EIGHT REASONS WHY ONE SHOULD LEARN GOND FROM BHAJJU SHYAM ONLY
Bhajju is the award winning international legend that has contemporize the Gond Art, and as a tribal artist still he has brought a paradigm shift in style, motifs and interpretation that connects this Art with Urban population. Gond Craft has been often confused with adhesive obtained from a tree in India, which it is not and this craft for many hundred years has been practiced by ‘Gondi Tribe’, if it is difficult to understand the geography of it one can understand it very simply by remembering Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book character “Mogli” who is a Gondi Boy.
Many people say this art form came from caves, from walls and from naught, but the fact is, it is manifestation of Gondi’s tribe organic life with Nature that has taught them “Living”. Why many tribes have been protecting trees and saving animals, as the Gondi’s believed that world is a single family and united through different forms. All there survival lessons, concept of time, seasons, and most of the elements of life has been learnt from nature alone. Therefore, the two world famous book “The London Jungle Book” and “Nightlife of Trees” brings back the rhythm of life with nature and teaches life management skills. Here are the eight reasons why one should learn from this master:
Perhaps the only Craft Form in its league to have reached people’s imagination world-wide on “What an Indian Tribal Artist Can Teach Us About Rediscovering Our Capacity for Everyday Wonder” through Bhajju Shyam’s work of international repute “The London Jungle Book”.
The GOND art also teaches life management skills and to explore nature and its vastness based on logic for everything that co-exist within nature, and teaches us how to learn from each art expression the lessons of life to be more creative, imaginative and rationale.
The word “Gond” comes from the Dravidian expression kond, meaning “the green mountain.” The recorded history of the Gond people goes back 1400 years, but considering that they inhabit areas where rock paintings dating to the Mesolithic have been found, their antecedents probably date back even further. Many of the Gonds customs echo that of their Mesolithic forbearers. An obvious example of this is the custom of decorating the walls of their houses, an activity that may originate in cave-dwelling traditions of their ancestors.
The award-winning artist Bhajju Shyam, working in the Gond tradition of Indian folk art blends this age old form with most contemporary life forms creating magic of what happened that summer in London, in “The London Jungle Book”. Titled as both homage and a mirror-image counterpoint to Rudyard Kipling’s iconic The Jungle Book, this gem tells the story of young Bhajju’s reality-warping encounter with London, where he journeyed from his native India and becomes “Alice in Wonderland” interpreting his own encounters and experiences through GOND that becomes a globally accepted phenomenon.
It would help build inspiration and perspective to think out of box and something totally new recounting Shyam’s experience.
This Craft form is must for every artist, designer and professional who wants to be away from stereotypical life and explore newer perspectives, building appreciations for daily miracles of life that perhaps we have taken for granted.
It helps in re-inventing the tribal form to a contemporary avatar, which has both sense and sensibility of a vast Gondi culture.
And last not least the World Famous award-winning master himself, Bhajju Shyam, who has authored numerous books on Gond Art including The London Jungle Book. His work was eventually included in a significant 1998 exhibition of indigenous art in Paris. A few years later, he received an invitation from the acclaimed London-based Indian designer Rajeev Sethi, who had come to know and love Shyam’s work, to travel to the European metropolis and paint murals on the walls of an upscale Indian restaurant alongside another Gond artist, Ram Singh Urvethi — the talent behind Tara’s magnificent I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail and The Night Life of Trees.
BMW’S MOST EXPENSIVE CAR USES AFRICAN CRAFT TO CREATE THE NEW DREAM MACHINE…
Most of us have learnt about leading designer Giorgio Armani doing interiors of Mercedes Benz, and many other celebrities tying up with International Car Brands for custom car making, but BMW’s latest car variant has surpassed all such Celeb Notions and has replaced it with exotic ‘Craft’, by using a rare Craft form of Africa. This masterpiece would be displayed during 5-9th October at Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park, London. Interestingly, it would be for the first time that a dream machine would be using a craft technique to crate the masterpiece.
Dr Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of the BMW AG, explained: “Within the framework of the long-term partnership with Frieze and Frieze Masters, we are combining our cultural engagement with BMW Individual for the very first time. I am delighted that we have been able to work again with Esther Mahlangu, an exceptional artist and someone I remember well from my time in South Africa. Together with experts from BMW Individual Manufaktur and BMW Group Design, Esther has created a unique work of art – a BMW Individual 7 Series that forms an extraordinary relationship between craftsmanship and Ndebele art.”
The name of this legendary Craftsmen is Esther Mahlangu, a South African artist, and 25 years ago she was the first woman crafts person to create artwork on a BMW 525i Sedan. Its bodywork was adorned with the bright colors and unique ornamental shapes, typical of Ndebele art, thus turning it into a BMW Craft Car. Esther Mahlangu has now, for the second time, joined forces with BMW and refined a BMW-7 Series. In collaboration with the BMW Individual Manufaktur, Mahlangu transformed a luxury sedan into a dynamic work of art by painting her characteristic tribal motifs on the real wood interior trims.
Interestingly, no car manufacturer in India has ever attempted any Craft Form to be integrated with Indian Crafts like Madhubani, God, Warli, Phad and plethora of such exotic and rare forms. The beauty these Crafts are that they integrate extremely well with Dream Machines and give them artistry and organic feel. It also brings an element of color that soothes eyes and minds.
To facilitate this the specialists at BMW Individual Manufaktur oversaw the full manufacturing process. They developed a special white-colored fine-wood trim to be painted with Esther’s images before sealing them to ensure their longevity and installing them within the equally remarkable vehicle. The one-of-a-kind automobile will be shown to the public for the first time at this year’s Frieze Art Fair (5- 9 October) in Regent’s Park, London. The vehicle will be offered for silent auction. Proceeds from the sale of the vehicle will be donated to a good cause.
