I am Vivek Das, a metal-smith & enamellist, jeweller and basically artist.
Faces of Indian Women - Enamel on Copper
Q Where in the world are you?
Originally I am from Howrah, west Bengal (east of India), later on I settled near Mumbai, western coast of India. Mumbai is India’s most busy commercial city which never sleeps. Fortunately I stay little out of Mumbai, so I sleep well!
Man with Pet Cat - Copper and Lead Sculpture of 24" height. Patina Finish.
Q When did you decide to become a maker?
My father was initially a key maker later turned jeweller. In my time (1960s) there used to be no jewellery institutions in India. Students used to learn this profession from their father and uncles starting from a tender age of around 10. Same way I learnt jewellery making from my father and stone setting from my elder brother. I also learnt jewellery designing from my cousin. By the time I finished my schooling I was already a jewellery craftsmen as all my spare time I spent in my father’s workshop which was attached to our residence.
To increase my skill I joined one and only arts & crafts institute in my city, Sir J.J. School of Art, where I learnt various metal forming processes & techniques. Here I got introduced to Enamelling which fascinated me and I decided to learn more about this process. Unfortunately I found there was no permanent faculty available for this subject. Fact is, that I was the only student who took admission in this class. I was very disappointed, but could not divert my mind to anything else. So, school library became my teacher. There were hardly 10 books on this subject & materials listed were not easily available in Indian market. Half of the written matters were difficult to understand and no one to ask from.
But immediately after graduation I started a faculty and started teaching students. For more than 25 years I trained students. I have developed some colours and also designed small furnaces suitable for enamelling. I had to develop these for myself, my students and other enamellists of this industry, as good enamelling furnaces are not available in India.
Teaching - I periodically visit native crafts people at remote villages to conduct design and technical development workshop. I stay with these people for 15 to 21 days. These are Indian government projects.
Q What made you choose the materials that you work with?
I like to work with metals and Enamelling is the method to add colours & brilliancy, Here the canvas is metal and paints, glass enamels, and it is permanent. It can stays for centuries. Enamelling is such an expressive medium which can be used on miniature form that is intricate jewelleries, in crafts, 3-D objects like sculpture and of course very impressive medium for fine art painting.
Lady with Flower Vase - Copper and Lead Round Sculpture with Enamel Patina Finish. Front and rear view.
Q What other materials would you like to work in?
I like mix media, I like to work with various kinds of metals like gold, silver, copper, aluminium, lead, zinc etc. I also love to paint on canvas with acrylic but I do not find this medium much challenging as enamelling. Wall painting and torn kite paper collage is my favourite hobby.
Fossils - Enamel Painting on steel 12" X 12" using several layering of colours brushed, sprayed and grinding method.
Q Where do you get your inspiration from?
When I start drawing a lines, images automatically starts floating on my canvas. Sometimes I get emotional with these images & start developing gradually. Enamelling medium is very technical. One must follow the step by step process along with putting your thought onto the canvas (here metal sheet). Unless you fully get engrossed with technique along with creative thoughts, things go wrong. It is amalgamation of technical process and thought process. Continuous layering of powdered glass colours which are some times opaque, sometimes transparent and fixing them by firing in red hot furnace after each layer of application. Firings are done sometimes 6 to 12 times or more, until you are satisfied.One of the big fights between our artists and craftsmen society today is that other mediums than oil are believed to be craft & are of lesser art value.
Q What motivates you?
To survive working with this difficult medium is a challenge itself, I accepted this successfully and i am happy in my life.
Q Do you create your work in a studio base or a home base?
In the beginning I used to work at home. All my studio and workshop materials were dumped under my double bed. Fortunately I got a small piece of land and now I have enough space for a Repousse workshop and Enamelling studio where me and my wife work. One part is also used for Furnace manufacturing.
Inside My Studio - my enamelling work bench.
Q Crafts in the 21st Century – what does this mean to you?
Recently a new generation of craftsmen are emerging who are extremely creative and talented. They have developed their art expression techniques and concepts to such an extent that only a hairline distance remains between crafts and fine art. Examples of this community, one can see in website firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Tash Goswami. (Editors Note: Thanks Vivek!)
Faces of Indian Women
Q How do you sell and promote your work?
In previous days I used to work with architects and make artefact for home decor. Now I paint and exhibit in art galleries. Also buyers contact me through my website http://www.das-enamel.com/.
Q What is your typical working day look like?
As mainly I paint with enamel on metal, I behave like an artist. Everything depends on mood. Mostly I work by night when no noise, no phone calls, no disturbances. Daytimes I am busy with teaching in various jewellery institutes.
Q What is your working style?
Although I like textures and colours, I also love stylised figurative paintings. Faces are my one of the favourite.
Q 3 words of advice for an aspiring Craft artist/maker...
Believe in yourself.
Do what you want to do.
Stick to your own ideas.
Q Who is/are your favourite artist(s)/maker(s)?
My teacher and metal smith Prof. Nagesh Sabannavar, hailed from south India and was finest Repousser I have ever seen.
Q What music do you listen to?
Classical instrumental and semi classical vocal music (Indian).
Classical instrumental and semi classical vocal music (Indian).
God Ganesha. Mixed media 24" X 48" copper repousse' enamelling and mosaics. Green area is patina finish on copper.
Q 3 likes and dislikes?
Likes: Cooking, kitchen gardening, travelling.
Dislikes :Noise, Crowd, politics.
Q What do you do to relax?
Meditation especially the Vipassana method, (to look at myself) this is the method Gautam Buddha practiced and gained Bodhi (the truth).