One mid-summer day, our beloved Suryagarh clients dropped by the studio. They were now ready to start a shop at Suryagarh that could later spread to their other properties and potentially be an independent entity as well. The brief to us was that the shop would have to carry hand-crafted articles that a traveller would fall in love with. The store needed to follow the aesthetic principles of Suryagarh and of course we’d have to think of the name as well.
The team kicked into a brainstorming session trying to figure a brand name for the shop, what it would look like and the kind of products it would showcase. Many reams of paper and several cups of chai later, we finally zeroed in on ‘Misri’. Mishri (मिश्री) is a Hindi word for small hard crystals of sugar, much like our shop that houses within it small sweet labours of love. To give it a flavour of Jaisalmer, the local soil and spirit, we call it Misri.
Misri began to take shape – a concept store that would retail hand crafted products made by the artisans of Rajasthan and its neighbouring states. Just like its name, Misri started getting designed with sweetness and love.
The challenge was to convert two areas in the main reception lobby at Suryagarh into boutique shops. We were given floor plans and area dimensions. It was roughly an area of 140 sq. ft. each. We decided to designate the two spaces for hard and soft materials respectively. One featuring a collection of curios and the other with an emphasis on fabrics and textiles. To make things even more challenging, we were also presented with… ummm… let’s just call it a “restricted budget.”
Mood-boards were created for visual references. Keeping the look and feel of the property in mind, we created minimalistic shelving designs with an accent of Rajasthani shapes. We wanted the 2 little spaces for Misri to literally shine, thus the use of materials such as wood & glass and iron & brass. The small space presented itself with an opportunity to create functional feature areas. Furious sketching and raucous conceptualizing on both the logo and the space kept us on the edge for almost a week. Finally we knew what we wanted – the design was ready. The clients gave us a happy nod. And then we built.
Handmade crafts can never be replaced by machine-made goods. With this belief, we started our curation process. The core idea being to develop and promote crafts of India in their original form albeit with a Misri touch. On a lookout to find the best artisans and craftspeople, we traversed remote regions of several states to source and create products (even crossing rivers and streams, meeting Nilgais and deer and cows and monkeys along the way)!
It was an incredible and a fun-filled journey. We tracked down hidden talents and families with inherent artistry flowing in their bloodlines. Meeting these artisans and going into these little villages was a brilliant learning experience. They told us stories of the glory of their craft back-in-the day and how it was now dying because everybody wanted cheaper goods. They spoke of companies like FabIndia with high regard because of their efforts toward sustainable development of some of the dying crafts like Shibori and Dabu and woodcraft. (We <3 Fabindia)
The products for Misri were hand-picked with utmost attention to detail spreading across a plethora of regional and tribal crafts such as but not limited to bone inlay, stoneware, brass-ware, hand-crafted silver and gold village jewellery, art, hand woven rugs, blue pottery, wood, papier-mâché products, clothing and footwear. In the process we also met and collaborated with young designers and artists at par with the aesthetics of the store. We are proud to share these crafts not just as curios but also as stories and ideologies.
Meanwhile, back at the studio, the branding and packaging for Misri had started taking shape.
The logo and the store signageAfter drafting multiple options, we opted for a simple mehraab form that we could play around with and explore further to blend in different forms of Rajasthani art. The hand-crafted store sign is one such example. It is inspired by the Thikri art at Sheesh Mahal in Udaipur and has been made using the silvered bulb glass by descendants of the one of families who did the ceiling of the City Palace (so they say).
Business cardOne of our best till date. Our team is super-happy with the way the calling card turned out. We’ve taken a pastel palette from the Ganesh Dwar of Amer Fort, cream plike paper to give it the regal elegance that matches up to Suryagarh’s standards with di-cut the edges to create a vintage look. These cards were screen printed with utmost precision.
Stationery103 gsm handmade paper in myriad pastel hues has been specially crafted in Sanganer for Misri’s stationery. We decided to go with a colourful palette as a sublime homage to the colourful land of Rajasthan. The screen printing in a mix of matte and gloss inks, translates beautifully, the simple yet elegant design. We are especially fond of the long narrow envelopes.
Wrapping Paper and bagsJaisalmeris love flying their kites. Inspired by the Rajasthani Kite Festival, we created a brand pattern in brightly coloured kite papers which we use as our wrapping papers. As a studio policy we avoid the usage of plastic and encourage everyone on the team including the clients to promote our philosophy. Keeping this train of thought, we created some very beautiful packaging of potlis using the purest form of cotton, ‘mulmul’ and handmade canvas tote bags.
Space DesignThe space design kick-started with a sketch of a typical Rajasthani man. We then decided to create a bunch of these as the front installation and expanded on the design by using their glorious handlebar moustaches as hangers to display chosen garments from the racks. The entire look and feel of the 2-unit store was created in wood & glass and iron & brass. We chose these materials as they are solid and sturdy as well as lend an elegant charm to the space.
The shelves are linear and end in asymmetrical tops so as to create a sense of rhythm and break the monotony. Small details like mehraab arches at the edge of a few shelves brought in an element of the Rajputana.
11 monolithic pillars of our favourite Jaisalmer stone stand as a pedestal installation and serve as showcase units for various bric-a-brac in the second part of the shop. We are especially fond of the wall mounted jewellery boxes that have twigs and branches from the gardens of Suryagarh to prop the stunning village silver ornaments and accessories.
A bunch of turnaround rings was created in a corner to lift the elevation and is extremely versatile to display objects like bags that need to be hung. At the end, we achieved a classical look and managed to utilize more than 95% of our materials with almost no wastage. That’s something to be proud of!
The entire team travelled to Jaisalmer to set up Misri. There were limitations to working at the grand property as well. We had time constraints to do any kind of build or installation as we did not want to interrupt any guest’s stay. With the help of a team of extremely hardworking handymen at Suryagarh, we brought this vision to life. Work began early morning paired with peacocks, masarkalis and ambient folk music and would go on till late at night sometimes even rewarded with a grand royal dinner. We took turns to work in different areas allocated to us. While some of us worked with the construction team, the others were taking stock of the products, tagging them and creating the inventory.
All in all, no one word can describe the Misri experience. We are proud to have translated our creative vision from concept to an effortless retail space.