The 81-year-old artist said: “To paint is in my heart and it’s in my blood. The way I paint was taught to me by my mother and my grandmother. The images and colours have changed and I have painted on many different surfaces and objects but I still love to paint. The patterns I have used on the BMW parts marry tradition to the essence of BMW. When BMW sent me the panels to paint, I could see the design in my head and I just wanted to get started! I start by painting the small ones first to get the feel of the surface and then it was easy as the design follows the lines of the panels.
Esther Mahlangu was born a member of the Ndebele tribe in 1935 in Middelburg, a small town in the north-eastern province of Mpumalanga. At the early age of 10, she began to paint under the guidance of her mother and grandmother.
Traditionally, Ndebele women decorate the exterior walls of houses with elaborately painted patterns and graphic elements, symbolising important events such as weddings or other celebrations, thus the walls are used as active communicative media within the community. Esther Mahlangu has separated these decorations and patterns from her people‘s traditional art of painting. In the form of pictures, vessels or carpets, she has constantly brought it into new contexts, thereby combining her artwork with items used in everyday life.
WHY RATAN TATA BOUGHT AN AIRAVAT OF PHAD CRAFT EVERY YEAR…
This is my first orientation with Phad Craft of Rajasthan, interestingly the information available on Wikipedia and Google is far from misleading this craft into something it is not, another aspect is copying information on various blogs and websites that makes these forms more misleading and many of the authentic perspectives are totally lost. With the visit of Kalyan Joshi at Craft Village, the first hand information given by him brings out dimensions of this form beyond it is understood or known to the world, people only read it OR misspell it and confuse it with miniature paintings (which this is not and cannot be) and think it like some piece of craft of bygone era. Craft Village brings out the perspective less known or shared with the world.
Pronounce it right: People spell it as Phad (Fad) which is totally wrong, it is called Padh which in Hindi means reading, as they are first of it’s kind in the world where visuals are read and not ‘texts’, mind it. Hence, making it world’s first narrative read from images and not texts. Another aspect is they are not merely read like read, they are read as narrative with Ravanhatta or Jantar that makes it more lyrical and musical. If Phad is a film, Miniature Paintings can just be a micro frame of that film, nothing more.
Phad is an Art form with Significance: When Kalyan Joshi told me that Ratan Tata, bought every year an ‘Airavat’ elephant from him was not a gesture of saving craft, but as the origin of Phad goes back 700 years and 30th generation to Joshi family, “Joshi” the caste originated from ‘Jyotishi (Astrologers)’, the significance of every element has an impact on life and living conditions. So Ratan Tata wasn’t buying it for just a decorative element, but for the simple reason that ‘Airavat’ signifies growth, prosperity, wealth, luxury and a great life, it is made in a way that the front of Airavat is elevated that flies into heaven, hence symbolically to attain Nirvana and many heads and trunks depict multiple aspects of life that needs to be balanced in order to have wholesome OR complete life! Traditionally, he is the carrier of God Indra’s as well and has formed clouds to rain or cool down the earth. Again, the rain signifies well being, prosperity and good life.. Like Feng-Shui the motifs in Phad even has lot of significance besides it’s traditional Or Craft Value.
Phad has a life: This is perhaps the most amazing part of Phad, it has a full life of 100 years or more, however, it has a birth that is almost celebrated like if a baby is born, the Phad singer “Bhopa” and “Bhopi” goes to Phad artist and give them bayana (token) to begin Phad, the first line OR sketch is drawn by a virgin lady, and then a full puja is performed to begin this art-form, that has a standard length of 5ft wide and 30ft long, then Phad is being developed in two major themes “Devnarayan” and “Pabuji”. The Phad’s soul is the final painting of eyes of either Devnarayan Or Pabuji who is the central character of the painting and then it is handed over to Bhopa for performance. And if the fabric withers out or get damaged, with full rituals it is visarjit into the sacred waters of Puskar. When Phad becomes worn out and unserviceable it is cast off with appropriate ceremonies, into the sacred lake of Pushkar. This ceremony is known as a Thandi Karna.
Phad is first ever film on earth (Chal-Chitra): The uniqueness of this craft is that it is a full film in itself and has been projected in Temples, where people would gather to have visual experience. It has visual script, it has music, it has lyrics (of epics), it has frames, characters, scenes, background, and a wonderful saying that a fabric that is like a battleground where warriors (characters) are being readied by the legendary painter to create full movie. The story is performed by Bhopa (storyteller nomads) and Bhopi for a a duration of 30-45 minutes, sometimes even night long as the Phad performances used to only start at the beginning of Night and go all night. The screen is being lit up Bhopi with oil lamps and then background score, music and sound would be given by Bhopa with dialogues. It used to be an early entertainment and a way of story telling by these community to the world. One Phad would be used by three generations for performance. Interestingly, leading design schools like NID and even doordarshan has used Phad for animation and film making rather than using them as a tool for Crafts.
The Five step wonder: After an artist is being commissioned by bhopa’s , the preparation of Phad begins in five steps namely :
Canvas preparation process: The artist buys a long piece of hand spun and hand woven cloth. Next, the surface of the cloth is starched and stretched & dried perfectly in hard sunlight so that it may left no fold in cloth then it is burnished to make cloth smooth for fine brushing.After burnishing it will not absorb any pigments.
Color making process: Pigments are ground by hand and mixed with water and gum. Light yellow (Pila, Hartal) is made from yellow orpiment. It is used to sketch all the figures and structures. The orange or saffron (Kesriya) color used to paint faces and flesh is made by mixing red lead oxide (Sindur) with some yellow powder (Orpimat-Hartal). Green (Hara) is made from verdigris (Jangal), acetate of copper. Brown (Geru) is purchased in the market in powder form. Vermilion (Hinglu, Lal) is produced by pulverizing chunks of cinnabar (mercury sulfide are). Blue (Indigo) is commercially available.Black (Kala, Syahi) is used to outline the details of all figures. It is made either by burning coconut shells or by collecting lampblack from burning edible oil.
