Free shipping on all orders within India

The Firefly Chats - Anjali Vasudevan

" You'll remember me when the west wind moves
Upon the fields of barley, 
You'll forget the sun in his jealous sky
as we walk in fields of gold.."
- Sting

A painter who doesn't know how to draw. A corporate designer who rarely started a logo on a computer. And an artist whose canvas is a plate. Meet Nishita Thakurdas, my third guest, founder and designer at Nishita Fine Tableware, and the most chaotic chat I have had so far. Let me tell you more.

The mayhem was not because Nishita herself is chaotic, far from it. But managing a full household which includes a husband, in-laws, a visiting mum, two little girls under 10, a constant stream of guests, and her own thriving business is a-lot to have on one's plate. Pun intended. So to have her sit down and chat about her creative life even for a couple of hours, was a big ask. 

We sat down in her garden so we could get some sun and chat. What flowed was a series of  interruptions and I just sat and watched. There was a customer who wanted a catalogue, her help who wanted to know what to cook(we had keema and parathas, FYI), her mum who wanted to know what time to pick her little one up from school, the hospital that her husband and daughter had an appointment with also called to confirm, the orders she needed to get packed and sent, the aunt who came in just to say hi, her social media agency that needed an appointment with her and last but not the least, the fish that had died and needed to be put away. Phew. Give me a minute. I don't know how she does it. I would go nuts. 

In the middle of all that, we did manage to chat and so here we are. Keeping with the theme of chaos, let's start her story somewhere in the middle. In 2014 to be precise. 8 months pregnant, she launched Nishita Design with 5 collections of luxury dinnerware. Each collection is a set of --- pieces and she has designed every single piece herself. Each collection is made of exquisite porcelain, gold etched and an ode to India's rich heritage. I broke a vase during the last firefly chat. This time I didn't touch a thing. 




I wanted to understand what it takes to create something so luxurious and exquisite. Wait, why luxury in the first place? "I wanted to create something classic, of excellent quality and finish. I knew it would time and alot of effort. A luxury range just seemed obvious," she says. 

She took a whole year just to find the right porcelain. She sampled pieces from Germany, Italy, Japan, looked at glazes, checked the exact shade of gold, the finish, the colour palette possible on porcelain which is different from paper, the boxes for packaging, the ribbon and tissue for wrapping, and the overall durability and quality of the plates, before she decided to do this. She says she wouldn't have started Nishita design, if she hadn't found the right manufacturer. Well, for starters, luxury seems to take a hell of alot of patience! Nishita has no dearth of it.

Each of her collections is distinct. One is called Mughal Gardens, another Benaras, and a third Spring in Udaipur. My personal favourite is the Devanagiri series that celebrates the script with stunning calligraphy.I asked her what inspired these collections, and what was her process? She wasted no time in saying,

"There is zero process, and inspiration can come from anywhere. I just trust my instinct and my aesthetics."

Oh wow. That simple? Hardly, as I discovered. That inspiration can come from anywhere, I can believe.Her inspirations for these collections have been myriad. One of her collections was based on her own wedding card that she designed, another was inspired by a 150 year old chair in her house, yet another by a piece of antique textile she saw at an exhibition. A little etching on a stone could be an inspiration, as could the forts and palaces she has seen on her travels. 

"India is rich in inspiration, with so much history, from textiles. to temples, to architecture, to nature. There is so much unexplored on a plate."


But no process at all? That seemed a little hard to believe. As is the case of alot of creative people I know, they seem quite oblivious to their way of doing things. Which is exactly why I am fascinated with creative processes. It's like a secret waiting to be told. We dug a little deeper and found that there was indeed some method hiding under that apparent effortlessness. 

While the initial spark could come from anywhere, as she says, there are a few steps before she gets down to designing and eventually producing her wares. She first visualizes the idea in her head to check if it will work on a plate or not. Her strong sense of personal aesthetics is what she uses to judge the idea. And then there is a period of elaborate research on elements like motifs, colours and patterns, to ensure that the design will carry well on every single piece in the collection. 

She is passionate about colour and is constantly looking for that unique shade on a plate. She refuses to hire a designer for adaptations insisting that each piece is a separate canvas, be it a side plate, a tea cup or a platter. She goes back and forth on just colour at least 4-5 times for each collection. She looks into every single detail herself, from the packaging, to the shoot, to the table set up for a show. And she is never satisfied. Until she is, and only then is it out there for the world to see, appreciate, and to take back home. She is conscious that she is designing for the consumer and not for her personal collection, and her designs are a reflection of her astute sense of what works. 


How did it all start? What are the roots of such a strong personal aesthetic antenna? She remembers that she had an early affinity towards painting and art. It all began rather innocently, with making cards for parents and family. I saw little notes from her daughters to their dad on the bathroom mirror, so clearly it is being passed down nicely. "You are the best Papa", it said. Adorable. 

 She also credits her parents for being extremely encouraging and enthusiastic about everything. A big part of her early creative life as a child was dabbling in multiple activities. 1 sport, 1 musical instrument, 1 hobby, her mother used to say. She remembers lots of art classes, a few piano sessions and exactly 3 tennis lessons. It was very evident, very quickly that she was never going to be a musician or a sportsperson. She does love to dance though so there's that. 

