Clean Slate in Chennai creates contemporary metal art décor for your home
Here’s a version of of heavy metal — you can rock out to, with your flatmate or your mother-in-law. Clean Slate creates metal art for home spaces. And the year-old brand, which has rolled out everything from cats to gingko leaves to atlases with a sleek, minimalist aesthetic, launched its first themed collection a few days ago. Titled Vintage Botanicals — its founder, 32-year-old Kirthana Kumar, rolls out pumpkins and peas that look straight out of a fairytale picture book. Another point of interest is that this creator of metal décor is neither trained in welding nor art. In fact, she might never have chanced upon this niche had she not married into the family of a 100-year-old steel business in Chennai and found herself suddenly surrounded by it.
First up, take me back to where it began — is there a piece that you were designing for yourself that led to this venture?
I have a curious bent of mind, and am always trying to find something new and different to work on. When I worked with my mom at her boutique, I would fashion clothes for myself with the scrap bits of cloth lying around. My husband works in steel, so no surprise that I did the same thing here as well. Albeit rugged and industrial, metal has an elegant aesthetic to it. It can be used to hold up factory walls as well as express an artistic vision. Using this medium became an inevitable next step.
Fruit and vegetables as wall art isn’t too common. What inspired the Vintage Botanicals collection?
A year ago, I remember thinking to myself — I somehow need to find a way to make a vintage botanical series. It ties in three of my favourite things: gardening, cooking with fresh produce, and the vintage aesthetic. In the house that we lived in prior to this, we lucked out with a huge balcony. I had wooden planter boxes to grow everything from eggplant, okra, a passion fruit vine, greens and herbs, six different varieties of tomato, and even a fig tree that fruited year-round! When we moved to an apartment, it got me thinking about how to bring that feeling into a space that precludes a garden. This Vintage Botanicals series (six fruits and six vegetables) is my attempt at expressing that through art.
Conception to delivery
■ For custom designs, provide a rough sketch of what you have in mind. This helps to ensure that you and the designer are on the same page.
■ After a few phone conversations, the concept gets finalized.
■ Then it gets converted into a CAD file and sent to the cutter. Based on the order, the material required is procured, the piece is cut and holes are drilled to accommodate the clamps.
■ Finally, the piece is sent for powder-coating, before being packaged and couriered.
In terms of design, share with us some of your favourites.
This is a tough one, but in no specific order: ginkgo leaves, elements of nature, and house plants. As it happens, these have been the most popular so far!
Have you had any out-of-the-box requests? Do share any fun stories that come to mind...
This one time, I had someone ask for a nameplate that was 4 feet x 4 feet in size. Something made me want to ask her to measure the spot where she was going to hang it up. She came back and said, “I would like to change that to 9 inches x 9 inches, please.”
All of the products on your website are black. Are you looking at expanding colours and finishes with your product range?
Yes, we do offer colour options including textural finishes on large custom orders.
What have been some of the challenges that you have faced given that you don’t have a background in design or working with metal per se.
The learning curve for this venture has been massive. I thought the process would be very simple, but I was in for a real surprise. I think the biggest challenge has been the technical side of things; with no formal background in the subject, every step along the way has been a learning experience (with some very costly mistakes along the way). I’m also constantly having to improvise and find ways to make things work, just because there are no pre-existing solutions in the market.
How long does it take on average to create a product?
Custom orders can take anywhere between two to four weeks to deliver (depending on how quickly the design is finalized).
For store designs, it is very variable since my brain sometimes conceptualises an entire design in a dream (true story), and at other times refuses to cooperate for the most basic things. The house plants design, for example, took me about 10 days of tweaking and adjusting to finally click. It’s the design process that takes the longest; the production is relatively quick.
Prices start from INR 850. Vintage Botanicals collection at INR 1,450. Delivery pan India.