Kerala designer wins at DNA Paris Design Awards 2023 for Vallam Kali-inspired rug; only Indian winner

Jamiya Joseph's award-winning Vallamkali rug design for Neytt by Extraweave blends Kerala's boat race tradition and sustainability

ByRoshne Balasubramanian

Published Jul 14, 2023 | 9:00 AMUpdatedJul 14, 2023 | 9:00 AM

The award-winning Vallamkali rug strikes a delicate balance between traditional motifs and contemporary elements.

The Vallam Kali (snake boat race) season in Alappuzha (Alleppey) has begun with a mighty roar. Crowds from near and far have been gathering along its serene backwaters to witness the thrilling spectacle.

However, amid the adrenaline and splashing waters, a different kind of noise about the race echoes through the design world.

Enter the Vallamkali Rug by 23-year-old textile designer Jamiya Joseph of Neytt by Extraweave. This masterpiece, capturing the essence of Kerala’s boat race tradition, clinched the prestigious DNA Paris Design Awards 2023 under the Product Design-Eco Design Category recently.

In a tete-a-tete with South First, Kuttanad’s Jamiya calls this a serendipitous event and discusses her vision.

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Q. Congratulations on winning the award! What was your initial reaction when you found out about the win?

Jamiya Joseph grew up in Kainakary, a beautiful coastal village nestled in Kuttanad.

Jamiya Joseph grew up in Kainakary, a beautiful coastal village nestled in Kuttanad. (Supplied)

A. It was an ordinary day at work on 4 July when one of Neytt’s founders, Nimisha Srinivas, received an e-mail about the award. She came rushing to share the exciting news with the team, and we were all overjoyed!

To be recognised by the DNA Paris Design Awards is a dream come true for me. The feeling of receiving such recognition and appreciation is simply overwhelming.

I must underscore that winning this award was a team effort. It took the collective dedication of over 25 individuals, including designers, marketers, and production personnel — Adarsh P, Kannan KU, Divya Rajesh, Mithila Many, Rani S Lal, Eswar Mangal, Danush Sadasivan, Saran Kumar and Rose Theresa — to make it happen.

Q. How did you develop interest in art?

A. I had a deep interest in art and design from a young age. I would sketch whenever I had the chance. My father played a pivotal role in nurturing my passion. His unwavering belief in my abilities gave me the confidence to pursue a career in this field.

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Vallam kali rug

To create the rug, the team used the finest quality of sisal fibres derived from the agave plant sourced from South Africa. (Supplied)

Q. What inspired you to create the Vallamkali rug design and incorporate the elements of gold and green?

A. We wanted to develop a collection deeply rooted in the essence of Kerala, and we believed that the Vallam Kali boat race would be apt. I was assigned the task of designing the collection.

Growing up in Kainakary, a beautiful coastal village nestled in Kuttanad, I have vivid memories of long boat journeys to school, spending hours observing the tranquil backwaters, soaking in the vast bounty of nature, and, of course, witnessing the spirit of the races.

Drawing from these experiences, I sought to infuse the design with the energy and rhythm of Vallam Kali. The colour green represents the verdant paddy fields and coconut groves that are characteristic of Kerala’s natural beauty.

Additionally, gold holds great significance among Malayalis, as it is associated with the ornate gold jewellery traditionally worn during festivals and special occasions.

So, I incorporated these colours into the design.

Q. How did you ensure the sustainability of the Vallamkali rug?

A. We opted to use the finest quality of sisal fibres derived from the agave plant sourced from East Africa. It is a natural and eco-friendly material. We eliminated the use of any harmful materials.

We implemented sustainable practices throughout the production process, including eco-friendly dyeing techniques. Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond the rug itself, as we have an effluent treatment plant to recycle water used in production.

Also Read: Kerala village with 200-year-old Kathakali heritage renamed after dance form

The Vallamkali rug captures the essence of Kerala's boat race tradition.

The Vallamkali rug captures the essence of Kerala’s boat race tradition. (Supplied)

Q. What is your design process?

A. It involves striking a delicate balance between traditional motifs and contemporary elements. I infuse traditional elements with a modern touch, ensuring they seamlessly blend with the background, shape, and weave of the rug.

Q. How has life changed since the creation of the Vallamkali rug?

A. When the design was showcased at events around the globe — from Maison & Objet in Paris to India Design ID by Elle Decor India, I witnessed the genuine appreciation and awe it garnered from artists, architects, and designers who visited our exhibit. Their recognition and praise were a tremendous motivation to continue pushing my boundaries.

I was a shy and eager graduate, navigating my first job in the industry.

However, the Vallam Kali design boosted my confidence. It opened doors for collaborations enriching my experience and broadening my horizons.

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Vallam kali rugQ. Starting as an intern and now working as a senior textile designer with Neytt, how has your career trajectory unfolded?

A. While pursuing textile design at NIFT Kannur, I worked as an intern here. After its completion, I was actively seeking job opportunities.

Fortunately, the team at Neytt recognised my potential and invited me to join them full-time. It was the beginning of my professional growth.

Neytt’s founders and mentors, Sivan Santosh and Nimisha Srinivas, have played a pivotal role in my design journey. Their feedback and guidance have been instrumental in shaping my growth as a designer.

Q. What are your future aspirations and projects?

A. I aspire to pursue my Masters degree and return to India to contribute to the design industry. At Neytt, I am currently working on some exciting collections. I hope to continue creating innovative designs and working on projects that evoke the same level of excitement and passion as the Vallamkali Rug.

(The Vallamkali Rug is currently being housed at One Zero Eight in sync with Kochi Muziris Biennale. To experience the spirit of the weave, visit Instagram @neytt.extraweave and @j_miyaaa)

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