Designer Kalpana Das gives modern twist to handloom gamcha
Sourcing her textiles from Nadia (WB), the designer aims to employ women from various parts of the country to follow a sustainable career path
Kalpana Das, a designer from West Bengal (WB) who had previously worked with Bangladeshi artisans, lamented how the pandemic affected her craft. Introducing her own style of kantha on handloom gamcha, Das gives a modern twist to traditional garments. Sourcing her textiles from Nadia (WB), Das crafts them into clothes, jewellery, bags, and even handwoven table mats. Her aim is to employ women from various parts of the country to follow a sustainable career path. Even though the pandemic rendered her entire project useless, Das explains how the Dastkari Haat Samiti (DHS) helped artisans and designers during these tough times. “Ma’am [Jaya Jaitly, founder and president of the DHS] suggested that I make masks and rakhis out of gamchas,” commented the 36-year-old Das.
With the Covid-related curbs lifted in the city, and the festive season right around the corner, Delhi is beginning to go back to its old charm. With the city ready to deck up for the festivities once again, DHS, a national organisation of craftspersons from all over the country, unveiled its five-day Diwali Crafts Bazaar on Friday. Hosting over 30 artisans from different corners of India, this Bazaar is one of the first few exhibitions to make a comeback after the pandemic hit the exhibitions and events industry in 2020. Held at the 1AQ Gallery, Mehrauli, this open-air venue has stalls of artisans selling a range of crafts in the form of textiles, clothes, accessories, home décor, among a few. The DHS founded by Jaya Jaitly in 1986, began organising haats [translated in English as markets] at different cities taking crafts from all over India and introducing these artisans to people around the country. This venture was not just an attempt to introduce India’s indigenous crafts but also to allow craftspersons understand the tastes of different consumers.
Of crafts and craftspersons
The artisans featured at the fair are either individual businesses or NGO-supported crafts projects. The crafts here range from cow leather puppets from Andhra Pradesh, Banarasi handloom, Patachitra art from Odisha, Gamcha jewellery, Dhokra sculptures, and more Adhering to the Covid protocols, the customers are insisted to wear masks and have their temperatures checked at the entrance. Each stall also has specific sanitisation booths.
The newest members of the Bazaar are artists Kuldeepak and Naveen Soni who bring Pichwai Art all the way from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. The unique selling point of their art is that they give a contemporary look to traditional Pichwai. “As third-generation artists in this tradition, we wanted to experiment with the art form. While the theme is traditional with motifs of Shrinathji, cows, lotus, and banana trees, we use contemporary art like geometric patterns and a subtler colour palette,” explained the Soni brothers.
Natural and sustainable
Most of the crafts by the artisans who are presenting here are natural and environment-friendly. Kag Pahar, the miniature tree-style painting by Hemant Kumawat from Jaipur, uses natural dyes collected by his family from the forests. Similarly, Ananda, a product by the NGO Unnati, specialises in natural indigo Shibori clothes made by women from the village of Sarfabad. “Nature is beautiful, but we are blind,” said Anup Roy, the director of Ananda, while explaining the thought process behind using completely natural dyes.
When asked what she thought of the success of the exhibition, Jaitly said she has her fingers crossed till the very end. Talking about the initiative, she mentions, “I’ve always felt it’s best to bring the artist out to make them familiar [with consumers] and allow them to make their own contacts.” She was also extremely happy with the venue, which was comparatively different from their usual. She says, “This expresses the atmosphere, which we love. After this, if they wrap a saree in a newspaper and tie it with a jute string, I feel it goes beautifully with the surrounding. We have gone back to nature,” concludes the 79-year old founder.
EVENT DETAILS: The Dastkari Haat Samiti’s Diwali Craft Bazaar is on till October 12 (11:00am to 8:00pm) at Gallery 1AQ, Qutub Minar Complex Road, Mehrauli. Entry is free for all.