Tuesday, December 31, 2013


May you live in interesting times, goes a curse. It  is of  either Chinese or Irish provenence. Have heard that one in  different contexts through out this year.
Personally if I can say one thing about this year that was, it would definitely be that.  Interesting. but cursed? not at all!
For in 2013  I learnt. I let go. Was challenged. I sought. I found answers. Made friends. Said bye. Found love and detachment in unexpected places. I laughed. I cried. Was questioned. Was answered. Experienced confusion and clarity . All in equal measure.
Do I say it was a mixed year ?  It was !!  but more than anything else and most importantly it was an interesting one.
A final word before  this  year ends. 
fleeting moments made by light and shadows.. Impressions that vanish before fully formed.  
A quite note of remembrance and hope for another interesting year to come for myself and all wonderful readers of  this blog.
I also take this time to thank you for reading, responding and connecting with me through this blog.
Have an interesting 2014 folks..!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Vintage love.

Just a day away from showing Photo + at the AWC fair, Trident BKC, Mumbai.  The experience and response this far has been overwhelming to say the least.  The madness of putting together a gig has unleashed! With much effort I squeeze just one more post from the range..

Sharing with you a few images that use vintage photography for inspiration.  These images are reproductions of  old photographs I have collected  over the years.

The history of early studio photography and the portrayal of women therein is utterly fascinating. A detailed post on the subject would be pertinent. Promise to come back with one later..
Until then, here are a few vintage photo boxes and more from from Photo+ ..

Antique Teak Box

Vintage photo stool

The prince's wardrobe

Skirt, Jaipur 

Have uploaded most images from the collection on to my facebook page. Check it out here.

Look forward to seeing those who can make it at the AWC fair tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Photo boxes

Letters to God,  Limited edition fine art print

These are much photographed times, and each one of us is a photographer. For many like me, taking images and sharing them is a fundamental way of consuming life. To the extent that I don't quite know what to make of the visible unless I  have framed it in a photograph !

In my mind I never stop composing pictures, reading light and calculating exposure values.
It is a problem! Gone are the days when Dad's Yashica would be pulled out of its bag for special occasions, holidays, birthdays and festivals...I have to put the camera away on important occasions lest I  forget to enjoy and  just be there rather than hyper record and lose the moment completely!

The most pleasurable part of taking the picture is actually seeing it in print! Never mind the digital revolution, nothing beats an actual picture that one can feel, better still process it with ones own hands!
Even when a dark room is no longer easily available, the thrill of receiving those `do not bend' envelopes from the printers that come bearing your work is truly indescribable.

One day early this year, I pulled something out of one such  sacrosanct envelope, and bent it! not just that, soaked, tore, plastered and  moulded the photograph ! Sacrilege? right?.. and  how I did suffer too! For this gorgeous textured fiber paper does not print cheap!  

Here are two actual photo boxes then, the first made as a composite of 21 images taken across traditional homes around Rajasthan and Uttarpradesh- The Haveli box. While the second is made with pictures  of random temple walls.

The Haveli box

Letters to God, table top box

Hand painted detail.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


All women irrespective of age and color might identify with how the immediate family and society in general tries to tame and socialise them as little girls. In my case it just happened overnight,  one fine day, it was not okay to climb trees and play rough and tumble with the boys. Out came sewing kits, and knitting needles. `Learn some thing worthwhile' I was told. The worthwhile usually meant, `just conform.! Remember the Aloo Gobi mum from Bend it like Beckham ?!

Unfortunately for my mother,  every reminder of my peculiarity as a girl child never failed to incite bitter rebellion. Until she at the behest of a other concerned, well meaning ladies of the house, tried to sweeten it for me. Thats when I first  saw the Butterick home sewing catalog she has stashed away among her treasured things!

 Never mind if it was a hand me down from an expat sister or aunt,  and was out of fashion by good 15 years. For somebody growing up in cities with no book stores, the catalog and its quaint illustrations were as good as a big fat juicy illustrated volume of Grimms tales ! ( I know its hard to see the connection now, even I can't decades later!)

Only for that glossy goodness,  did I comply and hang around sewing sessions at home. Which usually meant  hours spent pouring over the funky if somewhat unrealistically proportioned retro hand drawn beauties. On long summer afternoons, as my mother and aunts sat chatting and sewing by the balmy air of a noisy air cooler, the smell of khus permeating the verandah and shrill cries of the brain fever bird as though protesting against the raging mercury outside, I would try my hand at copying the utterly `cool' illustrations.

