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Transforming Nondescript Walls Into Canvasses, This Sister Duo’s Mosaic Art Is Something To Watch Out For

  • IWB Post
  •  May 17, 2019

A historic form of art going as far back as the third millennium BC, the mosaic has now been propelled into the contemporary art landscape. With images created by assembling small pieces of coloured glass, stone, tiles, or other materials, it is one of the best forms of decorative art that can be experimented with to make your space become synonymous with luxury and uniqueness.

Taking this art form a notch higher, are Mumbai-based sister duo Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha, who have been transforming the craft into unique artwork since 2015 that has garnered them an appreciation for their over 120 customized national and international projects. Their most prized work till date remains a 252 sqft mosaic mural at the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii and two 60 sqft panels of Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi.

While Aashika works at the Jehangir Nicholson Art Foundation at the CSMVS and has completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts, from Lasalle College of the Arts, Singapore, in 2012. Tanishaa Cunha, on the other hand, is the creative director at Plane Crazy Studios, who completed her Bachelor’s degree in Design from Goldsmiths College, London, in 2018. The two sisters collaborate on multiple projects ranging from portraits to depiction of stunning flora and fauna.

Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha

In conversation with these talented sisters, we got insights into how it all started for them and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Excerpts:

Tell us how did you decide to plunge into this space and what convinced you that it could turn out into a successful venture?

Both of us have been very artistic and creative since we were children; totally encouraged by our parents. In fact our grandmother Anne was doing mosaics with scraps of glass, beads, and anything she could get her hand on in the 60s! Although mosaic was never a hobby as such, it turned into one when we did our first piece. We visited Gaudi Park in Barcelona, which inspired us to try our hands at mosaic in 2015 and we ended up creating a piece for our building terrace. The artwork was uploaded on Facebook by our parents, much to our dismay, which landed us a mosaic mural commission at the Ala Moana Mall in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2015. We have not looked back since then, and have created over 120 mosaics which are both public and private commissions.

It all started with trial and error as there was no training or learning. Everything was learned on the job, be it techniques or methods.  But having said that, the design aesthetic is the most important factor. Mosaic has been around for ages, but it’s the aesthetic, the hand-cut tiles and the texture that sets us apart.

Wow, that is quite an interesting journey. So, tell us about your creative process, of how the two of you collaborate on each piece.

Usually how it works is that a client gives us a reference or theme to work with. We first design it digitally and get it approved. Then we draw out the design on a cement board after which we start working on the actual mosaic. The tiles are imported from Italy. They first have to be washed and hand-cut individually and the pictures of the process are sent to the client while the work is in progress.

We work on one mosaic at a time, but we do plan and design the next one while the first mosaic is ongoing so that we are ready to start the next immediately after. The most important part of the whole process is the actual designing of the mosaic, and so it is a big advantage that we work together and it doubles the creativity and viewpoints. Also, it’s good to have each other’s opinions, especially when it comes to choosing the colours of the tiles. Another advantage is that I am more adept in portraits and Tanishaa is better at flora and fauna.

Is your artwork also sustainable?

We import some of our mosaic tiles from Italy and all over India and we are currently experimenting with waste tiles and broken glass also, so that we become more sustainable and eco-friendly.

What are the challenges that you face during the customization of your artwork, and which has been that one piece that was the craziest for you to make?

The hardest part is definitely the portraits. Getting the characteristics of the person is not an easy process and there are times when people want themselves to look slimmer and fairer. And you can’t just change it with a stroke of paint like it is done in paintings. With mosaic, you have to remove the tiles from the board with a knife that is really a painstaking process, and then you smoothen the board again and restick it. Also, the glass colours available are limited, unlike the paints in which you can mix and create more shades. So sometimes it causes a constraint, especially in terms of skin tones.

One of our craziest works was an elephant ‘Mara’ that we did for the Elephant Parade, which we recently completed in February 2019. Since we were not used to working on a curved surface, it was challenging as we had to make sure that the tiles do not slip down the surface.

Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha

Which is that one art piece that is closest to your heart?

The 252 sqft piece Ke Aloha O Ka ‘Āina (Love of the Land) that we did for the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 2015 will always be close to our heart as our mosaic journey began from there. It is based on Hawaii’s natural beauty.

Aashika and Tanishaa Cunha

Ke Aloha O Ka’ Aina ( Love of the Land) for Ala Moana Center, Honolulu, Hawaii

As mosaic art is a powerful statement piece to have in one’s home, how do you suggest it can be incorporated in interiors?

Our mosaics are completely bespoke, where each piece is unique. Mosaics also have the potential to appeal to different aesthetic tastes, and there is something for everyone. Because we do not work directly on the wall or surface, it is easy for it to be moved from a space while redecorating. So if you get bored, you can always move it to another space. It is also weatherproof, which helps in interior designing.

We came across a portrait of Frida Khalo on your Instagram page. How does your art represent you as a woman?

I think as women, we are representing ourselves as artists and entrepreneurs. Through our work, we want to show how women can make a powerful impact on society.

As an art startup, can you share any lessons that you have learned along the way that can help others in this field to map their way to success?

Trial and error is the best way to learn, and mosaic is hard work that takes a long time to get the final product. But once it’s done, it is well worth the effort. Since everything is hand-cut, sometimes you have to cut a piece 10 times over to get the perfect shape, but patience is a virtue. One advice we would like to share is not to underestimate the power of social media and word-of-mouth, because that’s exactly how we get our orders.

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