Whether it’s running the half-marathon, taking care of her plants, participating in the 100 Day Project or turning real-life salads into paper ones, Indian designer Pavithra Dikshit tackles every challenge she sets herself with sheer, bloody-minded discipline.
For me, discipline brings to mind tasks I don’t really like doing – going to the gym, saying no to this week’s third portion of french fries or finishing that zombie novel you started five years ago.
But in her zine Discipline, Pavithra turns its title into a positive thing, showing the benefits of building a routine into your daily activities. She maps out how disciplining herself helped her bring to life creative projects she would otherwise have struggled to finish.
“If you’re doing a personal project, you usually do it in your free time, so the problem is that if something else comes up you are just saying, ‘Oh it’s ok, I can push it another day’,” Pavithra explains.
“If you have a disciplined approach though, and you say you are going to do one small thing every week, you have smaller goals and at the end you have a really large body of work.”
“I feel if you discipline yourself to slot things into time boxes – for example, I’m going to spend two hours on this, every Sunday – it helps you mentally calculate how much time you’re giving something and then it makes you more productive within that time,” she explains.
And so the zine consists of several stories about the different ways she has applied routine to her life and her creative projects. The whole thing is tied together her by paper salad creations. For a whole year, Pavithra decided to make a salad every week and then recreate it using only paper. The result is a wonderful series of 52 beautifully crafted, well, paper salads.
“I was in the middle of trying to lose weight and being healthy, and I thought, it’s better if I make my own salad,” she says.
“I didn’t really think about the outcome when I started. I just thought I’m going to make one a week, how hard can it be? You have seven days to think about a new salad, you can cook it and then try and recreate that in an interesting form on paper.
“To be very honest, it was very hard. If you think about it – how can you make an orange look any different from an orange in a previous salad? It starts becoming a creative challenge.”
And yet, she managed to turn these difficulties into a strength. Because she wanted to do something new every week, she started to experiment with ingredients with different colors and shapes. By the end of the project she even made a dessert-salad, made with white chocolate and strawberries, with a balsamic and dark chocolate dressing.
“You can craft really interesting things out of paper, even if they’re flat,” Pavithra says. The flatness of paper forced her to think about form and shape – how do you best translate a vegetable or fruit into something that’s recognizable on a smooth surface?
“For example, an avocado looks a certain way when it is cut into slices. So if you compose it correctly, people tend to recognize even paper pieces like that as food,” she says.
“You can imagine the flavors just by looking how it was constructed, the way I put it together. It really pushed me to think how to make this look appetising.”
Pavithra feels she’s learnt a lot over the year. “If you see all the 52 salads you can see how they evolved, in terms of lay-out, color, design, what kind of paper. It helped me grow as a designer and as a person. I feel like I’m more focused in that x amount of hours if I’m doing something I already planned.”
But does she never gets into a rut, plotting out her time so carefully? “A rut only happens when you have an output pre-decided; when I’m doing these things I don’t have that,” Pavithra says. “I didn’t decide what salad I was going to make. I would just decide based on the ingredients I had at home.
“I’m a fairly disciplined person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do anything spontaneous. There are a lot of spaces in the day when I’m just allowed to do whatever the hell I want,” she adds.