Craft Cues

Bindu Gopal Rao
Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Iti Tyagi, founder of the India Craft Week (ICW), tells us why the Indian craft industry needs more sense than money

The fact that India is a cultural hotspot and a melting pot of all things art is something that is undeniable. It was this very aspect that fascinated Iti Tyagi from a young age. “My father had a publishing house, and most of the times we were exposed to the works of the country’s well established literary people. I have always been closely connected to our rich culture and heritage,” says Tyagi. 

How it all began
After pursuing a degree in Fashion Design and Clothing Technology from NIFT, Tyagi started working on different projects, majority of which were in collaboration with international home and lifestyle brands. 

“These brands produce a major chunk of their products in India, and so I got the opportunity to work with craft clusters like Saharanpur, Moradabad, Khurza and others. It was my interface with craft (industrial) clusters. Since then I was keen to work towards building this sector which employs millions of people across India,” she says. 
While working closely in the field and with the clusters, she realised that developing and building an interface all across the rural parts of India would take many decades. And hence there was a need of urban centres like Craft Village to be established, which would work for the training and promotion of crafts. It would also help in building of an extremely quick connect with urban and global population that consumes and patronises crafts. 

Training Gen Next
A key challenge in setting up the eco-system for Craft Village was to get the younger generation involved with the craft. Therefore, Tyagi took an initiative to train the Gen Next craftspersons to collaborate and innovate, thus creating sustainability for the craft form. For instance, Kritika Joshi, who comes from the lineage of Joshi family of Bhilwara, that practises Phad Narrative Art, is an  Indian Institute of Crafts and Design (IICD) graduate.

“We have engaged Kritika in various client projects as the designer, where she has used the adaptation of Phad narrative art in home and lifestyle products as it has greater market than folk art. We are also giving her an opportunity to be a part of London Craft Week this year as she was a part of India Craft Week last year. All the exposure and work opportunities are helping Kritika to connect with a better clientele as well as providing her the recognition and acknowledgement she needs as an artist.

If the income is sustainable, work opportunities are good and the recognition is in the right place, the new generation would surely be interested to invest their time and resources in what their father and forefathers have been practising,” explains Tyagi. 

How to market craft
Tyagi has worked through EDI (Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India) and NID (National Institute of Design) on cluster development projects. According to her, currently the Indian craft industry needs more sense than money, with disruptive models and strategic alliance along with new modes and methods of businesses through short-term and long-term innovative strategies. 

“One possible response can be to increase output from craft so much that it resembles current mass production of other goods. However, it would be in direct conflict with sustainability and the values of craft practice. The other possibility is an idealised version of craft before the industrial revolution, which is not economically viable. Therefore, a way is required to be found beyond these two alternatives,” Tyagi says.

The India Craft Week is the world’s fifth and India’s first official craft week and it aims to bring in focus ‘Good Stories-Untold’. The India Craft Week showcased evolving trends encompassing regional and folk styles, material culture and narratives from rest of India. 

The India Craft Week has been started by Craft Village to build an ecosystem between the craftspersons, industry and consumers. This opportunity has not only helped promote rare Indian crafts, but has helped build a global connect and perception of Indian crafts as mainstream energy. “It built a great trade opportunity for all the craftspersons as well as most of the retailers. Such partnership also helps in building innovative products and processes that can be mass produced, and it helps craftspersons to connect with industry thereby creating sustainable living.” 

The global craft and folk tradition is disappearing fast, and ‘handmade’ has taken a back seat in a rapidly changing world, posing great danger to crafting tradition across the world. “The diminishing demand for craft products is attributed to ‘good stories untold’. These world crafts may have originated at different places, times or by different dynasties but they all look alike as if they belong to one culture, one tradition and one world. It is the spirit of people, and endless passion of craftspersons and artisans that created a meaning to the world around us, be it objects, spaces or experiences,” she concludes.

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