Does art make an artisan or an artisan makes art? A question that has a million possible answers, a question that Rachnakar, a social brand, has been asking the people of India. Some of our heritage in terms of art and craft is slowly fading away, but thankfully, there are a few people out there who are taking necessary steps to sustain it too. One such organisation is Rachnakar, which was founded by Atul and Nityanand Roy and Parul Jauhari, to help boost artisans and craftsmen to take their art to maximum number of people.
Talking about why Rachnakar came into existence, Jauhari says, “Nityanand has always been an avid traveller because of his job. He spent a lot of time on the field, engaging with communities. In West Bengal and Varanasi, he came across communities whose livelihood depends on handicrafts. But he realised that the younger lot from the communities had no intention of pursuing art because they thought there is no market for it. That meant that the art would soon die and we didn’t want that to happen. That’s when Rachnakar was born — to give them a solid platform and keep the art alive.”
At Rachnakar, they believe that handicrafts are not just things, they are experiences and each has a story to it. “An experience should never fade away, which is why we want to uplift the artists and craftsmen; they shouldn’t miss the opportunity to create an experience,” says Jauhari. She further adds that the brand wants to bring traditional art back into urban homes by reintroducing it with meaning, modernity and authenticity.
And to do that, Jauhari says, Atul keeps identifying and visiting communities with a rich background of art and crafts. She adds that through community engagement and a little persuasion, Atul helps the artists understand how the market is actually opening up for them. “We’ve come across so many art forms which are dying, one of which is Kaavad. It is an oral storytelling tradition from Rajasthan and now we are trying to promote it along with artist Dwarka Prasad on our website,” she says.
“Preserving handicrafts is equal to development,” says Jauhari. When we ask her to elaborate, she adds that the handicraft sector has approximately 7 million people involved in it, out of which 50 per cent are women and that promotes equality in the artisan community.
The website has a number of handicrafts to choose from, right from traditional toys that will strike a chord with people, to a number of accessories and home decor products. Interestingly, each product listed on the page, comes with a story which compels the reader to buy it, and if not buy, at least ponder upon the thought of reviving the handicraft because the stories are worth sharing.
“These stories are one of the striking features of the website. There are stories not just of the products available but also of the artisans who make them,” Jauhari says, and adds that all the listed products are sourced directly from the artists.
The brand believes in moving ahead with time but that does not mean they refrain from embracing traditions. “We want the artisans to catch up with the current times by simply providing them a market access,” she adds.
She mentions that due to mass production of traditional toys and other products, artisans are losing their market, they want to generate awareness about the authenticity of the products.
“Every artisan deserves recognition, respect and financial stability,” she says, adding that the artists are people who deserve to be celebrated and what can help them is that they remain well connected with the urban markets. It would then be a win-win situation. On one hand, the art is being revived and on the other, the artisans get encouragement to keep going and they believe that the world needs art and stories.