The Catalog

That Catalog  is completely frayed and battered down to its spine now.  Yet, one look at it and I never fail to go back in time to the company of my mother and the women of my large extended family cutting and sewing ill fitting garments. They would share their hopes, frustrations and dreams over  copious amounts of chilled nimbu paani passing the catalog around. I can, still see each woman's finger print on the book all these years later!

With the 1968 Butterick catalog and the women in particular as a starting point, I started to browse  old book stores in Mumbai for literature pertaining to women around the same time. Could there be a story in what we are told and will tell our daughters? What should a good' accomplished girl be like?  what was my mother told by her mother? Can this be a thread that would help connect me to the times my mother herself was a girl like I was back then, will going back in time help in connect in newer ways now?

It came to me in a bunch of books published between the 1950s and 60s. Books about ideal marriages, about female sexuality and books about women's portrayal  in advertising...I read while I  made the box. Values and ideas so out of step with today, they almost read like trashy fiction ! A curve of sociological evolution each one of us have encountered upward and downward swings of in or own ways, and yet the path ahead looms long and bleaker still!

All this material  layered on to a newly fabricated box went into `1968'. Calligraphy and hand drawn detail adds yet another layer to the final product. The pop colours and bright 60s themed illustrations make it look playful, only a closer looks gives away its  not so flippant story. The box to me is not about design or balance,  not even about perfection. It might mean different things to different people. If it invites feelings and responses of any kind at all, how ever different from mine, do care to share. That is exactly what the box is to me: a conversation, a frustration, a protest, a coming together of all that is progressive as well as regressive in traditions that makes as well as breaks!

Retro details : Frobidden fruit : 60s eye makeup and swimsuits !

Because `good' girls always cook, clean and keep impeccable homes.

Floating, free falling, hand drawn apron ladies + calligraphy

Monday, November 25, 2013

From a chair by the window

Makeshift workspace by the window

What is it  they say about life giving you lemons?  You make lemonade.. right? Cheesy cliches apart,  good lemonade is always worth striving for.

Although today's post has been in the writing for the past four months  its germ has been in mind for over two years. 

"Time is a created thing. 
To say 'I don't have time', is like saying 'I don't want to" 
~ Lao Tzu

Waiting for the right time often becomes a carefully cultivated scam  to avoid implementation. The mind adds to the difficulties real and imaginary,  and before one  knows even the best intentions suffocate slow mo. Only in my case, a few developments at home, not altogether positive forced me to confront this resistance. 

Early  his year construction delays at home and a mishap soon after we moved in had me home bound for an indefinite stretch. As if that was not enough, my digital camera with its dainty dust sensitive sensor had to be  packed away!   I simply had to find an escape from the sheer madness unleashing itself day and and day out. A way out of the noise dust and juggling between focusing on the house, the children and still getting some work done!

The house was in a disarray anyway.  Life was going to be like sitting on a three legged chair for the next six plus months if not more. Would it hurt  anymore if I added to the chaos?  Took up a corner and started to sand paint, colour glue and mess about?!  It is hard mucking about in a clean calm space. But one which is rumbling and shaking like a monster spewing dust belches ?!!

So  in one chaotic corner of the house -a single desk by a window:  Photo + took shape.  Tentatively and one mistake after the other at first,  I had to teach myself restoration of old furniture- trunks mostly.  Sand, prime, paint, detail and varnish.  A little by myself and mostly thanks to the constant hand holding and encouragement of dear friends...(they know who and they know how ;)

Some of you might recollect the project I undertook with the wall niches and old calendars a while back (here).  As an extension of  the niches,  other objects that have been subsequently embellished using paint, paper-mache, decoupage and moulding.

In process.

The  idea has to do with the power of  the authentic object. Calendars, posters, old books. Vintage photography, coins, old hand written letters, postcards endless material that invokes nostalgia and longing.. add to it my own photography which in the past ten years or so has become a map of my life across countries and cultures in a way. Is it possible to pick up an old object and reinvent it with older material?

In a somewhat finished form, the project involves restoring old furniture- trunks, cabinets, stools, platters, boxes and containers etc ( pretty much all I could lay my hands on) and lending them a fresh layer of interest and therefore a new life using layers of old material- collected, inherited and found.

