Art is not limited to the confines of pre-defined notions – in its truest form, it represents creativity as a whole and permeates every aspect of life. This is the mantra adopted by Zahabiya Gabajiwala, the founder and Principal Artist at ZA Works Design in Mumbai. Described as a visual space design studio, this firm was established in 2016 and specialises in creating murals, decals, branding design, packaging design, furniture customisation, art installations, canvas paintings, and a host of other artistic offerings aiming to breathe life into any space. “I developed a deep sense of appreciation for art through my mother, who is an avid art lover.
In addition, I acquired entrepreneurial skills, resilience, and a risk-taking attitude from my father, who was a businessman. I have also been deeply influenced by the fact that design surrounds our physical and virtual spaces. All this pushed me to make a career in art and design. ZA Works initially started as a furniture design business. Later, due to my limited resources, I switched to a complete service-based business specialising in murals and art installations. This turned out to be a better choice for me, as it has played an enormous part in making ZA Works what it is today,” exclaims Gabajiwala as she joins Sunday Guardian for a chat. After pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Jai Hind College, she went on to study commercial art at Rachna Sansad College of Applied Art and Craft in Mumbai with a specialisation in Set Design. She worked as a Set Designer under esteemed art directors for Dharma Productions and advertising campaigns.
Gabajiwala’s ideology is quite different from that of other artists. She does not believe in staying within the limitations of a particular art style and firmly believes that as people evolve, so should their art style. It is her knack for being creative and her talent for expressing emotions and stories through art that make ZA Works a popular studio. Some of her most renowned projects include the Chumbak Store in Mumbai which is a retail outlet, and Bombay Cartel, Lilt, Bora Bora and Bake House Café, which are restaurants and bars in Mumbai. She says, “Remember when we were kids, we would scribble on walls and be punished for it? I took my childhood mischief too seriously and made a career out of it! My work is a mix of everything that is quirky, fun and bold. From the very beginning, I have known that being creative was my calling. I wanted to start my own business right out of college but understood that I lacked the expertise and direction. Without letting my ego get in the way, I decided to get some first-hand experience and industry knowledge before venturing into this field.”
Working as a Set Designer, she learnt the importance of visually communicating through a space. She also learnt that a few strokes of paint and colour could add grandeur to any room. Referring to herself as a lover of surfaces, she believes everything has the potential to be a surface if one knows what to do with it.
Gabajiwala believes the true essence of art lies in collaboration over competition, and enjoys working with other interior designers and architects. What sets her apart from her competition is having talent for the physical manifestation of art, while also being comfortable with digital mediums through which she builds concepts, experiments and tests her work on digital platforms. This allows her clients to visualise the art before it is delivered to them.
“Every piece of art is one of a kind, designed to represent clients’ stories and expressions. For instance, the mural in the cafe Bombay Cartel is a dramatic display of power, strength, and freedom. This piece of art, in eclectic colours and a vivid style, was representative of the young client’s mindset of continuing to evolve while subtly incorporating their logo in an artistic manner to add a layer of branding. All the sites I work on are experiments that explore different surfaces and materials to narrate my passion for art,” she shares with pride.
Highlighting the ZA Works philosophy, Gabajiwala shares that every single artwork is unique in its conceptualisation and execution. This ideology has gotten ZA Works a number of accolades in various national and international media portals like Interior Design homes, Design Dekko, Living, Design Trends, Design Pataki, Home and Design Trends, Better Interiors, DNA News, Architects & Interiors India, and Sylph Creatives Magazine, among others.
Gabajiwala also trains other artists and provides a platform to let them explore their talents. Her main aim is to demonstrate the potential of art as a lucrative career option. She works with a lot of students from various backgrounds, loves the perspective they bring and truly believes that art should be more inclusive. Currently, she is working with Interior Designer Saniya Kantawala on a restaurant project at the BSE. As part of this, they are using three different painting styles but with a singular colour scheme that brings the whole space together.
Speaking about her plans for expansion, Gabajiwala says, “Something interesting is cooking at ZA Works, and we can’t wait to unveil it. We are kickstarting a new venture that is really close to my heart, where we will be collaborating with contemporary artists who work with varied art techniques. This will ensure that we deliver art right out of one’s dreams. We have created a platform that caters to aspiring, talented artists who want their voices heard and financially uplifts them as they embark on their art journey.”
As a service-oriented studio that cares about sustainability and modern needs, ZA Works attempts to use sustainable materials in each of their projects. They also prefer to use low VOC paints while painting murals. She points out that decorating a space with murals is in itself a sustainable choice over using inorganic decor items like plastic wallpapers or chandeliers.
Since the painting of murals requires physically being on-site, the task became a difficult one during the pandemic. So, ZA Works switched to smaller projects, usually on canvas, to sustain themselves. Gabajiwala had to re-think and re-strategize her operations while ensuring that her team remained motivated. “We felt the weight of everything going on in the world, but the best part is that we didn’t let the pandemic blues take hold of our creative soul,” she explains, further adding, “We also noticed a slight shift in people’s mindsets as the pandemic fundamentally transformed their relationships to their homes. Everyone realised they would be spending more time at home than before. This increased the demand for interiors that reflect the user’s personality and taste while enhancing their mental wellbeing.”
The writer pens lifestyle articles for various publications and her blog www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be reached on email@example.com.