 But she did show an early talent in painting. Her mother used to paint so one could put it down to genes. But in Nishita's case, it was also encouraged with opportunity. One of her first memories with the brush is as a 14 year old. Auntie popped in to narrate the story. She proudly tells me that she made her bunk school and took her to see Sivanesan, an artist who was showing at the Bangalore club. No regrets. Here's why. 

 When her mother casually mentioned to him that Nishita liked painting, he quickly took out an empty canvas and asked her to draw with him. She remembers learning her first texture techniques from him. She still has that piece, and she dragged it out of the garage so I could click a picture. What a special artist he must have been, I thought, to take the time to teach a young one.


I asked her what else she remembered about her childhood, apart from all those art classes, and failed piano lessons. She describes a childhood in Bangalore of the 80s. They lived in an independent house and there were very few children to play with. One of their neighbours had a mini zoo in their house, so many a pleasant evening was spent amongst birds and animals. She remembers spending hours on a white swing, playing with her dolls, day dreaming, even getting bored sometimes. She grew up on that swing she says. It made me realize that getting bored and day dreaming may well be as important to a creative mind as is the active pursuit of talents. Nishita was lucky enough to have both. She just saw alot of art as a child and that has shaped her visual and aesthetic sense. 

"The more you are exposed to anything, the more you absorb."

True that. Despite this early talent in art, she remembers with sheer horror, 2 years of studying science because she thought she had to follow the well trodden path. At one point  she wanted to become an architect, because it sounded cool. Her dad sent her to an architect friend for a day and she wanted to charge out of the office in an hour. The thought of working with scales and those tough drawings just wasn't her idea of fun.  

She finally chose to follow what she was good at naturally. She studied graphic design at a time when it was a relatively unexplored field. And she worked very hard. Her discipline and focus, extremely important ingredients of her creative life kicked in then and defines her work ethic till date. 

She worked in corporate design agencies for ... years before calling it quits. What was that like, I ask? " I learnt all my fundamentals from my bosses." She remembers being given sketch pads to create 100 versions of a logo before touching a computer. She remembers having to ideate and brainstorm before touching a sketch pad. And she remembers having to listen to a brief before thinking. Yet she reveals something of her natural process when she says, 

"When spontaneity and originality come together, something just works. That first logo is usually the right one, but still create a 100 to make sure."

After she had enough of corporate design, working to a brief, and creating for clients, she decided to do something on her own. And she thought she would paint. She remembers buying a set of canvases to start her career as a full fledged artist. She would sit in front of a canvas for hours, but she couldn't paint a thing. She doesn't remember how long that block lasted. But she allowed herself the time and space to just be. Eventually, she remembered a plate project she had done about 20 years ago as a student. And it came back to haunt her, or in this case to inspire her. She told her husband about the project and he simply said, " Why don't you try that?' And she did. The rest, as you now know, is history. Reflecting on that time she says, 

"You just never know the things that sit in the back of your head. They stay with you, and when the time is ripe, they come out. You just need to allow it."

It struck me that Nishita constantly acknowledges the support of others in her creative endeavours. Her parents, her bosses, her husband, her friends. She says she has been lucky to have that kind of support. But I also think she has been a willing student, a keen listener and been open to advice. Without taking away anything away from the individual, the value of having the right creative champions around you could make all the difference. Making a mental note of my own creative champions. 

As someone who has traversed the paths of design and art, I asked her which she preferred. She thought for a second and said, she can't create to a brief or go by a client's feedback anymore. She simply can't, she is saturated. So I called her an artist and she chuckled.  

"I don't know how to draw. I know that is what people think artists should be good at. I love putting things together, making collages, sticking things, layering. I hope that still makes me an artist!"




I think so. A few years go, she tragically lost her father to cancer. And that has propelled her work in a new direction. She feels the need to give back, and her chosen cause is cancer treatment for children. She has tied up with ... and part of the proceeds of her sales go to this facility that is doing some excellent work in helping under privileged children. On her part, she ties up with an artist and creates her collection based on a specific painting by the artist. 

Her latest collection is her dream come true. Her favourite artist in the world, Seneke.. gave her the permission to deconstruct his iconic work, Garden of paradise. And here it is. Stunning work, I thought. I also asked her what her favourite compliment has been so far. She smiled and said that Seneke was thrilled with the way she had deconstructed his art. She went to meet him in Sri Lanka to show him what she had done. His excitement was the best reaction she could've received. It made me smile too. 

"I am at my biggest joy right now, connecting art to plates. I have come a full circle."




I found an ease in Nishita's creativity. A natural flair, a sense of flow. Nothing forced, nothing over the top. It was simply a journey of following her joy, finding out what she is good at, working very hard at it and creating from a place of beauty, elegance and generosity. She has honed her creative intuition over the years by listening to it again and again, and it has turned out to be her biggest ally. 

I ask her what she does to relax. A glass of wine, an evening with friends, dancing to good music, is what she needs to stay calm through all that is on her beautiful plate. 

Sting is one of her favourite artists and her chosen piece of music also just had to have a touch of gold. Have a listen: 

Her little one arrived just as we were finishing our chat and lunch. Playing with play doh followed, as did butterfly kisses. The only way she allowed us to click this picture was if I took lots of hers too. My phone is currently a portfolio for a 3 year old. And we managed one picture without her clinging onto Mommy. 











Next Article