Check out images of some of the handcrafted Photo + art works at  the fabulous Bhavna Bhatnagar's An Indian Summer. I am thankful and thrilled to have her feature my work.

With much trepidation I will launch the initial set of objects coupled with select fine art prints at a day long AWC event at the Trident  hotel BKC  on the 30th of November.

Would love to share stories  about a few  objects over the next few days.  For above all, each painstakingly handcrafted object in the series this far  has multiple stories to tell. Will keep updating my facebook page at Chandan Dubey Photo + simultaneously.

I promise to post continuously over the next four days. See you around 

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Laxmi limited edition fine art print

Wishing all dear readers a very very happy Diwali! 
I had just one more Diwali post to go, only s
ometimes, one needs to tune out the blog and the Internet, power off the camera and be in the moment ! The post shall be uploaded soon .. You have a great day of festivities and family.!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Designer Diwali!!

I am in the mood for color. Lots of color.   Fuchsia, orange and turquoise, that's how much color.  Throw in sheeny shiny mirrors and a dose of vintage fashion and the festive is already added to the festive season!
Only this time it comes with a twist. It is among the first of what I am hoping will become designer collaborations.  How to up cycle an old garment you cannot bear to throw away?

Kanika Bhal of Anek designs shows me how ... 

Spring cleaning a while back I came across this funky kurti I was very proud to posses a few years back. Now a bit frayed and a little weathered it has been in retirement for sometime. Only  I could not get myself to give it away.

Looking for ideas to do something with the garment, I  thought of Kanika. A textile designer and entrepreneur who's work I have been in love with since I first saw her inventive work with traditional textiles.

A phone call, a quick trek to her cute little design studio in Andheri, Mumbai  and restless wait!
Until just a few days back, right in time for Diwali,  I receive this package of a kurti transformed as if by magic..

Then snazzy ethnic top ...

Now, fun funky accent pillows!!

The garment has come a long way indeed.

Five pillows, one batua and it does not end here! I have been kept waiting for a surprise which is till in the making ! How much fun can one sqeeze out of a single garment ?

Kanika explains her choices of color and detail, " I picked Rani ( it should be the Indian national colour) as the main colour and added orange and teal to compliment. Rani was present in the original printed kurti as well, so I just picked up on it. I used my signature potlis along with traditional Gujarati triangular trims 
to add detail and an element of fun. I made the cushions in assorted sizes so that they can be used in various settings."

And  here are three ways of glamming up a corner of the house, vintage fashion style then:

Against a neutral crisp white..

Cool boho turquoise love...

  Warm and punchy festive splash..!

The limitless goodness does not stop here. There is also a delightful little pouch made from left over fabric. Set against the warrior princess tray from another powerhouse of talent, Vineeta Nair it makes quite a picture. Non?!

Here are Kanika's  tips  to use when taking on a project like this :

When working with old textiles:

Be sure that the base fabric still has some strength left, else it will tear soon. 

stitch reinforcements may have to be added.

The pieces must be dry clean/ spot clean only to make them last longer.

Its a great way to recycle your favourite pieces so go ahead and raid your closet now!

So there, the hoarder in me is punch drunk at the moment. Do check out Kanika's incredible work  here. Still to come on the blog, a home tour and a  morning spent at Anek design's studio. Until then, please leave your comments and stay with me!!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

1,2,3 Tablescapes, By Pavitra Rajaram

Its that time of the year again. In Mumbai, raucous sound of drums and trussed pandals have heralded the arrival of the Gods a while back.  The noise and gaiety of it all will last well past November.  An invitation to a decor workshop at this juncture may or may not mean too many things  given that so much is available online and offline.. ( Thanks to pinterest,  the world always looks like it's drowning  in picture perfect celebrations any way). Only this one was organized at the flagship store of Goodearth,  in Mumbai, and was going to be a ticket to hear designer and stylist
Pavitra Rajaram.   The time just had to be made!

T he well attended afternoon organized by Essars Learning initiative, Avid Learning had over 55 participants jostling for  pearls of decor wisdom Pavitra generously and very entertainingly  doled  during the course of the three hour workshop.  Turned out even those three were not enough and she had to breeze through her very thoughtfully researched and well put together presentation in order to complete it in time.

What goes into making mood boards, why make them? Colours, what shades? decor trends, table-scapes, entertaining at home an endless list of delicious conundrums.

 Engorged with information and thankful for the tea, participants were treated to three delightful table-scapes laid out with the approaching festive season in mind. Without further ado here are a few pictures from the afternoon.

