There’s art in your postbox

The Asian Age.  | Pooja Salvi

Life, Art

Mumbai-based designer Tawfik Manham designs a postcard a day and sends them to virtual strangers.

Tawfik Manham

Tawfik Manham spent hours fawning over perky animations of Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, dancing to a rattling background score. It was his fascination with the beloved Disney animations that got him interested enough to pick up a pencil to draw. 

Today, the 30-year-old product designer has a rather interesting approach to greet people when he isn’t innovating appliances. The Mumbai-based designer has been making personalised postcards and sending them to strangers. 

Tawfik decided to work with postcards in 2015, when he began living away from home to pursue his studies. When graduation required him to leave home, parents, friends and loved ones behind, he felt an urgent need to stay connected to them. 

But he decided to create a more personal connection instead of a superficial one. “I didn’t want to follow the same old phone calls and emails routine. I felt like emotions weren’t conveyed properly that way and it honestly felt very impersonal to send emails and text messages — and I wanted to feel closer to them,” he says. 

As Tawfik started putting his designs up on his social media accounts, he soon began getting requests from people to make customised postcards for them. “It started with friends asking for their friends, for their families, or girlfriends and boyfriends,” he recalls. And so the #PostcardPerDay project was born. 

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Keeping watercolours as his preferred medium, Tawfik paints one postcard per day and sends it to virtual strangers (his followers on social media) and if requested, to other people.  His designs stem from things one sees in everyday life — a post box, a scooter, a garden. 

Talking about his creative process, Tawfik elaborates, “I don’t really need to think of a design — it comes pretty simple to me. I see something and visualise a design. Then I just pick up my watercolour set, a piece of paper and begin my work.”

 Even as Tawfik makes use of pencil colours, markers and all other forms in his work, it is the humble watercolour that is his preferred choice of medium. He says, “I enjoy painting with watercolours best — they are expressive and really smooth to work with,” he points out. 

Watercolour painting and product designing aren’t the only things that Tawfik does. Every once in a while, he makes calligraphy and posts it as well. “When I started posting calligraphy, I began doing it with sketch pens instead of ink or paints,” he shares. 

At work, Tawfik’s profile is slightly different from his Instagram profile — it is more technical. In contrast, the illustrator manages two different art profiles at once. But he feels more connected, and free, when he is making postcards. “When I am designing products, there are multiple things I need to keep in mind,” he says, adding that the case is not the same when it comes to making art for postcards. “There is a certain freedom when I am designing postcards — there are no restrictions with the artwork, and it feels like I do it for myself.”

Does Tawfik have any plans of pursuing designing full time? He says he will have to give it some thought. “I have been into product designing for such a long time now. Maybe one of these days, I might leave behind my job and take up making art full time. Who knows?” he concludes.