Meet Biscoot & Rain’s Sirawon Khathing & Ben Ningtoutao

This one is long long long long looooonnnnggg overdue. I met Sirawon Khathing, one half of Biscoot & Rain, back in 2014 when we worked together at Elle Decor India. She’s been one of my closest friends ever since and one of my favourite Indian illustrators of all time. She has been the photographer for some of my fashion stories.

She runs a unique design and illustration studio along with her childhood friend Ben Ningtoutao. Professionally both of them are stellar designers… Sira works in Mumbai, India and Ben in Christchurch, New Zealand. A cross-continent collaboration, their sole source of inspiration and interest is North East India, especially Shillong, the hill station where they grew up. No ocean can keep this creative duo away from their one true love.

Last year, Biscoot & Rain was on a roll. Apart from collaborating on different project, they were a part of NH 7 Weekender’s Periphery Art Project curated by Bombay Duck Designs’ Sameer and Zeenat Kulavoor. Their illustration travelled across the country and was also a part of an exhibition at the Pune venue. The curated visual line-up included other illustrators like Sumedha Sah, Jasjyot Singh Hans, Komet Juice and others.

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Every year end, come rain or shine, Biscoot & Rain brings out a fabulous calendar for the upcoming year. For 2017, they have a stunning wall poster calendar with tear-off months. I’ve always admired the minute details they notice and incorporate in their work. Although, I’ve never been to the North East, I’ve seen it through the eyes of Biscoot & Rain. The jhola bags, the wooden pipes, the pickle stand, the betting shop with the chuna stains… I’ve seen it all.

Psst: If you order their calendar before Jan 1, 2017, you’ll get a 15% discount. Shop here and use this code LocalBiscoot


We spoke to the beautiful minds behind this brand to understand them more.

How did Biscoot & Rain come to be? Tell us your story…

Biscoot & Rain is a collection of illustrations inspired by places we love and have lived in. We are nearing 30. Haha. We’re family friends and met in Shillong when we were about 9 or 10 years old.

Ben: I’ve always been drawing for as long as I can remember, and haven’t seen myself as anything else but as an artist since I was about five years old. I started with drawing superheroes and then I discovered storytelling and realised that art has a way of re-drawing our own (as well as others’) perspective of life.

Sira: I grew up in Shillong and then moved to a boarding school in Mussoorie. Half my exercise books were always filled with cartoon and drawings. I remember this one semester in high school, I did well in Biology and told Dad that I was going to major in it. He asked if I was sure because he knew what I really loved.

I’m so glad he did. I thought about it and dropped all major science classes, and took other classes that helped me give shape to my skills. My style is less realistic with textures. I love pencil on paper and tend to lean towards the comic style.


Walk me through your collaborative process. How do you work together and remain inspired about your main subject (North East India) despite living in different parts of the world?

I think living so far away from our inspiration and each other gives us space to think and dream of ideas. It’s not often but when we come up with new ones, we hit each other up and discuss ideas and we find that it takes off from there organically, even with our styles.

Something good always comes out of an idea, and we have never had to force anything. More that putting our ideas on papers, a lot of time goes into research to make it more concrete. Ideas come from memory, nostalgia, things we’ve jotted down, photos taken of things whenever we visit home. We also try to divide pencil work and colouring, so that both of us work on an artwork. Our families and friends help us with research and all the ground work.

Your preferred media and subject? There’s nothing like traditional art forms, like pencil/painting on paper and we try and do that when we can, and then finish off on digital. Subject is definitely Local Life.

I have your last two calendars and often find myself staring at the minute details that you’ve so effortlessly included. Where does inspiration come from?
What you call ‘attention to detail’ in our work shows up because they come out of real experiences, real smells, real taste and real moments that we remember having felt.

Sira: Living away from home makes us look at everything with a fresh eye every time we visit. Even the simplest things we use or see everyday which we sometimes take for granted make such beautiful themes and subjects.

Ben: My favourite moments growing up in Shillong happened on the streets at the food stalls, or having chai at local shops, hustling in the plaza, etc and it is the little details in those experiences that serve as visual clues to remember them by – and that inspires me.


Where do you see Biscoot & Rain in 15 years?

Ben: In my personal opinion, NE India has become so political and that makes me cringe. I want to celebrate the simplicity of life, the joys of the common street, food, culture and lingo. Can we talk about how magical the simple event of walking down a bazaar in a town in Northeast is?

I live in New Zealand and I miss that magic every single day. And in fifteen years, I hope the stuff that we love about NE India still remains. And I hope to tell more stories celebrating them.

Sira: Through Biscoot and Rain, we want to represent how beautiful Northeast India truly is. Not just the landscape but the rich culture, the life and the people. Our simple name Biscoot and Rain is also taken from a favourite time of the day, sipping on tea, breathing in the fresh air and watching the rain.

Your antidote to laziness?
Wrong people to ask – a deadline.

A talent you wish you had…
Ben: Classical piano. Rap. Hindi poetry.

Sira: Don’t laugh, but theatre

One thing you miss about home (apart from family, of course) Everything you see us draw in Biscoot & Rain.

Who is the funniest person you know?
Ben:
My younger brother. He’s a clown and he’s smart.

Sira: My mom, she’s just knows how. She gets along with all ages, and she’s fun and funny.

What’s the first thing you remember about each other?
Comic books in Pen and Goa

If you were a colour, what colour would you be?
Ben: White. It is the combination of all colours.

Sira: Pastel brown. Love earthy colours

There is too much of ____________ in the world.

Talk

Follow them on
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Biscoot/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/biscootandrain/

Biscoot & Rain are open to artistic collaborations. You can write to them at hellobiscoot@gmail.com

 

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