We Who Seek: Arati Rao
Arati Rao is the founder of Tantuvi Studio. The brand began as clothing and over time has shifted to home goods and the most striking hand woven rugs. Rao has remained constant with her drive, vision, focus, and style. Whether cloth or rugs, Rao remains dedicated to the beautiful craft and artisans of India. It is an honor to feature her here on We Who Seek.
1. Let’s start at the beginning—when did you first fall in love with textiles?
Textiles have always been in my life, my family being from India, it's an inherent part of my culture. I loved watching my mom wear saris and of course shopping when we would visit India.
2. You previously worked in fashion. What brought about the switch to focusing on rugs and home goods? Do you still feel connected to the world of apparel? How has your background in fashion influenced your current work?
After working with handloom weavers for a few years I kept thinking about home goods but didn’t get the push to put a collection together until a home trade show reached out about a new program which pushed me to get rug samples made. It was a very quick decision and I am glad I did not overthink it. I still love fashion and am very conscious about the clothes I buy and the materials used, natural fibers are essential for me.
Coming from fashion, I approach the design process in a similar way, putting a color palette together and thinking about the scale of a design, of course it's much larger now with rugs. I look to fashion for color inspiration as it still tends to be bolder than homeware.
3. We’re obsessed with your original designs! Where does your inspiration come from for your gorgeous original products? Do you collaborate with others while working?
Thank you! Painter Adam Sipe is one of our designers besides myself and we work together to create some of the rugs, we often trade designs and rework them. Our inspiration is generally from the world around us, we travel often although not as much recently, which always inspires us. We do lots of experimenting with shadows and light when we take photographs and often that will be the beginning of something.
4. Can you tell us a little bit about your process of creation? How much does the process of working with artisans affect the final product?
We don't really have a set process, I try not to stick to the calendar of having to put out a new collection twice a year. I am always thinking of new things i want to try or a new fiber to look into for the rugs. Since we only work with two weaving communities we are limited to the types of fiber or techniques we can produce. Also working with artisans has its own limitations, lots of trial and error with our designs as they are so different from what they’ve historically woven.
5. Is there any particular artist or designer that has influenced your work and career?
More so than an artist or designer, I'd say my Father has influenced my career. His love for India is what kept me going back, learning more about different communities and cultures. His incredible work ethic is a constant influence and something I'm grateful for.
6. Where do you go or what do you do when you’re seeking inspiration?
I go on long walks about five to seven miles a day, when possible. It gives me clarity, time to focus on my surroundings, and all the thoughts that float around in my head.
7. At Seek, we value personal style as a vehicle for creativity and self-expression. How would you describe your personal style?
I would say, easy but lots of silk! I tend to overdress, although my style has evolved since becoming a mother. Definitely wearing fewer silk dresses these days and more cotton button ups.
8. What’s the most recent piece of art you’ve felt moved or inspired by—whether a book, a film, a painting, an exhibit, etc.?
I saw paintings by Miyoko Ito at Matthew Marks Gallery that were so rich and beautiful with amazing colors and textures.
9. What’s the best advice you’ve received so far and who did it come from?
To always be positive and kind to everyone, from my father.
10. Are there any projects coming up that you’re currently working on that you’re particularly excited about?
Yes we are launching outdoor rugs at ICFF later in May which we have been working on for over a year, I am thrilled to share them soon!
11. What are you seeking more of this year?
More time in the studio, I had a baby in 2022 so I was on maternity leave for most of the year. I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine with a work- life balance.
Pictured here Arati is wearing the Deva shirt in fuchsia, the Page shirt in Matcha stripe, and the Page shirt in Navy indigo stripe.
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