Making a map (Chankna) of entire program: After the cloth is ready and the light yellow pigment is pre-phaded, the painter sketches the entire program. This is a called making a map (Naksha banana) or giving an out line (Chakana) during the sketching process, the total program is defined.
Application of color: After mapping the successive application of colors begins. Each color is applied one at a time directly from its bowl to all the places where it occurs throughout the painting. Coloring starts with filling in faces (mundo bharno). When applying this saffron color, the artist carefully leaves a place for eyes and maintains proper body proportions. Yellow, green, brown, and red are applied one after the other. By applying the lighter colors first, and using. increasingly darker colors with each application, the artist progressively readjusts the boundaries between other colors and the background. In this way, the form of the figures is perfected.
Giving an outline (Kholna): The most laborious task is applying the black outline. This takes days because of the detail required for every figure the black outline is completed, the black and blue surfaces are filled in. The another secret of black color was to draw a “Laxman Rekha” that would protect these colors for 100 odd years, the outline is not a finishing touch but an outline of protecting each element of Phad painting.
Phad is taught to daugher-in-laws, not daughters: It was a popular belief of Joshi family, that the art-form shall remain within the family and the secret recipe shall never go out, and therefore, it was never taught to outsiders and the daughter (who would eventually get married and go outside the family), interestingly it was taught to daughter-in-laws who would take this baton/legacy further. If men were the painters then the ladies of the house were the color experts who would make all natural colors Phad has been painting with or the curators of canvas which would sustain 100 odd years.
Phad is a thing of beauty and a joy forever: Phad was not limited to a Craft form but it was a temple of joy in its own, with large paintings (Phad), Instrumental music, dance, songs, riddle, jokes, costumes & other equipments support the performance & signifies the narration of the legend “Phad Bachna”. Bhopa, the narrator, is the main singer who presents the Phad to audience with explanations and poetic narrations. His passion serves as if he is the character, and the actor. The bhopa performs the epic with the help of his wife, the bhopi. During the performance, the bhopi illuminates certain parts of the painting with an oil lamp, and the bhopa recounts the epics with the songs and dance to the accompaniment of musical instruments called ravanhatta or jantar. The performance of the Phad continues during the night and sometimes up to the dawn; The Phad is rolled up then. When Phad becomes worn out and unserviceable it is cast off with appropriate ceremonies, into the sacred lake of Pushkar. This ceremony is known as a Thandi Karna.
Only 11 Phad artists in the world: Joshi’s claim that there are only 11 authentic Phad artists in the world, from the two family tree of Joshi’s. Ironically, Shrilal Joshi (Padmashri) has been instrumental in professionalizing this Craft which was supposed to never move out of family tree, he faced immense resistance from the family members for sharing this craft technique with the world, but now the same family recognizes him for saving this Craft in 21st and 22nd Century. More than 100 hundred artist now practice this form in their own versions and contemporary motifs in Bhilwada and most of them are women, who have been able to earn their livelihood from this wonderful craft form making it a true example of Women Empowerment.
Less Known & Totally misunderstood: We know sometimes just a limited part and try and judge a Craft with now what’s available on google, but can these crafts which have they origin hundreds and thousands years old be narrated just like that, or can google answer all the question of what it doesn’t even know, the answer has to be thought by deep diving in less known Crafts of India
CRAFT IS NO MORE A COTTAGE INDUSTRY: ROAD MAP FOR 2020
THE SOLUTIONS OF TOMORROW ARE NOT STASHED BEHIND THE WALLS OF BUREAUCRACY OR POLITICAL HALLS. THEY ARE IN THE MINDS OF ARTISANS, CRAFTERS, DESIGNERS, INNOVATORS, RESEARCHERS, ENVIRONMENTALISTS, GEOGRAPHERS AND OTHER SPIRITED INDIVIDUALS: – STUART BAREA, 18 LOUGHBOROUGH UNIVERSITY
I WAS TAKEN BY PLEASANT SURPRISE BY TWO FINDINGS, FIRST ONE OF IAN W WALLACE LIMITED CRAFT INSURANCE COMPANY WHICH HAS BEEN FOR LAST 3-DECADES ONLY COVERING INSURANCE OF ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN ACROSS UK AND REPUBLIC OF IRELAND. SECONDLY, A REPORT ON SCOTTISH CRAFT INDUSTRY THAT ARTICULATES WHICH CRAFT DOMINATES THE SECTOR, WITH CRAFTSPERSON’S DEMOGRAPHICS PROFILE AND OTHER ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES THAT DEFINES CRAFT STATISTICS NECESSARY FOR FRAMING POLICIES AND STRATEGIES.
Interestingly, the Craftsman Insurance scheme was developed by Ian, from an idea in 1986, after receiving requests from crafters seeking public liability cover whilst attending craft shows and similar events. The Scheme has been specifically designed for Craftsmen, Artisans and is extremely simple to provide cover for when and where it is needed. An Artisan can buy online facility via their website. What a simple, incredible & innovative way of supporting artisans and craftsperson in the hour of need and distress. It offer either annual policies, or a short period 5-consecutive day policy to cover designing, making, exhibiting and displaying hand make craft items, and also demonstrating or teaching crafts to others. Do we have Craft Insurance in India, through either a private player or by the Government?
Interestingly, Scottish craft summary articulates that Mediums like Ceramics, textiles, wood and jewellery dominate total Craft Sector, with Female 61% dominating the craftspeople demographics and Male 39%, with aging population say around 35% between 45-54 years old. The employment pattern reflects 77.6% of participants working through generations in crafts and few business start-up around 11% began in last ten years (50% in 90’s, 23% in 80’s), Business longevity 24.8% males and 12.6% females working for >20yrs in their craft business. Education 70% of makers have a further education qualifications, Ethnicity and disability 2.1% other than white, 2% recorded disability, Methods of training 50.7% self-taught, 34.7% arts schools, 21.4% learning on job, Average Turnover £44,000 p.a. (average), Size of business 83% 1-2 person businesses, Business form 77.5% sole traders, Premises 68% from workspace at home, Growth aspirations 73% wish to grow Market channels 64.9% commissions, direct from workshop 51.3%, trade fairs 43.7% Promotion 65.6% via leaflets, 57.8% personal selling, 44.6% registers/directories so on so forth. I was looking for a similar study of Indian Crafts, could not find one that is as elaborate as the study quoted above to identify and map the Craftsmen and Artisans for any strategic direction.
