From Lambani embroidery to Tussar silk sarees, to Khadi drapes, Pashmina shawls, and Bagru, Dabru printing to Ajrakh, and folk arts, India is a haven of handicrafts, all exquisite. Amidst concerns that our home grown textiles and arts are dying and the artisans are switching to different employment options, there are a few organisations, who are trying to stem this decline. One such organisation is Dastkar, which is bringing to the city, Pune Nature Bazaar 2018, that has a good line up of artisans and craftsmen from all over the country. This edition brings together more than 50 craft groups from 20 states with their distinctive textile, jewellery and art ware.
We chat with a few of them to know about their ideas and how they are applying those to empower people financially.
Toys from Channapatna
Maya Organic Support Services, an NGO based out of Channapatna town in Karnataka, is known for its out-of-the-world lacquer toys. It is also involved in working on other lifestyle products made from organic materials and colours.
Subharao M, sales manager of Maya Organic, explains the toy making culture of Channapatna. Says he, “The small town that Channapatna is, some households have been making toys here since ages. The NGO is more of a livelihood development initiative which is involved in developing a network of artisans and micro-entrepreneurs who are capable of producing the best of best wooden toys and lifestyle products. Children, these days, are prone to play with tablets and mobile phones and not the traditional toys that their parents grew up playing with. So Maya Organic’s aim is to bring back the traditional toys with a modern twist so that the new age children will like them.”
The team at Maya Organic, is therefore, working closely with the artisans to come up with contemporary designs and giving them training in product development support. “It serves two purposes — giving a good livelihood to the traditional artisans who otherwise earn low wages and secondly, make sustainable toys with traditional roots,” he adds.
Subharao says that the artisans closely work with students from designs schools to understand the new concepts of design and toys that are now liked in the market. After which they are traditionally painted with the lacquer of different colours.
“Women empowerment is at the centre of the initiative. Traditionally, the work was limited to men in the olden days. Times are changing now and women who work with us are equally talented and hard working,” he explains.
What adds value to these toys is that people who are making them are themselves mothers and fathers and know exactly what will bring joy on the faces of little children. “At the moment though, most of our toys are purchased by older people who want to relive their childhood memories. The traditional toys still manage to bring a smile on their faces, which is our motive,” he adds.
Retaining and enhancing traditional techniques
Akola, near Udaipur in Rajasthan, is home to colour and handprint industries. With skillful preparation, indigo is a staple of Akola’s Dabu printing process and is one of the finest dyes in India. Several families for generations have been engaged in this art to earn their livelihood. Helping the low income artisans on the journey of economic growth is Aavaran - Echoes of Rural India. The Aavaran store was set up by Alka Sharma, a textile graduate from Indian Institute of Crafts and Design, Jaipur.
Suresh Prajapati, who has been working with Aavaran from the past 10 years and assisting them in setting up exhibitions all over India, says, “Aavaran is more than just a garment store. Out of my experience, I can say that Aavaran is educating people about the art form and give the artisans a chance to earn a respectable living.”
Prajapati explains that because of this initiative, small communities have now become economically self-reliable. They can sustain the traditional craft techniques and skills. “Aavaran is attempting to evolve the traditional ‘Dabu’ which is a mud resist technique of printing. Dabu brings out the magic of indigo on the fabric with hints of thread work here and there. The maximum number of colours that are used for the technique are just four or five and every single thing is done by hand,” he explains.
“Right from making the colours to printing designs and cutting the fabric to making a dress out of it takes about 20 to 25 days. It is a tedious job because unlike the mass produced and designed outfits in huge factories, we have a small workshop and a limited number of people who work together to lay out all the different elements that come together to form a single product,” he adds.
Describing the range of the clothes that are available with Aavaran, Prajapati says, “Style, minimalism and comfort are important for us and are found in all our products. Our sarees, kurtas, blouse pieces and jewellery are all hand dyed and hand blocked and all have a contemporary feel to them. The prints and motifs are unique to the technique and the region. Aavaran has been able to retain and enhance the character of the age-old technique.”
ST Reader Service
Dastkar: Pune Nature Bazaar is being held at Tilak Smarak Mandir, Tilak Road till September 9, from 11am to 8 pm. Entry is free