By Meher Castelino
This one is not out of a fantasy novel, though the writer CS Lewis might have begged to differ should he have visited this showroom.
The enterprise Rameshwaram Arts & Crafts was setup in July 2000 by Gautam Taldar, a fashion designer, who stepped down from being a brand manager promoting the Provogue label in Mumbai and returned to his roots in Udaipur to promote the local silver artisans’ work at a higher level.
It took barely 13 years, and already today Rameshwaram Arts & Crafts is a respected name doing major projects in India. Showcasing his traditional sterling silver and silver furniture through exhibitions during the past five years, Gautam felt the need for a stylish outlet in glamorous Mumbai. Partnering with Mumbaikar, Ishan Parekh, the large store in Mumbai opened in October 2013 and has turned into a popular destination for connoisseurs of arts and crafts.
“In a year we make 200 designs which are a blend of contemporary traditional and modern styles. Our factory in Udaipur specialises in manufacturing 99.9 per cent pure silver furniture, semi-precious stone table counters, wall panels, marble inlay work, Mother of Pearl furniture, German silver and wooden teak polished furniture,” informs Gautam.
Each piece of furniture has its own uniqueness and the showroom resembled a treasure trove as pure silver, German silver, Burma teak wood, and marble that ranged from ambaji, makrana, black, green, Jaisalmer and dholpur dazzled. The semiprecious stones like lapis, topaz, agates and red Carnelian shimmered under the lights.
The price starts at a modest Rs 5,000 for some of the pieces but could climb up to a heart stopping Rs 2.5 lakhs for a six seater dining table. All the furniture designed by Gautam has a very lavish old world charm about it.
Depending on the designs, intricacies etc, the time period is framed. The normal time period is about a week but at times it can also take 2 to 3 months in designing big structures like swings, pillars, haveli doors etc. The design and manufacturing process is elaborate as Gautam and Ishan explain.
“The design and making process is one of trial and error, Design ideas spring from a varied matrix of experiences and information, the very first step is visualising, then the idea is put on paper in the form of drawing. Here we apply the material science to enable the properties of each to complement the other, a blend of silver, pearl or semi-precious stones. The furniture is carved as per the design and the outer structure is made. Then it is nicely sanded to give a smooth look, overlapped either by pure silver, melamine polish or the final finish as commissioned. After the overlapping it is lacquered to perfection making sure the shine of the furniture remains the same in all climate conditions. After the lacquering it is upholstered according to the client’s house interiors.”
While the current trend is for modern fusion furniture; lovers of traditional and contemporary work like evolution in designs. “Our clients have diverse backgrounds and profiles; they range from individuals or couples who are redesigning their house to corporations expanding their offices to hotels or clients launching a new endeavour. The bestselling pieces are the wooden carved furniture range with modern detailing of minimal fusion carvings with a touch of pure silver only on carved areas.”
With a product so opulent, publicity is however only through word-of-mouth, personal recommendations and referrals, as well as a good website. The key promotion has been high end exhibitions in 5-star hotels and business trade centre.
Besides the exclusive outlet in Mumbai, Gautam sells from Kaljali Arts, Hyderabad, Rani Arts and Teak, Chennai and Thar Arts, Bangalore. The furniture is also exported to USA, UAE, UK, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Thailand.
Gautam ensures that maintaining such elaborate furniture is very easy and it doesn’t turn black, not even if it’s near the sea as it is given a specific treatment with a guarantee from the manufacturers. “We believe that furniture should last for years and not be disposable.”
He also assures there is a market for such lavish furniture. “Design is the trigger of desires and therefore the trigger of buying impulse, I believe there is a market for this kind of furniture as everyone wants to own a piece of art. Each piece from Rameshwaram Arts and Crafts is high end and a possession that people always use as a centre piece to be the highlight in their home décor.”
While there may be some competition in this business, Gautam feels otherwise, as it is a very high-end product so not everyone gets into it. “It is not a mass production business so manufacturers don’t get into it. Our furniture is different from other brands because we have our own manufacturing unit in Udaipur, Rajasthan and we don’t trade into it. We personally attend to our buyers, understand their requirements and custom design the furniture for them on the budget best suited for them; furthermore our specialised team visits the buyer’s residences to ensure the delivery and fixing of products. Also once the furniture is sold we give personalised services if the client faces any kind of problems like changing the fabric, polish etc. in the future.”
Such expensive and high end furniture obviously falls in the exclusive category, “But sometimes we do get mass production orders as it is mainly for 5-star Hotels. The quantity depends on the requirement of the hotels, like for a conference room at least 100 chairs per design are made.”
Future plans for Gautam Taldar and Ishan Parekh, after the Mumbai store, are to open boutique stores gradually in all the metropolitan cities for the lovers of arts and crafts in furniture design.
‘Live life like a king’ is soon becoming the slogan for the wine-n-dine set within India, who live surrounded by more and more opulence.