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How designer Vikram Goyal is reimagining Indian craft skills

Forever championing human creativity

‘We treat metal as if it were clay,’ says Indian designer Vikram Goyal, explaining how artisans in his New Delhi workshops transform sheets of brass into intricate sculptures of cranes taking flight, their magnificent feathers spreading out beside them. But brass is anything but easy to sculpt. The floor-mounted piece in question took three months to make: first it was slowly raised in relief from the back, using hammers, then engraved and detailed from the front.

Goyal’s comment is characteristic of a man who believes in expanding the possibilities of both materials and techniques. ‘Our work is about trying to push craftsmanship to its limits,’ he adds.

Journal - Vikram Goyal - Body Image 1 Sakura Console by Viya Home

The designer grew up in New Delhi but spent his holidays in Rajasthan, a region with a particularly rich craft heritage, which seeped into his blood. He studied abroad and worked in New York and Hong Kong before returning home in 2000, beginning his journey into the world of artisanship a few years later.

Driven by a desire to breathe modernity into Indian design and making, he began researching master craftsmen and discovered a metalsmith working in a garage in Delhi. They would work together for the next 12 years.

Goyal teamed up with his sister Divya to start Viya Home in 2003, which now includes teams of metalsmiths, who collaborate with makers across Delhi and Agra to make furniture and sculptures. ‘The idea was to take some of the extraordinary local skills in India to a wider audience,’ he explains.

Quickly the studio was creating pieces for designers and galleries across the world, including Jacques Garcia, Todd Merrill and Christian Louboutin. ‘Living in different places, including Hong Kong and America, as well as India, has shaped my design perspective and helped me give traditional techniques a global aesthetic appeal.’

Journal - Vikram Goyal - Body Journal - Vikram Goyal - Body Image 4 optional Soaring in Fuji Sculpture by Viya Home

One of the skills that the Viya Home team have honed is repoussage (French for ‘pushed up’), the method of metal decoration used to create the crane relief. Its origins stretch back to ancient Greek, European and Egyptian civilisations and it was later used in Indian temples and palaces, as well as being popularised by French decorators in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Goyal’s lyrical designs reinterpret it for homes and hotels across the world. ‘So much of metalwork today is made in a forge, using methods like lost wax casting, but we do everything by hand,’ he says. ‘I’m not seeing this kind of repoussage work coming out of anywhere else in the world right now.’

Viya Home also makes brass console tables, their tops suspended by branches covered with tiny hand-cut metal leaves. The tables are embellished with semi-precious stones, shaped by artisans in Agra, who have also created tops for a series of cocktail tables. Instead of inlaying them in stone, as you might find inside the Taj Mahal, they set the malachite, lapis lazuli and tiger eye in fine lines of brass. As a result, the tables look like oversized pieces of jewellery for the home.

Journal - Vikram Goyal - Body Image 2 Saturns Hexagon Cocktail Table by Viya Home

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