Shop Local Series // Chamar Studio
Sudheer Rajbhar is an artist conflicted. And he uses that to his advantage. The brainchild behind Chamar Studio, a brand that gives voice to cobblers and leather craftsmen from the Dalit community, has just recently unveiled his debut collection, Bombay Black. The collection features bags that are made out of recycled rubber tyres. We spoke to Sudhir to find out more about his journey that led him to collaborate with cobblers.
What is Chamar’s birth story?
The idea of forming Chamar came when I started collaborating with cobblers. These artisans stitch together black rubber bags that contain smartphones that document daily life in the city but the 'life' is called 'work'. I curated the show called 'We are here because you are there’. After that idea came to me I started the brand for them. I decided to do public projects and the CHAMAR brand was born.. Cobblers in Bombay are mostly Dalits who come from a guild of small business that run on corners of pavements. As and when the brand expanded I came across some tanneries in Dharavi, I met a few leather craftsmen with whom I collaborated and also included them with Chamar. During this course there were a few tanneries in Kanpur which were closed down due to the beef ban, so this is how I introduced them with new materials to work with. It took me about six to eight months to execute the first batch of products.
2. Were you always inclined towards becoming a creative social entrepreneur?
No, I didn’t decide to be an entrepreneur it came through the project I worked on. I prefer calling myself an artist.
3. What’s your sustainable creative process like?
The most important part of making the bags is to connect people to the brand because they don't use recycled materials on a daily basis. I researched the materials to ensure that they would be durable long term. We now use tyres which are made from natural rubber so they don't lose their original components after being recycled. There is, of course, the monetary side of the business but we've managed to find artists who are happy to work with unconventional materials.
4. Has Mumbai always been home?
I like to live in the city because I grew up here, and yes ,very much interested to see the landscape, but now it’s changing so fast a that it sometimes saddens me.
5. What’s the inspiration behind this collection, Bombay Black?
My theme for this collection was called "Dark Homes".
So the idea that came to me when I started realising that a bird's eye view of Mumbai is always shrouded in black. They're actually plastic sheets, and so I decided to make my own dark home. I considered rubber, which is also black in colour, and is less harmful than plastic. So I started recreating them as plastic bags with the help of a few cobblers. During this period in Bombay there were many slum areas being demolished, so I went along the ruins in different parts of the city and collected a few left out items from the demolished homes. Later the bags I made were out of rubber, I placed a few objects in them which I collected, these bags were later placed in the corners of the gallery.
The whole idea was to show each bag as an individual house, which has some valuables in it. There was a small installation of videos I took from the Internet, which was played on mobile screen, which made the viewers peep into the black rubber bags out of curiosity.
6. Any advice for readers who want to start their own companies?
I think it's important to have a clear vision about your idea.
Shop Local Series is a monthly online pop-up featuring small and mid-sized brands, artists, and makers we love from India who tell their stories though their products. This pop-up isn't live anymore on our website as the pop-ups are meant to be for only 15 days, but you can hop onto their Instagram and show her your love.
This story has been edited and condensed by Divya Sehgal.