Its time our craftsmen take their products directly to their clients and build their own businesses. For decades, they have worked for others, mostly because they lack design education and expertise. A few organisations and individuals have been working to train them to innovate traditional crafts products and connect them directly with consumers.
Tata Trusts’ Antaran, formed in 2018, is at the forefront, with its meticulous selection and training processes, and the goal to revive dying crafts clusters, which, as we know, is a herculean task. At present, the platform are intricate extra weft technique textiles woven in cotton, eri and muga silk woven in Kamrup and Nalbari of Assam, striking loin loom textiles of Nagaland, complex weft ikat of Maniabandha and textured tussars of Gopalpur, Odisha and the fine weaves of Venkatgiri, which were once patronised by the royals.
Head of Crafts, Sharda Gautam, talk us through their programme.
What was the idea behind Antaran?
Antaran is a key intervention of the Tata Trusts’ craft-based livelihood programme, was initiated to bring seminal changes in the development of craft sector. The comprehensive programme aims to rejuvenate ailing handloom clusters through an end-to-end intervention. The overarching objective is to transform six pilot weaving clusters by creating artisan led microenterprises across each element of the value chain. Incubation and design centres have been set up in these pilot clusters as a one-stop destination for buyers, designers, researchers and lovers of traditional crafts.
Antaran-led community initiatives across four states and six clusters are in: Assam
(Kamrup and Nalbari), Nagaland (Dimapur), Odisha (Gopalpur and Maniabandha) and
Andhra Pradesh (Venkatgiri)
The initiative has been designed keeping core guiding principle:
• Core strength of handloom textiles is in natural fibers, hand spun yarn, natural dyes and in weaving different designs in shorter warp lengths. All efforts towards strengthening weavers, pre-loom and post-loom service providers be directed towards ‘gradually’ building the core strength in the selected clusters.
• Weavers earn most when they are enabled to speak to markets directly. All efforts towards upskilling and reskilling should be directed towards empowering weavers in the direction of entrepreneurship and self-employment.
• Interventions should be organic, enabling, and rooted in the traditional knowledge.
• Every weaver is different and will learn and absorb different elements of the programme at different pace. For example, some weavers would be more interested in design, some in entrepreneurship and some may simply like to improve their technical skills.
Antaran works towards strengthening craft ecosystems, building core strength of handloom textiles such as natural fibres, handspun yarn and natural dyes, while reviving and reinterpreting the traditional weave designs in these selected clusters for wider markets.
How many artists have benefitted from Antaran?
Antaran has enrolled 976 artisans across 6 clusters and has impacted the lives of many weaving families in a short span of 2 years. The online platform: Antaran artisan connect
(www.antaranartisanconnect.in) has given opportunity to 79 talented artisan entrepreneurs who have embarked upon their entrepreneurship journey for first time in life to showcase their work and textiles to a larger market beyond local frontiers. These artisan enterprises are scaling up and have involved more than 1000 artisans as associates. In the next three years, we will have 300 artisan enterprises involving more than 3000 artisans.
Do the craftsmen undergo any training before showcasing their products on your platform?
The selected candidates are enrolled in a robust education programme by the Antaran team. The initiative focuses on retaining and mobilizing young talent in the artisan communities, through design and business education, which would enable them to build
sustainable micro enterprises that ensure better income for themselves and associated artisans. Grooming artisans as individual entrepreneurs and helping them connect directly to markets will eliminate middlemen, thus making their craft remunerative and ensure distributive justice across the value chain
What role does crafts play in Indian luxury?
Craft is not about mass producing items to make them cheaper but creating products of an aesthetic and enduring appeal, intricately made with attention to detail. These are hard to make through industrial processes. Craft products are unique in creation and have an intrinsic value and richness which can’t be matched. When we talk about luxury in lifestyle products for the self or home, we imagine a piece of art that is timeless.
Craft is a culmination of a combination of techniques only known to those who possess the traditional knowhow of crafting it, thus, making it exclusive to those who craft it and to those who understand the complexities of the final product. This is exactly what defines crafts; symbols of luxury from a heritage that artisans across our country have been able to preserve through dire situations and challenges.
What do craftsmen want the most right now?
Most craftsmen seek reward and recognition. Reward in terms of better remuneration for their painstaking craftsmanship, and recognition that there is a human being behind every handloom textile, that it is a beautiful handwoven product and not a commodity.