A critique in design

Published Dec 22, 2013, 5:45 pm IST
Updated Mar 19, 2019, 1:55 am IST
As an artist, social changes around Sharmila inspire her work.

Sharmila Samant, Artist

I believe a product should convey a message for the betterment of the society.


My handmade sari, made of Coca-Cola bottle caps and linked with metal shackles, criticises the commercial marketing and exploitative labour in contemporary India. When I first made a sari from Coca-Cola bottle caps I wanted to show how homeless children in India were being made to work at street shops. I also added elements of traditional tangail sari, worn during pujo in Kolkata.

As an artist, social changes that I witness around me inspire my work — be it child labour or farmers’ suicides in Odisha. Once a social cause catches my interest, I try to weave in our traditional elements. I believe every designer or artist should take inspiration from not just beautiful things around, but even the plight of helpless people. I am in love with what I do. And when you love your work, inspiration comes from within.


Life inspires me. I also take out time to look at the works of other contemporary artists of our time. I am very fond of American artist Bruce Nauman, who had a famous series of works — Dream Passage — inspired by one of his dreams. He now works primarily with sculpture and video but I really like his approach to work. It’s very original and refreshing. He amazingly mixes themes and styles. He works out of a love for art and design.

I believe this should be the approach of every designer. To set your imagination free, you need to free yourself first. Worrying too much about market trends can become a hurdle in the path of innovation. One can come up with new ideas only while working for inner satisfaction.


To seek this inner satisfaction, I have been engaged in participatory art projects with various communities while exploring ideas of exchange, accessibility and authorship. My installations and video works have been part of many prominent exhibitions in museums, artist-led spaces and alternative venues in India and abroad. And my sari was recently exhibited at the Art for Concern Auction at Taj Mahal Hotel.