What do both the above findings refer to? It plainly and simply describes the need for two important steps 1) Organise the Craft Market like other commodities, characterised by features like input-output, inflation, Bullion Trading etc. 2) Uniformity creating Craft Index that drives the wholesale, retail and consumption of Craft Items on daily basis. This radicalises the current structure from Craft as cottage Industry to a full-fledged industry and trade mode, it would also help Crafts to come out of Subsidy driven model to more independent and robust business model with a definite structure, policy and vision. This is the need of the hour knowing after agriculture, crafts are the largest (non-farm) activity in Indian subcontinent for employment generation. On international front the expansion of Indian Craft has been limited to say around 1.5 % of the total global exports of Handicrafts Items. No model despite having Craft Councils in the world, doing some pockets of activities have looked at considering Crafts as the main market player, it would be easier than many other sector to bring Craft into mainstream sector in no time due to its skeletal presence for past many centuries, what it would take is a radical or disruptive thinking and a definite action plan, this radical step would also help Craft Sector to look beyond merely a surviving or dying sector to a more robust industry having its trade dynamics and market policies in large commercial and global interests.
In India, there is hardly a balance between supply and demand for craft products, and the core reason for which is no financial measurement. There are statistics available of what the Industry (majority exports) stands for however, no mapping of market potential has been done for Craft items. The other concept of the wholesale market for craft products can be truly disruptive, the way it is for other important commodities (produced and consumed). It will help overcome a weak commercial market of craft products at present to more robust one. If the Craft markets can be dominated by sale or return for makers, it would also involve public at large to treat “Crafts as Fair Trade” who at present don’t necessarily realise the exclusivity/rarity of the product nor the skill taken to produce it. The concept of Craft Commodity besides market dynamics can also supports development of local culture by creating an emotional connect between the people and Crafts.
Craft Sector is also facing pressure coming from buyers of retail businesses for high volume, low value product offering because this sort of product increases retail profits and also arises from/feeds into cultural expectations of craft being relatively affordable. The weak commercial sector is further compounded because of the dominance of subsidy in the sector in combination with a generally high level of risk aversion. The craft sector is generally perceived to be conservative in its approach to developing new markets.
These pressures are being magnified in the current economic conditions where buyers are perceived to be shopping around more. Price sensibility exists at present for some crafts, particularly clothing and furniture, and in general prices are suppressed with discounts being requested from the public. These pressures are also evident in the retail sector with many of them expressing cash flow concerns.
In addition, there is a lack of developed touch point for business volumes; just one such initiative like Expo Mart, Greater Noida cannot take care of local and global business needs and connecting wholesale buyers with craftsmen/artisans as a whole. Indian needs such wholesale trade marts in minimum 15-20 cities and satellite centres in small town, which can link nearby villages through satellite network. The parallel initiative can be to create B2B network through e-com/m-com platforms in collaboration with domestic giants like Flipkart, Snapdeal (the way Alibaba has done in China) and other large format players, rather than ministry investing time and money in such affairs as recently being launched by earlier textiles minister. The web based online business players have super speciality logistics and supply chain infrastructure which cannot be handled by Government directly, as the new e-com website aims at doing so by the textiles ministry. Government can define a policy and framework with private players through public-private partnership to create more impactful model for the craft sector, and can act as a regulator to control price index, craft inflation and other such economic and trade dynamics.
The other model can be online craft trading, where virtual craft stakes can be bought and sold daily, though this may be a dangerous practice but it would build a tangible economic value in craft products which at the moment has moved beyond “necessity” limits. This can be developed based on Government of India’s cluster model being recognised as established enterprise (zone or cluster wise) for offering “Craft Shares” in the market place, with other dynamics like NIFTY and Sensex driving market dynamics. It could also be developed city wise like BSE, become Delhi Craft Exchange (DCE) for raw and produced material in say clay, metal, textiles, wood and many others, the same can be implemented for other bigger cities, towns, village and craft clusters.
At the moment Indian Craft industry need more sense than money, with disruptive models and strategic alliance with new mode and methods of businesses through short-term and long-term innovative strategies. One possible response can be to increase output from craft such so 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.
IN AN IDEAL CONDITION CRAFTS CAN BE POSITIONED AS MORE GREEN, INTEGRATING NEW TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT COMPROMISING TRADITIONAL VALUES, CREATION OF ROBUST CHAINS OF SUPPLY THAT ARE SENSITIVE, PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF MAKERS TO GRASP THE OPPORTUNITIES, APPROACHES TO MARKETS THAT INFUSE THESE VALUES, AND THE CREATION OF NEW EXPECTATIONS IN THE BUYERS ABOUT WHAT ‘VALUE’ MEANS (BE IT CULTURAL VALUE OR ECONOMIC WORTH). TAKEN TOGETHER THIS MAY CREATE THE CONDITIONS FOR AN ECONOMICALLY VIABLE CRAFT SECTOR IN A NEW ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ORDER, BEYOND JUST MAKING OR TRADING SKILLS TO MORE CONTEXTUAL KNOWLEDGE AND PERSPECTIVES.
CRAFTING STRATEGY: THE HARVARD APPROACH
“I don’t like crafts, i am not Craft types” the words echoed in my ears for good, a fashion student told her disliking for crafts, and perhaps of what the gen-next perceive of Crafts, ” reminiscences of bygone era, a holy burden which all of us are carrying unnecessarily”.
