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The vision of ChoChoMa

Anjali Srinivasan’s studio in Dubai is the UAE’s only artist-run handcrafted glassmaking enterprise

Image Credit: Supplied
A teardrop installation by Anjali Srinivasan.
Gulf News

Named after her maternal grandmother, ChoChoMa, the studio that Anjali Srinivasan heads in Dubai is the UAE’s only artist-run handcrafted glassmaking enterprise. “I guess I have been an artist all my life,” says Srinivasan. “I would draw, sketch and win competitions but it was my grandmother who first recognised and nurtured the inborn artist in me.”

Srinivasan grew up as a restless child. “I had to be doing something all the time. Even while eating, I would be drawing shapes and patterns on my plate.”

One of the tasks her grandmother gave her to keep her occupied was to sort out a bowl of mixed lentils according to the colours. “I would separate them into reds, greens and yellows and whites as if my life depended on it and then arrange them into fascinating patterns. As soon as it was done, she would thrust another bowl into my hands; and I would willingly do it all over again.”

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Years later, while visiting artisans in north India who make gemstones, Srinivasan was astonished to see them sort out gemstones according to colours — just as she had been doing with the lentils. It was when her grandmother asked her to put together a scrapbook by cutting out the colourful advertisements in the daily newspapers that Anjali realised her love for collages. “Almost intuitively, this activity taught me the essentials of visualisation, colour coordination and colour mixing.”

“My grandmother would also ask me to make paper flowers to hand out to the beggars who could sell these to earn some cash,” she adds. “I guess, on some level, this made me realise that being creative can be put to good use; that it uplifts your spirit, empowers people and helps build interaction.”

“My grandmother was an incredibly spirited lady who knew how to put time to good use and had a great aesthetic sense,” she reminisces. “Despite having received only school-level education, she taught herself to read, write and speak English. What was most inspiring about her was how she made it a point to stay abreast of the times — even learning to write computer programmes on her own — way back in the 1980s when we didn’t even own a computer.”

ChoChoMa, believes Srinivasan, is a fitting tribute to the indomitable spirit of her grandmother. Today, as Creative Head of the studio, Srinivasan incorporates concepts from multiple disciplines to develop new ways to use glass in combination with emerging digital technologies and mixed media to create interactive sculptures and installations. “We welcome both students and adults to walk in, come and see what we do,” says Srinivasan. “We also organise classes on glassmaking and even encourage corporates to hold team building workshops at our studio.”