Business Standard

Geetanjali Krishna: Back to art school

Related News

Often when I look at Indian handicrafts, I wonder why we have the world’s of and artisans — yet few among them have undergone any formal training. And even fewer achieve national and international recognition. Could skills and design training be the key to bridging the chasm between artisans and designers? Last month, I met Khatri Akib Ibrahim, a young Ajrakh printer who had just completed a month-long residency programme at Delhi-based Happy Hands Foundation. An award-winning graduate of the Kalaraksha school, the Bhuj-based artisan – the youngest in a long line of Ajrakh printers – talked to me about all the new things he had learnt and the ideas he had for designing and marketing his age-old craft.

“My father and grandfather have passed down the skill of Ajrakh to me,” he said. “It is a beautiful but laborious art of block printing and resist-dyeing textiles that’s been practised in Gujarat for centuries.” While Ibrahim’s ancestors worked only on bulk orders from retailers, he feels there is today a growing market of direct buyers. “One of the most important things that this residency has taught me is the importance of communication,” he said. “To sell my product, I must be able to tell them about all the work that goes into it. Only then will my customers understand the magic of Ajrakh!” So, Ibrahim has devised tags for all his products and plans to add fabric care instructions. “This would help me market my products better!” he said.

During the training, he learnt concepts of basic design and material exploration. “While my grandfather and father print yards upon yards of Ajrakh, their designs never changed. But now I’m planning to work on some new designs and colours!” he said. “I want to experiment with natural dyes and pigments to obtain offbeat colours like grey, khaki, purple and off white.” Since Ibrahim participates in many fairs, he plans to sample these new colours in small batches there. He also wants to employ the technique of Ajrakh to create newer products: “I want to make wall hangings and dhurries rather than the same old saris, dress materials and bed covers!”

When our meeting ended, he handed me a card with a smart, self-designed logo. I left him, excited to have met a craftsman who thought out-of-the-box. Then I started to wonder whether such training actually translated to better sales and more creative products. There were no numbers available since craft residencies are a relatively new concept. However, Happy Hands founder Medhavi Gandhi was optimistic about their outcome. “Rural artisans rarely manage to travel away from their homes/villages and this sometimes constrains their imagination. Our residency programme encourages them to explore their artistic traditions through innovative and creative processes,” she said.

A conversation with of Crafting Nuru, an organisation that’s helped set up five schools for craftspeople in Bikaner, underlined the importance of training. “Our artisans need training to ensure that they remain relevant to the market,” she said. “Traditionally, they conceptualised products that they found useful, but these didn’t necessarily appeal to urban consumers. Further, selling their wares in local village markets is very different from selling in city markets in India and abroad. This is where training and exposure to new markets can help.”

All this sounds great. What remains to be seen is how well Khatri Akib Ibrahim’s take on Ajrakh does in local and urban markets.

Read more on:   
|
|
|
|
|
|
|

Read More

Sreelatha Menon: The path of the frog prince

Not many would agree with the principle that one’s critic is one’s true benefactor. Well, industry, or some sections of it seem ready to embrace ...

Most Popular Columns

Nitin Pai

Nitin Pai: Mr Modi's follow-through risks
Nitin Pai

For India to make the most of Narendra Modi's ambition and energy, he must get New Delhi to keep up

Abheek Barua & Bidisha Ganguly

Abheek Barua & Bidisha Ganguly: A glimpse of things to come
Abheek Barua & Bidisha Ganguly

The rise in US interest rates and associated change in the direction of capital flows, the fall in oil prices and the slowdown in China are three themes that will dominate the markets in 2015

Premvir Das

Premvir Das: Arihant and what it means
Premvir Das

India's first indigenous nuclear-powered submarine is a considerable achievement - and should have an impact on security strategy

Advertisement

Columnists

Ajai Shukla

Ajai Shukla: Of dogs' tails and leopards' spots
Ajai Shukla

India must watch for signs after Peshawar that Pakistan is waking up to the dangers of Islamism

Shailesh Dobhal

Shailesh Dobhal: The digital year
Shailesh Dobhal

India Inc will remember 2014 as the year when the threat and the opportunity of the digital world became real

Noshir Kaka & Anu Madgavkar

Noshir Kaka & Anu Madgavkar: India's tech transformation - Making workers the winners
Noshir Kaka & Anu Madgavkar

New technologies will force millions of workers to acquire new skills. Rapid technology advancements will also help India's less-educated ...

Back to Top