Let me try and interpret in simple words what exactly the student meant when she said ‘I don’t like craft’ 1) Is she telling that she doesn’t like going to villages OR 2) she thought that craft is something similar to NGO trying to help poor and hungry OR 3) a rural women doing time pass at home trying to do stitching or embroidery OR 4) is it something that a stocked at dilli haat has no appeal or value for bargaining?. May be any of these interpretations OR something different but one thing was for sure that Crafts have lost the luster. Later, during the week, we were invited by the same fashion college where this girl comes from, the faculty members told us in a worried tone, “last year there were 75-students who went for craft documentation, this year it has reduced to 20”, thrusting upon us a mammoth task to convince these 20-students why crafts are essential for business success. And our blunt answer to these kids were “If you don’t adopt crafts you are finished”, telling them that Craft is more than mere configuration of decorative products to a strategic point that is essential for business success in International Market and glocal communities. And at the end of the presentation most of them were in thinking mode trying to redefine what exactly crafts are, some of the excerpts from the presentation are:-
Crafts have certainly superior design or innovation aspect, excellent functionality, are multi-purpose, and culturally connected, for sustainable development, with timeless appeal. The Modern Industry is in horde of competitive mode engaged in printing bucks every second through mass production, and the board rooms are filled with debates & charts projecting double digit growth, without realizing that if rut is further produced, it would result in meaningless products flooded in market and real consumption would come to stand still, the markets today loaded with senseless & copied products and companies wonder “whats gone wrong with demand: it’s perhaps recession and people are not buying” without realizing that it is their mistake producing things that doesn’t bring value in true sense, government as usual busy charting out new schemes for artisans for making them dependent forever on petty schemes rather than self-sustenance.
Crafting Strategy by Henry Mintzberg, in 1987 Harvard Business Review has discussed a whole new approach of using craft as a strategy for business success, and he successfully demonstrated how pottery as a Craft evokes traditional skill, dedication, perfection through the mastery of detail. What springs to mind is not so much thinking and reason as involvement, a feeling of intimacy and harmony with the materials at hand, developed through long experience and commitment. Formulation and implementation merge into a fluid process of learning through which creative strategies evolve. Similarly, a new research by Psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London demonstrates that traditional toys & dolls could work best in helping UK and immigrant kids friendships to reduce racial conflict. Similarly, Kathputli dolls in Indian context can act as a great connect between urban and rural kids, one may need to work on character/game design that can connect traditional sensibilities with urban forms. The other strategic points could be:
Consumer Segmentation: The craft products shall not be classified only as ‘hand-made’, it deals holistically with semiotics & semantics, cumulative experience that connects people, culture and lifestyles, tastes & preferences and much more. The consumer segmentation can be used for “Craft Clusters” as ‘sample size’ for identifying new consumer market segmentation for better adaptability of new products and services. Most of the community linked with crafts would behave in similar fashion, be it Luhaar, Sunaar, bhil, or peripheral connect such as Jat, Marwari (though they may not be essentially craft community, yet they form integral part of ethnic group constituting 80% of current Indian population) can be easily understood, through this process a better & clearer demographic mapping can be done for the community behaving in same manner through qualitative aspect rather than qualitative. The cash rich shift from urban zone to rural can be new market potential to be tapped, whose spent are surprisingly more than urban if you look at cases like Emporio Mall in Delhi on Luxury products or punjab farmers have more BMW or AUDI than perhaps what is sold in Gurgaon.
Semiotics: Craft is the only natural connect between consumers and products, all products today are virtually designed in Singapore, Hong Kong, Sanghai or at any other international product design hub, they could be technologically sound but tend to get disconnected with local sense & sensibilities. Later these products are being launched in indigenous context, the aesthetics doesn’t connect with people and culture, or color schemes may not integrate with lifestyle & preferences, functional and ergonomics mis-match, and have plenty of attributes far away from the user & their aspiration. Unfortunately, most of the products fail to strike a larger market share in India (a huge culturally diverse landscape). McDonald’s is a classic example in food craft, how Aloo Tikki was introduced for Indian consumers for success. Designers constantly need to reinvent semiotics, by studying signs and symbols and using right interpretation & translation of ideas into products. Craft demonstrate best use of local resources and adoption of aesthetics derived from deep rooted tradition & culture of a particular community. If it is understood properly by modern industry, the product developed would have ‘natural connect’ resulting in greater acceptance and less spent on forced brand building.
Innovation: Most often local common sense in crafts, also termed as grass-root innovation are built on principles such as self-reliance, sustenance and growth of communities. Khadi is the greatest example of all times on social innovation as a part Crafts of India. Crafts have greater problem solving ability derived from the crux of cultural milieu, rituals, festivals, celebrations, ergonomics, usability, multi-functionality, and are derived from issues of day-to-day lives, these problems or other factors have evolved many innovative forms that are prevalent today. If innovation needs to be learnt in true sense, they could be very well inspired from Craft Products, and to quote an example Camel Ply-Split Braiding technique is perhaps the only form of Craft that has surpassed Technology and Machines today, and has helped eliminate all industrial processes in Textiles and Apparels including printing, dyeing, processing, pattern-making, construction by creating garments and accessories that has “Seamless and Timeless” appeal. If the similar innovation are implemented to other products, it would reduce expensive processes, and can easily penetrate beyond 5-7% of market share.
Multi-Functural: Most of the craft products deals with multi-faceted aspects of design and usability, be it Saree, Lota or any craft product, they would always have universal design appeal, and these products have incredible character of adaptability as per consumer or community needs, occasions, events and many other attributes of life. The Saree or Dhoti as an attire has many multi-purpose character, from covering head in summer, to create as turban to lift loads on head, to carry money or even food items, these garments can adapt in any form fulfilling needs of people and their lifestyle. In my paper “Clothing for Habits” I have quoted many examples of how these cultural attires were build on human habits which contemporary products fail to tackle. Craft can also offers a great diversity in terms of new product and its offering, if it is explored properly, for example Case-1, If a fashion student has to make a design or final collection today, he/she would go to Nehru place or Chandini Chowk in Delhi for fabric or material sourcing, and at the end of the day when you measure the results of 30-students in a class, most outcome (garments) would be similar. Case-2: Imagine, these students or even group of students pick up 10-different craft forms and work on fashion collection, at the end of the day many inspirations would bring great designs in fabric/surfaces, styles, design, trims and accessories and would result in meaningful products that are not possible in Case-1.
