A&F Conversations: Sayali Goyal, textile artist and traveler

Sayali Goyal often combines her love for textiles and travel through photography. Having studied fashion design at the University of the Arts London, she went on to work in various industries including travel, jewellery, and communications. Since the last one year or so, she has been working on assimilating her diverse experiences and interests through her brand Cocoa and Jasmine. She has had a few exhibitions of her travel photography, and has recently launched her travel zine. Her India travel photos are also a part of our new Photography collection.

We talk to Sayali about all this and more. Read on:

Sayali Goyal

How did you get interested in photography in the first place?

I studied fashion at the University of the Arts London. I chose fashion because I always saw myself as a creative person, and back then (about ten years ago), there were only a few career options for “creative people”. At that time, I didn’t know that I could be a stylist or a curator or have my own magazine!

During the course, I realized that I enjoyed documentation more than actually making things. I was also better at styling and sort of putting things together. And photography became a medium for me to document, as it was easy and accessible. I got my first smartphone in 2008 which became my first camera.

In fact, even today I don’t have a camera. All the photos that I have on Art&Found have been taken on my phone. All my photographs are inspired by my travels, and I like to travel without too much gear so I am in the habit of making notes and taking photos of the things I find interesting on my phone.

I don’t really call myself a photographer though, as most of my photos don’t adhere to photography rules. But people can relate to the emotions in my pictures. I just see myself as a traveler and an artistic person who is using photography as a medium of expression.

Do you still pursue textile design in some way?  

The first year in my course was the foundation year where you get to do everything. By the end of it, I knew that I was really interested in textiles.

Like I mentioned before though, I don’t like creating. I am interested in documentation and knowledge about textiles. My first job was with Pure Concept in Mumbai, and that’s where I realized that I didn’t want to sit behind a table and simply design. I wanted to do a little bit of everything.

You can see the influence of textiles even in my photography. It’s the colors and textures that really excite me. And I keep working on a lot of artistic projects that are textile related. For example, I am currently collecting old fabrics from my grandmothers and my mother as I want to build this archive of Indian textiles that people have stopped using now. The project (exploring screen printing and block printing Process in Sanganer district of Jaipur, Rajasthan) I did last year for Google Art&Culture is also textile based.

Even in general, I like to buy textile heavy things. If I am buying a dress, for example, the fabric matters to me way more than the cut of the dress. My love for textiles also dictates my travel
– I am going to Cambodia and Burma next because they are so heavy on craft.

Varanasi. Available on Art&Found, with prices starting at INR 2250.
Ladakh. Available on Art&Found, with prices starting at INR 2250.

What, according to you, are some of the highlights of your career so far?

To be honest, all the things I have done so far have contributed to what I am doing right now. What’s really worked for me is that I have always followed what I wanted to do.I was never shy to change jobs and take up something entirely new. If you see my resume, you will see that I have worked in five full-time jobs over seven years which sounds like a big risk. But now I feel that that’s become my strength because it’s given me such diverse experiences. I studied design and then ended up working with a communications company, a jewellery brand,a travel company, etc. and all these have led to what I am doing today.

How do you balance between commercial work and personal projects?

In the past one year, I have done only a few writing and photography commercial projects, which have only taken like 20% of my time. Right now, I am completely focusing on my personal work because it’s feeding my soul. I am in that phase right now where I don’t want all this creative energy to go elsewhere. I want to use it for my own projects.

 You can see the influence of textiles even in my photography. It’s the colors and textures that really excite me.

Could you pick a particular photo from your travel photography collection on Art&Found and throw some light on it?  

There is this one photograph of Kathakali dancer called ‘Him & Her’.It’s a really interesting and special photo for me. I did a South India trip for three weeks with my boyfriend, and that photo is a representation of that relationship for me in some way.

Apart from that, I also like its composition. I like how it’s slightly mysterious as you don’t see the dancers’ faces. It’s also a great photo in terms of putting India together – there’s textile in it, then there’s color, drama, and theatre.

Till last year, I actually hadn’t traveled too much in India, but since the end of 2016, I ended up going to South India, Rajasthan, and the Himalayas. I had so much content from all these places that it made sense to do a series on my India travels, which is now on Art&Found.

Him and Her. Available on Art&Found, with prices starting at INR 2250.

Who are some of the artists that you really like?

I actually follow a lot of instagrammers. There is Manou, a blogger who contributes a lot to Border & Fall. He is mostly travelling in the Himalayas. And he talks a lot about street fashion. His images have this blurry feel which gives a sense of mystery, and I really like that. He kind of gave me the confidence to present not so “perfect” photographs. Then I also really like Rich Stapleton, creative director of Cereal magazine because of his minimalism. He has a voice that stands out, and it’s been inspiring for me.

What are you currently working on? 

I have just launched my own travel zine. It has cultural portraits, introspection, and basically things that I am passionate about. I am also working on a new website for Cocoa and Jasmine.

Moonrise, Available on Art&Found, with prices starting at INR 2250.
Nilgiri. Available on Art&Found, with prices starting at INR 2250.

Words by Payal Khandelwal

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