Finding Vernacular Furniture from India

By Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This story exhibits the framework and methodology developed to find vernacular furniture as part of the first ever research project 'Vernacular Furniture of North-West India' conducted by Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre(DICRC), CRDF, CEPT University and The South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), UK. 

Methodology chartDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A detailed methodology and framework was developed to find the vernacular furniture in the regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana. There are four major stages: 1. Identifying and locating the vernacular furniture 2. Recording stories 3. Analyzing the crafts, and 4. Using the collection

Step 1 - Identifying and locating furnitureDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

1. Identifying and locating  vernacular furniture

The first step to find vernacular furniture was to identify and locate it. It is simple to identify and record architecture as it can be identified walking along the streets. To identify and locate furniture, one needs to enter the homes and private spaces, religious spaces and public buildings, all, that one cannot access as easily as the street to walk on. To locate the vernacular furniture in all the regions of North-West India, the team needed to enter the private spaces of people’s homes.

Pre-field workDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The team reached out to their relatives, friends, colleagues for the primary set of contacts, which further led to the secondary and tertiary set of contacts in the regions.

Pre-field workDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Based on the connections developed, the team conducted pre-fieldwork research to plan out each itinerary before setting out on the field.

On-field mappingDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Mapping process was done to locate, identify and record the furniture using real time based geospatial tool developed by DICRC.

Field work in RajasthanDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

On-field interviews with the owners and local people were conducted for mapping out the furniture.

Screenshot of the mapping applicationDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A photographic survey, form-based inventory and interviews were fed in the tool along with the latitude and longitude of the furniture which is represented on the digital map.

Step 2 - Recording storiesDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

2. Recording Stories

The project used two disciplines as trajectories to study the vernacular furniture across the regions of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana; anthropology and design. Using an anthropological perspective, diverse stories about the region, people, vernacular furniture, craftspeople, socio-cultural narratives and so on were recorded.

Field notesDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

A number of recording tools and methods were used, mainly field notes, recording furniture, context, people and details through photographs, videos and interviews while conducting the field research.

Field work in HaryanaDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Oral histories and stories related to the making of furniture, memories and belonging, associated traditions and customs narrated by the people were recorded in either audio or video formats.

Field work in HaryanaDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Detailed sets of questions were asked on field to the people to understand their lifestyle and their association with the furniture.

Field work in PunjabDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The contextual study, social hierarchies in diverse communities, gender aspects, were studied using an anthropological approach.

Step 3 - Analysing the craftsDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

3. Analysing the crafts

To study the crafting and design of the vernacular furniture was the second trajectory of this research project. The details of their making and crafting were only preserved through oral histories which were recorded by preparing detailed furniture drawings on field. A detailed step-by-step process was followed to prepare the drawings which is described ahead.

Field work in RajasthanDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Visual documentation: The initial step involves photo documentation; one set includes overall views and elevation shots. The second set is of the carvings, motifs and details that require a flat shot with least perspective distortion in the photograph.

Measure drawingDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Measure drawing: it takes place during the field visits and involves preparation of field drawings of the furniture.

Measure drawingDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

These drawings enable all crucial details and measurements to be recorded in lieu of the limited time available in field conditions.

3D model of a Panghuda (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Digital modelling: The field drawings are then translated into a 3D digital model using a software called Rhinoceros (Rhino). This feature aids to make accurate details, curves and shapes as per measured on field.

3D model of a Panghuda (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

This model also facilitates isometric and exploded views of the furniture.

2D drawing of a Panghuda (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Drafting: The 3D models are exported into 2D drawings and thereafter detailed using the software, AutoCAD. It is at this stage that the technical representation of the furniture in the form of plan, section, elevation, isometric view and exploded view is drawn.

2D drawing of a Panghuda (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

These drawings are verified by experts on furniture details and scholars to ensure the most correct details are presented.

Drawing plate of a Panghuda (Cradle)Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

Dissemination: The drawings are composed together and can be used for dissemination in various forms; exhibitions, books, portfolios for reference of students, designers and scholars.

Step 4 - Using the collectionDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

4. Using the collection

The South Asia Collection in Norwich, UK cares for a number of vernacular furniture pieces from north-west India. We were able to use the collection to research various aspects during the project. While there was limited data in the records of the collection, we had the privilege of photographs, which we used to show people on field when we wanted to locate a specific type of furniture. 

South Asia Collection, NorwichDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The interaction with the vernacular furniture items at The South Asia Collection has been three-fold.

Reference images used for field workDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

First is to identify furniture on field. The photographs of the vernacular furniture at the South Asia Collection were carried on field for references to initiate conversations on field with the local people about the research and related findings.

Studying the furnitureDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The principal researchers of the project got Charles Wallace India Trust scholarships to conduct research on the vernacular furniture collection at the South Asia Collection. Crafts and making were analyzed which was difficult to do on field due to various reasons.

South Asia Collection, NorwichDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The third and most important aspect is that this research will eventually feed back into the research of the museum pieces.

Project overviewDesign Innovation and Craft Resource Centre, CEPT University

The team travelled around 62032 kilometers across the north-west region and visited 429 places to record 7886 vernacular furniture in their context using the geospatial tool.

Learn more about how the project was split into phases here.

here
Credits: Story

The research on this story was conducted as part of the Vernacular Furniture of North-West India project, a collaborative research project conducted between 2015 - 2021 by the Design Innovation and Craft Research Centre (DICRC), CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and the South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust (SADACC), Norwich, UK.

This story has been compiled by Radha Devpura.

For more information on the Vernacular Furniture of India, please visit: www.vernacularfurnitureofindia.com

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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