Sustainable Development: While most products see end of life cycle management, Craft products work on beginning of Life Cycle management, which means that recycle or reuse is not an after thought, but all issue related to environment, society and others are taken care even before products are being conceived. These craft products are Sustainable, they use local resources, self-sustenance for community work, empowering women & children etc. with quotients of re-usability that determine the timelessness, be it Sujani from Bihar on how a saree translates afterlife into meaningful products. These products possessed greater value of responsible consumption, for e.g. sarees would be a part of marriage tradition, gifted by dad/mom, on the birth of baby, karvachauth, and many other celebrations, occasions and festivals making it a huge emotional asset. Hence, with limited number of garment pieces the satisfaction level used to be very high, as compared to present conditions where 80% of clothes in our wardrobes are either worn once or never. Now companies are coining new terms like ‘organic’ OR ‘slow’ fashion etc. which has been existing in our culture for hundreds of years.
Change Management: Nomadic craft life is the greatest example of how communities use to move from one place to another carrying their homes, the products were designed in the manner that it could survive climate variations, were multi-purpose, compact packaging and above all a well thought out product range that could fit all needs and wants of these communities while shifting from one place to another, climate variations and different terrains. What a thought process in those times when hardly mode of travel were existent, still these nomads traveled and adapted to new conditions without much difficulty and problems. Unfortunately, these approaches and aspects while designing modern products have been totally neglected thinking that these are age old aspects and are pieces of history. Honestly some of the approaches THEN were more futuristic than what we tend to practice now.
Cognitive Training: India’s greatest strength was documentation through story telling, much faster than facebook, twitter or any other tech apps. It also used to have credible value, the way epics and other documents have been written and preserved shows the strength of a culture & heritage more than 5000 years old. It had both visual and verbal medium for describing events, stories, lives and many such things. Look at the crafting mediums including Kalamkari, Phad, Madhubani, Chamba Rumaal, Patachitra and many craft forms, they have incredible narrations of god and goddess, epics, mighty kings, flaura & fauna, lifestyle of an era, ethical messages and had more holistic approaches, now when a generation looks at it today, they would see so much progressive culture. Today, though technology has been able to connect and make documentation simpler, it has an incredible impact on mind, to give an exampledo you remember mobile numbers in case your mobile phone is lost, OR do you remember most of the things you are surrounded with in case you loose connect with technology, how does life management skills are enhanced to deal with memory when common sense has become rare. Craft products has a greater impact on tactile and cognitive thinking, as result there is a profound ability to solve problems, with greater memory and observation skills for real-life issues and metaphors.
In Summary, Crafts has been one of the most essential tool to connect life with change, that have resulted in superior products, processes, people management, change management and many other aspects needed by leaders or managers of today to run successful companies. They just need a bit of humility to understand and deep dive for effective use of lessons on how “Crafts are strategic’ and not mere poor looking decorative objects, to save Crafting Tradition: India’s greatest contribution to the world for building sustainable future!
ART THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: PATACHITRA
While going through the traditional art and #craft forms of India, we came across the only art form that changed the world. The estimated 2500 year old art form from Orissa was born even before the 1st #Scriptures were introduced to human civilization, this art form connected one human being to another and the civilization by means of etched drawings (Chitras) sharing thoughts, expressions, imaginations and all spheres of life, inspired from nature these forms have high moral value. Perhaps one can say, an early Facebook without the option of LIKE button, it could share both images and texts.
Another interesting fact, it is the only art form that came first on the walls of temples and then got translated into cloth (Pata meaning canvas, and Chitra meaning picture) introducing the medium (Canvas) even before one could think of a medium like this, though not much credit has been given in History of Art. Canvas as a medium has been much later introduced to the western artist and the world, but in India this #Art form was championed even before Christ was born. Treated cotton cloth canvas (Patas). The patachitras are also done on tussar silk, wood and other substrates. A tedious time consuming process, known as ‘NiryasKalpa’, the preparation of the painting canvas can take up to 5 days. This particular art form linked generations through fascinating stories and narratives of epical folklore and were perhaps an early forms of documentation human civilization may have recorded, giving human beings the first ever universal language “Chitra”.
The contribution of Patachitra to the world besides the means of communication is “Art of Restoration” which were done by rolling cloth or folding palm fan leaves for carriage, restoration. The chitra (drawings) were inspired from Epics like Mahabharat and Ramayan, or Jaganath Puri as most celebrated forms. Patachitra is a #traditional#Art Form that has created magic over centuries and perhaps these oldest form inspires contemporary generation of #artist and mediums on new tools and techniques, #patachitra is one of such forms that informs of a world-class technique of conservation of Art & #Craft. Palm leaf pattachitra (or Tala Pattachitra in Oriya) is created by first waiting for all the leaves to dry out after being taken from tree. These are then sewn together to form a canvas. The images are traced by using black or white ink to fill grooves etched on rows of equal-sized panels of palm leaf that are sewn together. These panels can also be easily folded like a fan and packed in a compact pile for better conservation. The paintings were originally substitutes for worship on days when the temple doors were shut for the ‘ritual bath’ of the deity.
The range of colors are more fascinating than even #Pantone shades, these traditional painting, exhibits range of natural colors that now companies are trying to develop organically, ‘Hingula’ red, ‘Haritala’ yellow, ‘Ramaraja’ indigo blue, pure lamp-black or black is prepared by burning coconut shells. The original paintings were not having blue either cobalt or ultramarine in the earlier colour schemes. The colours used in the Patta paintings are primarily bright colours, limited to red, yellow, indigo, black and white, if one wants to identify with original paintings and forms. Few artists in order to contemporary the art for has been using all kinds of colors and forms that is not correct as per the origin of Patachitra, destroying both aesthetics and meaning of this art form, that connected the world with ethics and epics of life.
