Clean Tech

Crafting stories of sustainability

Preeti Mehra | Updated on: May 29, 2022
The face of India’s rich heritage of handicrafts

The face of India’s rich heritage of handicrafts

A venture that enhances and promotes the country’s green craft traditions

In 2009, armed with a degree from the National Institute of Design (NID), Shivani Dhar and her friends ventured into villages across the country to document, showcase and restore their sustainable crafts. The exercise led them to found under NID’s incubation centre. The idea was to help the artisans inject design and technology into their age-old crafts in order to revive them. Through design intervention the products were made relevant to current lifestyles and a non-exploitative market interface was created for them.

Gaatha not only documented over 250 crafts from more than 15 states, it also told the story of every craft and craftsperson. Today, it is using the research and its e-commerce platform to promote the sustainable products made by these artisans and linking them with customers. “We see ourselves as a bridge between those who make the products and those who buy them. We provide the name and face of the artisan with the product and tell the story of how sustainable the craft is. The artisans live in remote areas. Our teams go to these clusters and equip them with the technology they need to sell online and create warehouses in these areas. The idea is to help artisans create modern-day relevant designs, keep all the good practices intact, and all processes humane and ecologically balanced with regular disclosures,” says Dhar, who is the director of Gaatha.

Gaatha has also created an online archive portal, which provides intensive research on different craft traditions. For instance, if you would like to know about the natural dyeing traditions of the country, the archive traces its history across different states. Almost every material used is detailed, be it papier-mâché, brass, ceramic, terracotta, fabric, wood, stone, wicker, leather, or bead work. In the same way they document all the nature-based techniques used, be it bandhani in Gujarat, block print and laheriya in Rajasthan, wicker basket making in Kashmir, inlay work in Uttar Pradesh or Odisha’s pattachitra.

Gaatha is also using the government’s Skill India initiative to build a database and nodal communication for practising artisans. It hopes to usher in craft-based tourism that will be eco-friendly and enhance the livelihood of the artisans. “India once lived in small sustainable economies, but due to migration we lost a lot of talent,” says Dhar. Gaatha hopes to serve as a tool that can help build that world again.

Published on May 29, 2022
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