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Our new food & design research collection. Here we will feature articles about design thinking and processes, food (of course), but more specifically food culture, cook book reviews, food and design trends and much more...

Table Talks: meet Jaya, art & design enthusiast (with a generous pinch of food)

Hi Jaya, can you tell us a little more about yourself, what you studied, where you grew up and what you have done so far?

Sure, so I’m a London based graphic designer – but sometimes that feels too rigid, and so, I like introducing myself as an Art and Design enthusiast. I’ve always been really interested in visual cultures and philosophies, and find myself drawn to works that explore aspects of these fields.

I grew up in New Delhi, India, and I came to London for my higher studies. After finishing my Foundation Studies from CSM, I chose to go to LCC for my undergrad. I really enjoyed my Graphic and Media Design course at LCC – I still visit all my tutors, and till date I feel a 100% supported by them. The course gave me room to explore, make mistakes and also find things that I was good at, and on it, I was awarded the Tell Us About UAL award – meant for BAME students who excel at a high level on their course. That really boosted my confidence to apply for my postgrad, after which I worked really hard to get sponsored for a job. Now I currently work as a Design Consultant for Tiipoi – a product design studio.

There have definitely been milestones in my journey so far that I am extremely proud of – the most special of them all has to be selected into an exchange program with the Shawn “JayZ” Carter Foundation!

You are currently working with product design brand Tiipoi, what do you do there?

At Tiipoi, we’re a tight knit team, so we do very often do things beyond what we are used to – which is invaluable to me. However, if I was to specifically outline my role, it would be to create design deliverables across print and digital mediums that Tiipoi uses across packaging, marketing, social media, outreach, etc. I help them maintain and expand their brand style and values across photography, art direction, and consumer facing assets, by conducting design research across fields of materials, packaging, production processes, market competitions, and more.

On an average day, I am in charge of the music, which is a role I take very seriously as well! Haha!

We've heard you are interested in materials and food, can you tell us what food design means to you?

The aesthetics of eating have always interested me. Especially now, I feel that we are at a hermeneutic cusp of change where we are looking through a future forward lens at food accessibility, food systems and the social norms around eating. Design therefore has an indispensable role in the way food is perceived.

From modifying the tools used for eating, to changing dynamics of conviviality, the experience of eating is not longer restricted to what is experienced inside one’s mouth, but also includes the entire journey from the surface on which the eatable is placed, to the moment it touches your lips.

I worked with a young Chef during my MA thesis study, and he spoke to me about how he strives to work with different materials that manipulate the taste of food that is plated on them. He also often experimented with placing restrictions on the way the food could be eaten – by giving the eater alternative tools, timing the courses, etc.

Food Design to me is about deconstructing, studying, intervening, exploring and redefining the innumerable possibilities around what the idea of consumable food is, and what it can be.

I have a whole reading list (which I can share if you’d like!), but there’s this book by Sonja Stummerer & Martin Hablesreiter called ‘Eat Design’. To me it is invaluable in defining what Food Design encompasses.

What about food culture and community?

My committed interest in Food cultures and community was sparked by a design research exercise during my postgrad where we were provoked by a piece of text, and were encouraged to use identified key words to prompt us into a mini design project. The text I received was “Let Them Drown” by Naomi Kline. It mainly deals with the dangers of ‘othering’.

I was on a walk with a friend when we found ourselves at Brick Lane, and the sheer number of Curry Houses doting the lane astounded me. As a proud South Asian, of course I knew that Curry Houses don’t serve authentic food, but there was something about their time stagnated interiors and whitewashed menus that had a certain undeniable charm.

But the history of curry houses is stained with racism and hurtful slurs – one that was quite familiar – the accusation of being curry smelling. It demonstrated to me how something like food – which is known to bring people together – could also act as a harsh barrier between people. To assimilate to different cultures, we often sacrifice everything but our food habits.

