The Gathri Stool was designed in 2017 by Parth Parikh, a Delhi based designer. Gathri is a Hindi word, meaning bundle. This stool is an exemplification of Parikh’s ethos, which is to design on the philosophy of creating handcrafted objects that are inherently Indian in their processes and expressions. He takes traditional Indian nuances and contemporises them through his designs for sale in a limited-edition furniture market, thereby elevating them to a niche market.
This stool is reminiscent of a bundle of flowers packed in cloth for sale in the wholesale Indian flower markets. It displays a fine balance between contextualising visual Indian ideas and showcasing the diversity of Indian craft. To any Indian, it conjures up images of local flower markets that are found in every state in India. These markets have an important cultural significance for Indians because they are a reflection of the native culture and spirit of India. Since they are spread across the country, they are an authentic picture of native customs, beliefs, and traditions. Parikh’s use of the marigold flower in the Gathri stool is a strong visual and cultural reference to India, even though it is not a traditional flower from India. It was brought to India by the Portuguese about 350 years ago. Marigolds are considered pure and are a global religious symbol, significant in Hindu, Buddhist, and Catholic celebrations. In India they are traditionally offered to honour all gods and goddesses. The use of the marigold as the motivation for his collection is ingenious on the designer’s part, because across India, this flower represents the idea of India for all Indians.
The drawings by the designer demonstrate his ideating process for the Gathri Stool. They show how he skilfully translates a visual idea into tangible design objects. I imagine that the conceptualisations of all these objects would have been a challenging design process because he would have needed to stay true to the original forms while converting them into functional pieces of furniture.
The stool is entirely handmade and hand-stitched. The materials used are powder coated steel, polyester jute fabric, textile, plywood, high density foam, polyester filling, and handmade woollen thread marigold flowers. Handcrafted metal legs form the base. The execution of the Gathri Stool represents the handmade in its truest sense.
The story that he builds into his designs, so people can relate it to the Indian visual narrative and also engage with it is amply exemplified in the stool since it is an immediate reference to an Indian object and the wider cultural landscape. In this case, he is not only making traditional craft contemporary but also relevant, which is a current problem that the Indian craft industry faces, one of becoming outdated and obsolete. Sustainability is a key issue at the moment. Parikh’s support of the craft industry may be a small step on a macro level, but is a vital one towards artisanal sustainability.
The main consumers of this have been connoisseurs of art and design, foreign nationals living in India, interior designers and decorators, and wedding planners. The Gathri stool has of late drawn the attention of wedding planners as it lends itself to Indian, especially Hindu, wedding themes where marigolds are used as the primary flowers. These flowers symbolise divine blessings, having taken on crucial religious and devotional significance over the centuries. Low seating is often needed at these weddings and these stools fit in both from a cultural perspective and due to their affordable price. The emphasis that marigolds are given at Hindu weddings is not only to make the décor beautiful, but more importantly the religious significance they have as they are used in the sanctum of the wedding ceremony. In this stool, Parikh links in his design strategy to the core of Indian culture.
The ingenuity of the Gathri Stool, is that it makes Indians re-engage with something that they see often, but allows them to be able to view it entirely differently. For non-Indians it gives a totally new understanding of a bundle or garlands of marigolds. It is interesting that Parikh chose this particular idea, put it out of context by making it a part of an object to sit on, and then recontextualises it by putting the object back into the market (although a different type) for sale, where the flowers were first seen. He takes his inspiration to a full circle. This stool embodies a global understanding and perspective of design while being contextualised in the Indian subcontinent.
Rukmini Chaturvedi recently completed her PhD in Design History from Central Saint Martins.