13 April 2015 14:36:03 IST

Designing craft as a business model

Chennai-based Gina Joseph's creation for Zola

22 craft-entrepreneurs showcased their works at an exhibition in Chennai

Archana Kumari, born in a family of Sujani craftspersons, is a NIFT graduate. She now lives in Delhi but has around 200 women in Bihar’s Muzzafarpur district who work for her. Archana’s Aunam, the label under which she sells handcrafted Sujani sarees, scarves and drapes, is an expression of her life and of those who work for her. Twenty-two such craft-entrepreneurs were showcasing their work at Craftepreneur exhibition at Lalit Kala Akademi, Chennai.

Push for crafts

The maiden initiative of the Crafts Council of India, Craftepreneur brings together crafts from across India — from Kashmir’s aari embroidery to Bengal’s paatachitra, from sartorial products to hand-smelted copper — under one roof.

Outside intervention

Usha Krishna, treasurer of CCI, says, “We have been working with traditional craftspeople but what we have found is that traditional crafts people sometimes need a design intervention for them to cater to today’s marketplace.”

She says this has made marketing handicrafts easier. “We are able to sell better because of the new designs. This way we are doing the craftsmen also a big service by putting them on to designers. There is now a definite market for them without having to worry where their market is.”

While Archana’s work is an expression of her community for someone like Gina Joesph, founder of four-month-old jewellery venture Zola, crafts is her calling. Gina, an arts management graduate from DakshinaChitra, says, “My aim is to help create a sustainable livelihood model for artisans and to empower women.” She has held design intervention workshops with rural artisans in Karimol, Orissa, and says she spends her time between Chennai and Karimol.

Pankaja Sethi, Studio Kassa, Pretty Little Things, Studio T, Incy Wincy, Anantaya, Sahil and Sarthak, Chenab, Varnam and UNMA are some of the other participants at Craftepreneur.

E Rajeshwari, Secretary of CCI, says, “We wanted a little bit of everything so that there could be variety. All people here are students of crafts, who have turned entrepreneurs. We wanted to showcase tradition in a contemporary way. This was to help young people connect with traditional Indian crafts and take it to a wider audience.” Sure enough, Craftepreneur seems to have struck a chord. As Rajeshwari points out there are several youngsters around.

Usha Krishna says given the good response the next logical step is to hold Craftepreneur in the 12 other States where CCI has a presence. The main aim, she says, is to “to provide a better livelihood for our crafts people. And also to see that crafts do not languish and die.”