Mughal combs
Mughal combs

Bringing traditional crafts closer

An initiative fosters collaborations between traditional artisans to create new aesthetics, which will be on display at an upcoming exhibition in Bengaluru

Mughal combs with finely latticed edges become exquisite pieces of jewellery when suspended on thick black string. A chequered, finely embroidered cloth transforms into a board game—its pieces are composed of finely carved lacquer ware from the town of Channapatna.

At the 7th edition of The Handmade Collective in Bengaluru, which begins on 30 November, there will be such curiosities and more: handcrafted dhurries with bagru and ajrakh prints, papier mache jewellery incorporated with crochet and Bastar rain sticks with kali ghatti art.

According to Mala Dhawan, co-founder of A Hundred Hands, a not-for-profit organization that is organizing the event, these products are the result of the organization’s ME TO WE initiative; it encourages member artisans work together and create a new product that is an amalgamation of two crafts.

“We created a platform for our members to brainstorm with one another to understand how to blend two different materials and processes to create a new handmade product," Dhawan said. The result: a range of products that are distinctive and new, yet bring out the uniqueness of each craft. “It not just brings in a sense of community but the product itself will be enhanced," Dhawan said. For a craftperson who is often a one-man show working from home, it fosters a sense of being a part of a larger community and aesthetic world, while at a design level it forces them to look at things very differently, she added.

“Collaboration is a brilliant idea. This involves lot of thinking and brainstorming on how to combine different materials, the process involved and the outcome," said Vanmala Jain of the Kuprkabi Foundation, which teaches Pottery and Ceramic to unemployed youth in Bengaluru. “Unless you fuse and combine, the craft won’t move forward," she said.

There are some challenges—geographical logistics being one, as two collaborating artists are often located in two far-flung locations. ‘WhatsApp has been a lifeline to us," laughed Dhawan. Harder to conquer is the mind-set of a traditional artisan who find it hard to let go of the old ways of doing things, ‘It is an uphill task—I think this needs to be a three-year project at least," Dhawan said.

The 7th Annual Handmade Collective will held at the United Theological College, Bengaluru from the 30 November to 4 December 2016. The entry donation of Rs49 can be paid on Card facilities will be available.