Meeting the challenges of craft innovation, quality, technology and sustainability
The future of crafts is already here with us today. It has come with the demand for innovation and creativity in markets that are constantly shifting to match changing lifestyles and demography – most particularly the exploding demography of GenNext. As the craft scenario evolves, one factor becomes non-negotiable in all the markets artisans serve, whether at home or overseas. That factor is quality, and it has come to be expressed in many ways. Quality in today’s stringently competitive markets includes control at every stage of production, design innovation, costing and pricing, in the search for green alternatives, through improvements inmaterial and technology, packaging, merchandising –dimensions familiar to us through experience. To build our capacities to serve artisans, and through artisans to serve tomorrow’s markets, the National Meet this year will look at lessons learnt from past interactions with artisan communities and their markets. We will look at market trends and at the sector’s ability to respond to rapid change and accelerating competition. Where should ‘handmade in India’ be headed to serve both artisan communities and those who must be encouraged to understand and support handmade quality? Can ‘handmade in India’ be positioned as a brand of integrity in quality, history and contemporary relevance — at all levels from khulads and kites at the village haat and shandy to demanding global markets? We need to reflect together on these issues, and together chart CCI’s road map into the future.
MANIPAL DRAWS CRAFT ACTIVISTS: The Craft Council of India’s ‘National Meet’ calls for greater priority to heritage skills and opportunities
Two days of consultation on the challenges and opportunities facing Indian artisans and their crafts concluded on Tuesday April 2 with a felicitation of master artisans from six states at the Udupi Nirmithi Kendra. The Guest of Honour Smt Sandhya S Pai presented the awards in the presence of participants representing every region. She reminded the gathering of the need for greater awareness of the nation’s craft culture among all sections of society, and urged The Crafts Council of India (CCI) to give particular attention to children. “Let us all work to help them grow in an environment enriched with craft wisdom, of which south Kanara offers such shining examples”, she urged.
CCI is an all-India network of craft activists founded by Smt Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay over 50 years ago. Earlier, a permanent photo-exhibition of her life and work was inaugurated by craft activist Sri Prasanna and CCI Chairperson Smt Gita Ram at the Hasta Shilpa Heritage Village, which hosted this National Meet. The consensus among participants was that Manipal had given them an unforgettable experience of quality that would now be a strong influence on future work.
The Meet brought together participants from 10 states (CCIs Affiliated Councils) who were given a hands-on experience of Kanara’s finest creative legacies of craft, architecture, music, dance, cuisine and ritual practice. They shared experiences from across India that included the contribution of the sector to rehabilitation in post-flood Kerala, sustaining home and livelihood in conflict-ridden J&K and Bastar, and providing alternative options to artisans threatened by competition in changing markets, raw material scarcity, rural displacement and inadequate access to finance and technology. New opportunities were reviewed including the revival of kantha embroidery in Bengal benefitting of hundreds of home-based women artisans, growing opportunities for handmade quality in overseas markets that were shared by designer Ayush Kasliwal of Jaipur, re-cycling of waste into fashionable accessories in West Bengal and research on hazardous materials and processes (including the development of ‘green’ Ganesha idols in Karnataka and working with potters and bead-makers in Delhi and UP). Other highlights included architect Sibanand Bhol’s use of heritage skills to create a new Krishi Bhawan in Bhubaneswar, the successful
The meeting drew attention to the urgent need for greater attention and priority to the sector, which as one delegate pointed out received only 0.05% of this year’s budget allocations despite representing India’s second largest source of livelihood after agriculture. A crisis of neglect and misunderstanding has its root in the lack of reliable data on the scale and contribution of the sector that CCI estimates at representing an estimated 200M artisans against official figures of about 13M. CCI is working with the Government toward a census on ‘handmade in India’ which can provide a foundation of information toward better policies. This massive exercise can be supported by the CCI network of state Councils and by its partner organisations across the country. The Meet drew attention to the craft sector’s unique ability to address priority concerns of employment for millions at the bottom of the pyramid, green alternatives in an era obsessed with climate change, empowerment of marginalized communities, the need for cultural identity and self-confidence in a globalized world, and for protecting cultural and spiritual values that are beyond measure.
Future directions outlined at the National Meet include a special effort to attract talented, unemployed youth into craft opportunities and to build the marketing systems upon which sustainable and decent livelihoods ultimately depend. There was a detailed analysis of marketing experiences of CCI members throughout the country, including CCI’s three flagship ‘Kamala’ Stores in New Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.