This tradition is inherited in the form of a family sketch book (designers perhaps inherited the skills during the origin of #bahaus and #ulms, this Indian art form has been practicing the sketch book format since the beginning of human civilization), handed down over generations and cherished as a precious sacred possession. Earlier identified as a man’s domain, today even women play an active part in upholding this rare heritage.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF CRAFT SECTOR
Extracts from the presentation of Iti Tyagi, Founder, Craft Village at the Workshop on Traditional Knowledge and Tribal Handicrafts (supported by DC, Handicraft (Min. of Textiles, Govt. of India), 9-10th Feb 2016 at ASNRSD, Amity University Campus, Noida
“Craft Trading can be limited to a generation, but training would empower many generations”
Craft sector has gone through a phase of distress with a desperate need to revive this sector that is connected with employability of millions of households engaged into Craft production activities. If this sector needs revival as a part of “Make in India” initiative, the time has come to renew its 4C focus for better and long-term results. Since 1990’s, 30% of artisans have left craft sector in search for low key jobs and have migrated as daily wage labour, which is bound to grow if an effective strategy is not implemented for 1) Change in Perception for Craft Items and Sector 2) Creating global brands & markets 3) Connecting Innovation & Design 4) Craft Technology by creating a 360 interface with consumers, stakeholders, artisans and industry.
CHANGE IN PERCEPTION
Craft objects are mostly seen as penury, our NGO’s have marketed them like “Poor Meal”, rather than “Objects of Desire”, and thanks to stakeholders at large, intermediaries who try and sell the rare crafts pieces for penny rather than ensuring right perceived value of hand-made products to the consumers. Today, three words handmade, organic and natural, rare has become aspiration amongst global consumers, which our Crafts has been inheriting for centuries, it has not been communicated to global consumers. There is an urgent need for universal price parity as compared to retail goods in the market to ensure a “Fair Price” or Returns to the craftsmen. The biggest mistake perhaps is that a Crafts Item is being seen as lame sector with no future at all or an object that needs “Donation”, partially true as consumer shift has taken place from traditional products to modern products, which has happened due to non-investment in terms of reviving Crafts from the point of Consumers. Government has been surely spending on Craftsmen through various NGO’s without realising whether the support is going into right direction, or just by spending money on TA/DA, giving free stalls in melas/haats would change the scenario, then for sure nothing is going to change. It also becomes point of concern, as ideal market conditions balances demand and supply for sustainable growth and development, unfortunately in Craft Sector, Govt.’s complete focus is on Artisans and the schemes has made them completely dependent on Government aid, and they have stopped thinking. Besides supporting artisans on re-skilling, up-skilling and new-skilling, the Govt. should have invested same time, energy, funds in building modern connect with consumers as well through creative brand building, awareness campaign, early education and re-orienting crafts the way Craft Village has done in past few months to avoid a situation like Detroit in US.
Craft Village has been able to connect Rare Crafts of India with modern consumers by imparting knowledge of traditional crafts through “hands on” experience in workshops, these workshops offers urban population to explore their interest in crafts of India by working on concept, techniques and understanding crafts forms which most of the urban population has lost touch with. During the workshop the narratives and stories of the rare crafts connects very well with emotions of modern consumer and help them build tangible value and broader perspectives. These workshops have resulted in “Less Bargaining” on Craft products, choosing of Indian Craft products over cheap Chinese goods to support sustainability and being part of responsible consumption finally increasing net sales. These urban populations has also helped in enhancing the brand perception of cultural products by connecting through digital and social media ending into better wages and value to the artisans. Craft Village’s training model CRAFTS (Creating Reason for Appreciation of Traditional and Sustainable Crafts) has brought radical steps expanding consumer base, who wish to spend more on Indian Crafts over any other routine objects.
CREATING GLOBAL BRANDS
Swiss hand-made Rolex is sold in lakhs, and our similar products would not even attract any serious consumers, as they haven’t heard of a brand name in Crafts of India. The names that may be familiar would be a NGO, or a social organisation which have been working for the welfare of crafts people. Is it enough to leave rare crafts of India on mercy of policy makers and intermediates, who at the end of the day busy doing their work and Craft in alphabetical order comes after ‘Z’. The Government can in collaboration with the public or private organisations need focus on brand building, and many of the Craft Forms can be highlighted through either “Incredible India” or “Make in India” Campaign if a separate budget is not available. It is very important to remember that Europeans and Americans have built brand novelty on their crafts, culture and heritage for which the world tourist goes to these countries. China and Japan have done similar exercises connecting Tradition and Modernity well for revival of Crafts, and “Design for District” is perhaps one of the best models to quote when the traditional Crafts of Europe through creative product development, systems design and creative communication has been transformed into objects of desire or brands to die for within contemporary consumers.
Branding not only creates awareness, but also enhances perceptual experiences through interface with most fascinating stories of past that could sell well, making it true that it’s an experience that sells an object, not object alone. Earlier branding was an expensive medium, not anymore with Digital penetration that could build global brands in no time and no costs through viral videos, social media and other digital marketing platforms. The only effort needed is to have a dedicated strategy to be rolled out with right marketing mix and adequate investments that can make difference and connect with the hearts of billions of consumers. In any case the fact is, an international consumer would be visiting India for either “Taj Mahal” or “Crafts of India”, not malls, bridges, urban infrastructure that is for sure better in many developed and developing nations.
