The colour of life

Read more below

By Vineeta Singhania adds an artist's touch to her home décor products, says Suktara Ghosh PHOTOGRAPHS BY RASHBEHARI DAS
  • Published 2.04.11


Vineeta Singhania believes that it takes an artist’s eye to turn a room into a personal space. And the 45-year-old artist, who specialises in Tanjore paintings, has kept that in mind while setting up her own home décor store, Irris.

The 2,000sq ft Irris on Russel Street is the place to head if you want to do up your home tastefully. The Tanjore paintings — which Singhania does herself — are in a separate section. Besides that, there are home décor items like mirrors with brass frames, and brass, ceramic and steel candle-stands. There are brass wall hangings as well. Platters in a mosaic of wood, mother-of-pearl, coral and cattle horn are a speciality of Irris and come in myriad shapes and sizes.

Some designs are custom-made like a mirror with a frame of copper and brass that has been given a different dimension with nickel-coated brass flowers and leaves.

Singhania works closely with artists on these designs. She creates a design in clay and gives it to her metal craftsmen to fashion into brass.

She admits that it took many years to perfect her technique for creating Mysore and Tanjore paintings. The paintings are painstakingly made by first preparing a canvas with chalk powder and Arabic gum. An intricate relief (or sketch) is then done on the board and 24-carat gold vark — or gold leaf foil — is pasted on it. The difference between Mysore and Tanjore styles lies in the thickness of the gold leaf foil used.

The gold leaf foil used in Tanjore paintings is thicker and good quality synthetic stones are used liberally. The Mysore style, on the other hand, uses a thin gold vark and fewer stones. Watercolour is then done to finish the painting.

Art has always been a passion for Singhania. She attended painting workshops widely and learnt different styles of paintings like kalamkari, patachitra and Rajasthani miniature art. She even travelled to Chennai in 1990 to learn Mysore and Tanjore art.

Back home, Singhania started doing paintings for friends and relatives. Soon the demand for her products grew and she decided to launch Irris in 2007. Since then, Singhania has not only expanded her store but has also showcased her products at lifestyle exhibitions like Prana, Nouveau and India Haat in Calcutta. “The response has been amazing,” she says.

Singhania travels frequently, working in tandem with 30 artisans largely from Bengal. She also works with interior designers to accessorise homes.


The home décor market has steadily opened up in Calcutta, says Singhania. “People are becoming more conscious about doing up their homes and that has given a boost to home décor stores,” she says.

She feels that today there’s a huge market for customised products. “Our products can be funky, traditional or modern — and all of them can be customised according to clients’ demand,” says Singhania.


As Singhania works directly with the artisans, she’s also able to keep prices reasonable.

An 18-in x 20-in Mysore or Tanjore painting would empty your pocket by Rs 20,000. Check out the 30-in x 40-in Durga in the Mysore style at Rs 58,000. The 24-in x 30-in Tanjore Radha- Krishna raas leela is priced at Rs 38,000.

Irris has candle-stands for between Rs 300 and Rs 30,000 in brass, ceramic and steel. A set of six brass candle-stands shaped like lotus flowers comes on a wooden platter for Rs 19,000.

Mirrors cost up to Rs 20,000 depending on their shape, size and the frames. A round mirror in a square frame of vines and flowers in nickel-coated brass and copper, is a show-stealer at Rs 16,350.

Metal platters come for between Rs 1,000 and Rs 7,000, while wooden ones are on sale for up to Rs 3,000. Funky, hand-painted resin animals — goats, cats, seals or horses — from Rajasthan cost up to Rs 3,000 per piece. “The kids simply love them,’’ says Singhania.