Our maker this month is Farjiha Wajid, a graduate of IIT’s College of Architecture, who is applying her skills to textile and paper product design. Fariha’s creations are inspired by historical works of architecture, geometric light, and forms found in nature.

Fariha at her pop-up shop hosted in the Chicago Boombox by Latent Design

Could you share INKMADE’s story?

INKMADE is a design company that celebrates the simple nature of putting ink to paper and fabric, to create timeless handmade products that make life a little bit more meaningful. I started INKMADE in 2015 after I hand block printed a scarf for a product design class in architecture school. The pattern was inspired by historical Ottoman architecture. I shared it on social media and my friends and family started asking if I had plans to sell it. I didn’t have the space to produce large orders, so I searched for a fair-trade manufacturer and found a block printer in Jaipur, India who has produced all of the scarves for INKMADE so far! At the same time, I was making block print stationery in my home studio as a personal project. I sold the the scarves and paper goods through my website and also opened up a week long pop-up shop last spring, which turned out to be an amazing experience and a huge success.

INKMADE eventually transformed into the product of my experimentations and studies of the printing process, creating patterns, and sharing my love for handmade, ethically produced textiles and paper goods. Since my professional background is in architecture, my designs were initially inspired by historical works of architecture from all around the world. But I try not to limit myself. The simple strokes of a brush, the light seeping through a window, the formations found in nature—I’m inspired by it all. Each INKMADE product is a result of my experiences of traveling, reading, playing, and experimenting. From block prints, to silk screen prints, to watercolor works, and everything in between—INKMADE is a journal of products inspired by the simple beauties I take in every day.

Architectural lighting inspiration

What inspired you to create this product?

The product design class I took in school required each student to use a batch of reclaimed white oak wood to create an interesting product. I knew that I wanted to use woodblock printing somehow. Usually woodblocks are carved by hand, but I decided to use a laser cutter since it would allow me to cut a very intricate pattern faster. But I wasn’t sure it would still create the same effect of traditional block prints. I immediately thought of printing on a scarf, because it’s a universal product. People all around the world, both men and women, wear scarves around their neck, on their heads, or in some other unique way. I personally wear one every day. From there, I printed on paper, because I first learned how to block print on paper before experimenting with fabrics. I realized through that process that I enjoyed adding more meaning to these simple everyday products by using a beautiful printing method that has been around for many years and with patterns that have interesting stories behind them.

Tell us about your process of making.

For the block printed scarves, the design is transferred onto a piece of wood, which is hand carved by one of our master carvers. The block is dipped into the dye and then stamped onto the fabric. Some of the scarves are printed using the dabu printing method, where the block is dipped first into a mud paste and then stamped onto the scarf. Once the paste is dried, the scarf is soaked in the dye and the mud paste is then washed off, allowing the color to come through in the areas not covered by the paste. The scarves are then dried outdoors in the hot sun, washed, shipped to Chicago, hand packed, and sent to the recipient.

For the block printed paper goods, I transfer the design onto a linoleum block and carve the design by hand. I roll the ink on the block and stamp it onto the paper. Both the scarves and paper goods never come out perfectly. They have slight imperfections, which make each product truly unique. The new line of textiles and paper goods will be printed with a variety of methods other than the ones I’ve mentioned. Check for updates on the INKMADE Instagram!

Pattern making process by INKMADE

Head of the block printing team, Vijendra Chhipa

How did you decide which tools to use?

I took a printmaking class when I was in high school, where I learned about the tools and processes for creating block prints. For INKMADE, I used what I learned during that class to figure out which tools I needed for carving my blocks and then I slowly researched and started experimenting with other cutting knives and printing tools. I’m always watching tutorials online and trying out papers, knives, and inks that I’ve never used before. I love finding new ways of creating my products.

Share a resource that helped you in this project.

There are so many classes, professors, and mentors that have been amazing resources for me thus far. But a resource that anyone can access is just watching tutorials and taking classes online. I love taking classes on Skillshare. The classes range from starting your own creative business to photographing products and managing your finances. There’s so much that goes into starting a creative business, so I really value these resources for guidance. I also love listening to podcasts. They’re a good source of motivation for me. A podcast that I recently discovered is called “Don’t Keep Your Day Job” and I love listening to it on my drives to the art supply store or running other errands. It’s important to stay motivated and the stories shared on this podcast are so inspiring!

Where do you typically display your work online?

Tell us about your school’s architecture program.

The College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology has a five year professional bachelors degree program. Each year, the studios build up to the final year, which is focused on the metropolis. First-year studio begins with teaching students about the elements of design; second year focuses on the urban dwelling; third year introduces complex building programs, such as multiple and hybrid buildings; fourth year focuses on comprehensive building design; and fifth year brings all of the studios together to study urban design. There are a variety of elective courses that support the studios and allow students to learn more about fabrication, architectural history, product design, landscape design, and so much more.

What do you do now that you’ve graduated? 

After working at an architecture firm for some time during school and also after graduation, I decided to work full-time on INKMADE.

What advice do you have for a student interested in studying architecture?

I studied architecture because it encompasses a variety of design skills that I wanted to pursue. I had the initial goal of becoming a licensed architect and didn’t consider all of the other fields that I could pursue with the same degree.

Never limit yourself. If you want to become an architect, great! If that goal changes during your time in school, don’t suppress that intuition. Follow it. Take classes that feed your other interests and see where it takes you. Architecture school can get stressful, but the amount of opportunities you will find to gain a variety of skills is endless and exciting! Take advantage of it all.

How does your architecture background diversify you among other makers of similar products?

Many times people tell me that INKMADE has nothing to do with my degree, but I think my education in architecture set a fantastic foundation to start a creative business. My background in architecture gave me the skills to understand space, graphic design, photography, research, drawing, and the ability to view the world in a unique way. I learned about balance, symmetry, and proportion in architecture school, which allows me to create products that maintain the same values. I still follow a design process that is very similar to the one I followed in architecture school. Architecture school teaches you how to think, see, and create in an efficient, wholistic manner that is difficult to grasp without the formal education.

Founder of INKMADE, Fariha Wajid and her husband

Check out IIT’s program on StudyArchitecture!

Visit INKMADE online!