Anisha Ghosh is the founder of California-based, Saffron Marigold. Anisha and her small crew of dedicated employees create lush, block-printed linens inspired by (and made in) her native India. Anisha gave us the 411 on what drove her to found her own textiles business and showed us her new Maharaja collection.
1. What got you into designing home décor?
The idea to build a small business first came to me when I was a young bride, having just arrived in the U.S. I longed to decorate my home with beautiful Indian textiles. I wanted their vibrancy to help lift the feelings of homesickness that frequently washed over me.
I also wanted to create a small business that is fully committed to the arts and crafts revival and fair trade practices. After months of taking classes, traveling, researching and conceptualizing, Saffron Marigold.com was launched in January 2005.
2. What inspires your designs?
I have always been a dreamer with a vivid imagination. I draw heavily from India’s rich and diverse arts, culture and tradition. I also glean a lot of imagery from history, art, music, poetry, literature, architecture, fragrance, apparel and nature.
3. What’s your favorite design style?
I have a special fondness for India-inspired designs. In India nothing is left unadorned — every last cow, camel, pick-up truck, bus station and water jug is bathed in glorious color! The bright hues and beautiful patterns of this diverse ancient country offer a treasure of furniture, textiles, jewelry, clothing, architecture, arts and crafts.
4. What’s your daily schedule like at Saffron Marigold?
Being an entrepreneur as well as a designer requires me to wear several hats. There is really no daily schedule, which is a situation I find particularly invigorating. As we grow, we are getting more specialized and I find that I have time to wear more hats on the right side of my brain that fit a whole lot better than anything on the left side ever would!
5. What’s your favorite vacation spot?
I love camping. Being introduced to the great outdoors has been the most precious gift of my American experience. My ideal vacations are those spent without walls, cables, computers and cell phones. Camping offers a wonderful opportunity to commune with nature in a deeply spiritual way that leaves me feeling refreshingly cleansed, grounded and centered.
6. Tell us about the Maharaja collection and the steps that went into creating it.
The evocative image of the turbaned, bejeweled king (the Maharaja) atop his richly caparisoned elephant conjures up visions of splendor and magnificence.
I was clear about the color palette even before I started working on the print itself. It is hard to describe, but when I conceptualize an idea for a print, the color palette magically ‘comes to me’. Once the various design elements are completed on paper, I mail them to the artisan we work with in Jaipur. He then works on getting the entire print carved on wood blocks.
The block carving process is tedious and demands an exceptional degree of skilled craftsmanship. A block starts out as a slice of shesham wood. The design is traced on to the wood’s planed surface. Once the blocks are carved, they are left to stand in large trays of mustard oil for a couple of days. This is done to prevent warping, caused by moisture absorption from liquid dyes during printing.
The next step in the design process is sampling dyes. This is really the most fun part of the entire process. I travel to India for this and work together with my team of artisans to get the perfect interpretation of the various hues in the design. Once we have sampled all the various pieces in our collection and tweaked all the design elements till they are perfect, the print is ready for production.