I have since been following a lot of exciting endeavors that help bring people together over food, and encourage an overcoming of prejudices. One such project that I really liked was by Seoul based Korean artist duo called Mixed Rice, who had exhibited at Eastside Projects in Birmingham. Their exhibition titled “Migrating Flavours” interrogated the sensory experiences of migration. They had displayed the outcomes of workshops where participants were asked to recall their memories of grown foods from their homelands. These creative sessions had allowed the participants to translate their olfactory, auditory and gustatory senses to material and tangible artefacts using clay, resin, paint, seeds, photographs and text.

For me, it was intriguing to hunch down near the work and note the fragments of fruit, the use of colour and paint, and the utility of seeds and stones in these replications of both real and make-believe fruit.

You project E.A.T. (Evolution, Aesthetics, Technology) sounds really interesting, tell us more?

So, E.A.T is a project where I proposed a study of the spoon, very specifically, as a mandatory, convivial eating tool, and further explored the notions of eating etiquette and conditioning. It tried to envision the future form and functionality of the tool through the aesthetic capacities of design, and accompanied my theoretical study on the same. Eating together has always been an intrinsic part of our social interactions. Humans as communal creatures, have overtime, developed complex social norms and functions around the experience of eating. It is interesting to me, how these may differ through their settings, rules of engagement and behavioural directives. Each of these elements can be used to study and navigate through the myriad rituals that are now associated with consuming food. Various instruments for eating have continuously developed consequential to expansions in material culture, alongside evolving ideas of civility and dining, but from the many differentiations of eating tools, one can appreciate the universal affordance of the spoon that is natural and instinctive to us today. It has been an instrument that has evolved to continually affect our interactions with food, and subsequently informed our eating habits. The spoon was central to my study because of its ability to hold liquid - this crucial attribute makes it indispensable to our culinary habits and to understanding the future of eating implements. As a visual artist, I chose to explore modifications to its shape, size and usage to force different considerations of placement and usability, and initiate a variety of alternative eating experiences and techniques, so that the spoons may alter the spaces around them into dynamic fields of expression.

Currently my spoons aren’t re-usable. At the time I was only able to make them in unglazed terracotta – with the sole purpose to explore form and function. Now, I would love to collaborate with a ceramicist and develop them into actual usable experiences.

And you've done a cookbook?!

Aah yes, my love for food runs wide and deep, as you can see!

While I was at uni, there was this café that was bit of a secret, it served absolutely amazing home cooked fresh food everyday, and those who knew of it – would eat nowhere else.

The cookbook features original and tested recipes by Ilaria - who was the chef at the café. There were whispers of a cookbook project brewing you see – after all the times we had pestered Ilaria to share some of her secrets with us. I joined in, with high hopes of getting the role as the official taste tester, little did I know it would turn out to be one of the most cherished and rewarding experience of my life.

I helped design the layout of the book, and wrote a small piece in it about the natural dyeing workshop that we ran in collocation with the cookbook - where we developed natural dyes from the food waste from the café kitchen.

I am proud to share that we were shortlisted for the British Book Design & Production Awards 2019, and have a second edition in mind.

We're also quite interested in your project on Reconstructing memories, what was this about?

My friend had recounted to me a racial attack she had recently faced in London. A few days later, my cohort from uni visited 180 at The Strand. There I saw Marina Abramovic’s “Freeing The Memory” – and it just connected! I found myself putting the conversation I had with my friend into a visual format. Over the passing weeks, I spoke to her about the incident multiple times, asking her to recount the details, and speak to me about how she felt recalling those details. Through Reconstructing Memories, I mapped the disintegration of various aspects of her memory, and how the descriptions expanded from a clinical account into emotional recollections.

Any exciting projects for this upcoming year?

It is really hard to keep my personal practice alive – in addition to work I do for Tiipoi, but I am currently working on visually branding an upcoming Honey Brand with a friend! Hopefully, I’ll be sharing a bottle of fairtrade organic honey with you soon…

Thank you to Jaya for answering these little questions for Crème zine and sharing with us some insight into her very interesting design (& food) life!

Follow her adventures over on Instagram @jayamodidesign and check out her various projects mentioned here on her website .

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