Watching Pavitra and her team at work was like watching master juggler/ magicians at work as they  put together three entirely different looks together in a matter of minutes.   Although it is hard doing justice to their work with mere pictures, you will do well to open this link  here in another window before you go on with the rest of the post ..! :)

Have a good time table setting good folks, and do come back for lots more to come from  girlabouthome's Diwali post list. Watch this space !!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Traditional Kitchen Style

Posting today, a  feature about traditional kitchens from around India appeared in the  Sep 23 , 20113 issue of India Today Home.

At the heart of every Indian house lies its kitchen. Although the traditional Indian hearth is a far cry from the gleaming counter tops of its city counterpart, it is not hard to find homes that still retain their age-old sanctums, with due modifications that occur over time.

The traditional kitchen evokes strong images – that of basic, utilitarian spaces, wood fired stoves and ovens, gleaming brass or stainless steel storage boxes, ceramic containers used to store pickles and preserves, charred patina of thick terracotta, meticulously scrubbed brass and steel pots.
Depending on the region the kitchen, there is also the odd implement and tool used for specific purposes of steaming, molding, grating and cutting etc.

Even as one routinely chances upon quirky coconut graters from down south and brass moulds to set kulfi in from the north in flea markets of Mumbai or Delhi, and ubiquitous gas cylinders and shiny stoves come to replace the traditional chullha, one questions the need to reminisce and observe age old practices. Is it an exercise merely driven by nostalgia? Or is there more to the traditional kitchen, the recipes it gives birth to and the traditions it represents?

 A close look into the mores that thrive in the Indian kitchen tells how this humble space is a receptacle of culture and a way of life that shapes an entire civilization.

The smell of wood smoke is enough to trigger journeys back into time and into spaces that one way or the other form a strong part of childhood memories for many. May be from a long lost a home back in a village, or that of an odd relative or friend that one visited or that of a grandparent.

 Usually when one thinks back to a home from the past, it is not surprising that most stories and associations one has are from long lost kitchens.  This more than any other part of the home brims with sights sounds and smells of all kind. However prosaic the range of activities that surround such a space, it seems to feed a lifetime  of memories and imagination of entire civilisations.

A guests cup of Khante, or salt butter tea always brims on a visit to a Ladakhi home

Where the modern kitchen is best suited to meet the needs of increasingly convenience driven households, the traditional kitchen addresses more than just functionality.  It is a sacred space, treated as such, perpetuating tradition and lessons that speak of a way of life.

Probably why, owners of a Raibnder home in Goa refused to cut the coconut trees that came in the way of their home while it was being constructed. So, very creatively two robust coconut trees serve as a pillar around which the kitchen is constructed.  “Trees are sacred, we did not want to cut those on the plot while making room for the house,’’ I was told by the owners. Speaks volumes about the sensitivity to the natural environment. A lot of the practices that surround old kitchens are considered sacred almost mystical than the purely scientific or functional. Not surprisingly the sight is unlike anything that a urban household can ever conceive of as possible.

With time, much has changed in rural as well as semi-urban and urban kitchens across the country. The tradition of cooking on a newly raised platform in a Rajashtani Haveli situated in the old quarter of Jaipur for example.  ``We used to have a large kitchen where the cooking was done on a hand made chullha’’, explains Aarti Devi, the matriarch of the family. However since the fragmentation of the joint family, the kitchen was reorganized into a much smaller corner she said. Their new kitchen- less than five years old- is more efficient in meeting the needs of their smaller household, yet retaining the essential character of the traditional haveli it finds a place of pride within.

For most part though kitchens like homes everywhere in traditional societies straddle the past and present comfortably, evolving with time, and retaining what remains functional and relevant from the past.   Thick Tibetan carpets cover the wooden floor of a traditional Ladhaki kitchen in Hunder in the Nubra Valley.  `` We still use traditional implements handed down to us by our parents since they suit our needs so well ‘’ says home-owner Tashi Dorjey, speaking off the `Lungto’ a traditional Stone urn that is used to cook rice in. The dense walls of the vessel keeps its contents warm for a long time even in below freezing conditions.

Perhaps revisiting a traditional kitchen is just more than an exercise in nostalgia then.  For this space with its symbols and rituals, above all spaces in the domestic domain not only upholds a way of life but also shapes the mind and body of entire civilizations. 

A peek into kitchen's around Goa.


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