design house, is not afraid to push her creative boundaries in multiple directions.

Kamini Rao, Founder of Studio Slip.

“I founded Studio Slip in 2018 with the aim to bring an experimental approach to interior design. At SLIP, I head a team of architects and designers and together we design cultural spaces, museums and exhibitions but also work in the commercial and residential realm,” she begins.

For her client the popular Bangalore-based singer and engineer Bulbul Khoda whose family hails from Kashmir, traditional floor seating, oorja paper lights and floral Namda wall tapestries brought touches of the beautiful mountain state into their home. For a young bachelor on a budget, she turned a cramped 800 ft space into a cool, quirky pad, tucking a customised library neatly under a staircase and effortlessly blending IKEA furniture with Channapatna artefacts.

Interior Design for Panun Gar: Floor seating in the living room follows the traditional Kashmiri style and Oorja paper lights and floral Namda wall tapestries with Kashmiri embroidery decorate the walls.

Her series of challenging projects with visual storyteller Arjun Kamath include his edgy workspace and studio as well as a photography project ‘The Anxiety Series’ that explores mental health issues in graphic detail through staged settings and fictional characters.

The series tackles the debilitating effects of mental illness and its effects like social anxiety, PTSD, bullying and body-shaming. Using a compelling pictorial narrative, the theme features around eight fictional characters, each one set in a distinctly different crisis situation, and dealing with a different range of terrifying emotions. The cast included Bollywood star Shweta Tripathi who won a Tokyo International Foto Award (2020), ‘Remarkable Artwork’ and ‘Honourable Mention’ at the Sienna International Photo Awards (2021).

Frames from ‘The Anxiety Series’ that delve into aspects such as social anxiety, PTSD, bullying, body-shaming, and more.

“For this project, we sourced and styled eight very unique sets, used crumbling walls, abandoned buildings, mood lighting and camera angles handpicked by us and every single detail used to build a narrative and a very specific story. All the locales were set in Bangalore and meant to convey the dangers of allowing mental illness to go unnoticed and untreated. It was also meant to highlight the universal prejudices that people suffering from these illnesses face universally. By highlighting the gruesome effects of anxiety we hoped to the victims a voice.

“Working with a person as creatively demanding as Arjun was a bit daunting,” smiles Kamini, “We had great fun with his photography project. When it came to his studio we needed to accommodate workshops, talks, events and cozy meetings with the judicious use of design elements like colour, light, wallpaper, mirror cladding that could seamlessly change the energy, usage and mood of the space. I guess he was happy with our work as we have now been commissioned to do his home.”

The Dollhouse Project

For most of us there is an undeniable fascination and a frisson of voyeuristic thrill in seeing familiar, everyday things recreated on a tiny scale. And nothing could be more fascinatingly voyeuristic than Kamini’s dollhouse project that was commissioned by a Bangalore based artist. “It is a whimsical interactive story set in miniature, following the life of artist Ruchika Nambiar’s miniature alter ego, Little R who leads her best life, has her own Instagram account and loads of adventures vicariously followed by her fans who are encouraged to ‘donate books to her library or godparent her cat.’

Artist Ruchika Nambiar with her Dollhouse alter-ego Little R.

Built on a 1:12 scale, with every last detail recreated in miniature, the Dollhouse is a masterpiece of art, architecture and detailing- with clean lines, warm accents, large windows, proper electrical wiring, exposed brick, Jaisalmer flooring, moulded wall panels, a grassy courtyard and a cool Indian contemporary feel. Built to fit Ruchika’s desk, it can also be dismantled for photo-shoots, pulled apart into quadrants with removable walls and ceilings. No expense has been spared and the sophisticated attention to detail borders on the obsessive. The tiny exquisite carpets come from Jaipur rugs, leather sofas from Stanley textiles and soft furnishing, leather Vaya and FabIndia.

The impressive, eclectic art collection has been sourced from artists around the world like Noel Fielding, Renee French, Howie Wonder, Nirupa Rao, Devika Sundar to name just a few. Their work was reprinted in miniature and framed. “The whole process involved– design presentations, 3D renditions, vendor visits, and technical AutoCAD drawings. The only difference was instead of civil and masonry work, they laser cut, hand painted and assembled. The project took a year to complete ending with a big celebratory housewarming party for friends and family,” says Kamini.

Exterior and Interiors of ‘The Dollhouse’.

Pop Up Museums

A project close to her heart was a recent a pop up museum celebrating the craft and culture of the local Monpa tribe.

“Hidden away in Sangti Valley, surrounded by the Himalaya’s in a remote village with very little resources, The Monyul Gathering, a festival celebrating the Monpa tribe during it’s New Year ‘Losar’ festivities is an experimental approach to sustainable nano tourism in the remote North East India.it was one of our most challenging projects yet,” she explains, describing how the design reflected the stories of the Monpa craft heritage, displaying artefacts that were not perfectly preserved in an 80 year old home made with stone, plastered with mud, the floorboards made from a single tree with thatched roofs in the Monpa tradition.

“We wanted to preserve the integrity of the space and allow it to define the aesthetic of the museum. Each section space was designed with a theme in mind – Eat, Work, Play, Pray – giving viewers a complete snapshot of the Monpa tribe’s lifestyle.”

Exhibition design to create an aquarium-like medical lab for the ‘Bodies at Sea’ exhibit by the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) Archives Gallery in Bangalore.

Bodies at Sea was another exhibition she opened recently in collaboration with Devika Sundar at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) Archives Gallery in Bangalore. While Devika Sundar curated the research, archives, and artworks even adding some pieces from her own collection, Kamini designed the exhibition experience and spatial flow. Bodies at Sea invited visitors to explore the hidden complexity of our internal bodies alongside oceanic creatures of the deep sea through a collection of visual, textual, material, and audio archives culled and curated from marine journals and databases. It reveals a fascinating study of visual synergy between human bodies, marine forms, and aquatic environments.

It’s All in the SLIP

The name Studio Slip literally comes from slipping and finding oneself in new and unexpected places.

“It’s about evolving, experimenting and taking risks,” says Kamini, adding, “I studied spatial design at Chelsea College of Art, UAL, London and my course encouraged me to create within a 3D environment. When I started Studio Slip in 2018, I wanted to create through space. While interior design remains my focus, I love the challenge of set design – from creating the concept to figuring out the logistics, procuring the material and executing the design. We collaborate closely with our clients, lock in the theme, do a lot of sampling and put our in-house library to good use. When it comes to film sets we work with simple affordable materials. But when it comes to interior design – I believe strongly in the timelessness of sustainable luxury, using locally sourced products of impeccable quality.”

Images via Studio Slip.
Words by Jackie Pinto.

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