CONNECTING INNOVATION AND DESIGN
As already written in many papers, I have quoted that Innovation and Design are the step sisters of Crafts, and Artisan claims to be designing the best products, if so why the stock are piling up at Craft Clusters. It is perhaps that each of craft form needs adaptation to survive change without losing its core essence. We may agree that they have championed their artistry skills, but like other products craft also need careful design intervention. To quote an example, during cluster development program I was sent to Balakati in Orissa, to work on metal goods. All the artisans were busy making God and Goddess idols, what I realized is that in a home one could either keep one or two idol of a god/goddess, so the demand of such items in consumer sphere would reach saturation soon. As a result plenty of the idols were unsold, piling dead stock and investment of these artisans who knew nothing else but making idols. I had spent few weeks training them on product diversification that could help develop something new, functional using same or enhanced level of skills possessed by artisan. Interestingly, it was a process innovation for creating products that had better market demands. Similarly, those craftsmen engaged in traditional painting needs to understand that they should use these skills for better products (as digital printing has taken over market in big way, and they may be displaced soon) to have faster movements and regular consumption, so the product innovation needs an infusion here. Similarly, god and goddess were earlier inspirations but for Fashion or Home Textiles on these artisans need to orient themselves into contemporary aesthetics and art forms that has better global and consumer connect. IPR, copyrights needs to be considered on top priority for saving sovereignty of rare Indian craft forms, unlike “Basmati, Jaipur” where India is still struggling to protect its own brand names & products.
One of such efforts can be accelerated by integrating industry in the process, where the new product development can be aimed for new markets and clients, rather than developing Craft products in isolation at craft clusters and later struggling to find markets and consumers. This model has not yet been discovered, as the industry looks at the Craft as some decorative object without realizing that Crafts are real connect between products and consumers.
During the session at Amity, I realized that Artisans are having less or no knowledge of technology, they are confined within their spheres disconnected from world and technology. In the digital age if they can’t go everywhere still they can be connected well. World has shown that by just using whatsapp, facebook and other social media many organisations have done bumper sales. The only means it takes is acquaintance with basic tech tools on their mobile that can help them connect with people, consumers, and give them global orientation. Govt. is spending enormous money in training, which can now happen through real-time technology tools like skype, facetime etc. reducing to a great extent the expenditure on travel, stay etc. The recorded sessions would reduce expenditure on the similar inputs given by trainers again and again every year on same locations, even payment gateways can be linked for making effective payments through mobile apps etc. making their lives easy for connect and selling.
One of the radical things that have changed the world is technology, unfortunately Crafts has been deprived off, and lately Govt. has introduced portal for online sales of handloom items. Still the large question remains is, without creating adequate demand be it online or offline the sales are not going to grow until consumer base increases for such traditional products, eventually piling up deadstocks.
At Craft Village regular training programs are held for modern consumer/urban population, however it is of limited interest, hence to engage wider audience Craft Village celebrates a rare craft form every month to engage urban population for appreciation and orientation. It also enables people to get oriented on various art and crafts form of India, through medium of Cross Talks and exchange of Idea through story-telling, graphical presentations, installations building interface with future generations. It also encourages Craft documentation with school and college students to understand various crafts of India for creative ideas and new product development through education, research and development.
RARE CRAFTS OF INDIA: IS IT WORTH BARGAINING?
When you go to Dilli Haat, you would find many customers saying, for a piece of Rs. 200/- “Bhaiya isme kya hai, itna mehanga kyon hai”. A small object of decoration, and a tireless and passionate effort of an artisan, is it worth bargaining for Rs. 200/-? Most of the pseudo consumers have forgotten that these items have intrinsic value that is not even worth bargaining, but Indian psyche “bargaining to banta hai”. When you go to Louis Vuitton or Cartier, these craftsmenship are also being used, used by firangi and sold in most desired manner, do you still bargain? Do these artisans to blame or the consumer who do these things? The answer to the question is complex, but not impossible, lets look at some of the reasons through which an object of penury can turned into an object that is sought after and worth possessing.
The first and foremost reason for such errors is the way these products are being sold, they are perhaps presented like vegetables sold in mandi. Remember, each craft object has a subject that makes it worth millions, the story, the culture and heritage it comes from and an evolution that is more fascinating than any epic. But afterall we being Indian had amazing habit of story telling, unfortunately those mediums, those fore fathers and granny’s have died bringing most fascinating stories to an end. Some of us would remember them, and if an object that belongs to our grand parents, they would have so much of antique value, pawn stars would estimate in thousands of dollars. However, the products that are sold in the markets have lost their narratives, their essence, due to the brokers of Craft which has turned these objects/subjects of desire to an ordinary object loosing value of the rare crafts of India. Imagine if a value system is not generated, why generation to come would even bother of what has been prevailing for past thousand of years. So the first and foremost mistake is not communicating the real values of these articles in effective manner is the error committed by Government and Craft Workers, NGOs, and the institutions who do endless research wasting government money.
It is not a national dilemma but even international consumers would perceive the way we have projected this penury, many a times on janpath you would find a person running after a gora, asking them to buy 100 bucks, no no no, ok 50 for you and then finally loading it to the person at 20, but he was a broker or a street seller who made a mockery of exotic piece and presented an image which would be in memory of these hedonistic buyers for good. Is this the way we shall sell India SORRY Indian Crafts, what a pity and shame. Interestingly, some may argue that the pieces that are sold at Janpath and Dilli HAAT is not Craft, so what do we call it, is there a name? By arguing at length is not going to solve the irony and paradox of Craft whose real value is much more than the way it has been presented and sold, as a result they have become decorative items not worthy, perhaps outdated to be kept in a home, or to be worn, or to be possessed in a world that is DIGITAL and psychedelic.
No miracle would work for sure, it is our own approach and first respect to these indigenous things that would be bring value to these objects of desire, and stop being stupid and negotiate on such priceless things, have honour that you are possessing one would build a timeless and sustainable value. Also, advise to Governments, NGOs and Institutions that create more robust campaigns that could bring the real story and meaning o these products, that make these things more salable and worth possessing, Today telling stories through social network has become so easy, through images, graphics videos and text, please use them and create valuable and shareable contents that could create image of Indian Crafts as products and subject that has so much of prestige and esteem while bringing both function and aesthetics to our lives and lifestyle.