Millennium Post

When artist meets the art lover

An artist at Dastkari Haat gets to understand/observe the market closely and sell his original work to the customers without involving any middle man

This is my first time at Dastkari Haat and I am enjoying it. The kind of love and warmth I have received is amazing. The visitors here value our art and that is something I miss at many places I go, said Suniti Kar, a papercraft artist from Bangladesh.

The 34th edition of Dastkari Haat, an annual crafts bazaar has brought artists from Bangladesh to exchange craft skills with Indian artists through various workshops.

The craft bazaar was inaugurated on January 3 by the Dastkari Haat Samiti at Dilli Haat, New Delhi and will go on till January 15.

The 15 day workshop supported by the O/o Development Commissioner Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles aims to bring Indian and Bangladeshi artists together at one platform to exchange their skills and craft to create some innovative art pieces.

Dastkari has not only provided a platform for the artists to sell their art and crafts but also helped them in their overall development. With time, artists have learned a lot by interacting and meeting art lovers.

At craft bazaar, artists get to meet the customer directly and understand what exactly they want, which further helps in keeping themselves updated with the market demand.

Kalpana Das, an artist from North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, who excel in making fabric jewellery out of gamcha fabric (handloom towel) spoke to Millennium Post about her journey as an artist and her three-years of association with Dastkari Haat.

"I have received a very good response at Dastkari Haat. It is a wonderful platform for artists to bring their art as you get to show it in its original form. Selling our original work, meeting new people and understanding the market – we do it on our own, there is no middle man."

The opportunity of one and one interaction with the customer helps the artists to understand what next to make or create. The platform has introduced them with exporters and buyers and helped them to get "orders from various boutiques and collaboration opportunities with other artists"– basically it has opened up the market for them.

Kalpana who is very excited about participating in a workshop with her Bangladeshi counterpart Shwettaj, said, "This year, Bangladeshi artists are sharing the space with us which in itself is very exciting as we will be sharing our ideas and techniques to create something unique."

Using the fabric like Gamcha to make jewellery and accessories has been Kalpana's passion since 2005. She started her own fashion house 'Rangila Dhaga' with 15 other artists/trainees in North 24 Parganas to help artists from different villages in West Bengal who have lost their art of handloom gamcha due to the rise of the power loom. "Gamcha is a very colourful fabric and I wanted to bring it into fashion. First, I started with making jewellery with this fabric then I explored various ideas of using this fabric besides as a towel; for example as accessories, diary cover, dresses, bag, jewellery so that the handloom production of gamcha gets an increase," Kalpana added.

Shwettaj Jahan, a Bangladeshi counterpart of Kalpana has a similar story to tell. Jahan, who hails from Chuadanga district in Bangladesh, works with Rohingya immigrants and teaches them jewellery design, nokshi kantha and other skill-based art forms to make them self-independent.

The 32-year-old Jahan excels in making silver and beej (upcycled seeds) jewellery and accessories. Talking about her first experience at Dastkari Haat, she said, It feels amazing to meet so many talented artists from different states at one place. It gives you an opportunity to explore art and the rich culture behind it."

Before, I never got such a platform to showcase my craft but here, I got a space to display and the freedom to experiment with my imaginations," added Jahan.

Art has widened its area of being a talent to a way of becoming self-independent, especially for women of our country. Shanti Paswan, a Delhi-based papercraft artist who provides free of cost training to eight girls, also see art as an opportunity to become independent and self-sustainable.

Paswan, who runs Jan Sandesh group, makes accessories out of waste cloths. She does designing and production on her own. "Sometimes I go on my own to collect waste/extra clothes from different tailors and shops. Mostly, people donate to us and I create art out of it."

Jaya Jaitly, President of Dastkari Haat Samiti explained the vision behind curating Dastkari Haat platform and the challenges she faced. "This is our 16th year of craft exchange. Every year we invite a new country to come and explore the art with our artists. It is a very difficult task as I have to do a lot of research to understand which country should I call and what all artists should I invite," she said.

Dastkari Haat is serving the purpose of bringing good and interesting art and craft from different countries in India. The platform teaches the artists how to find commonality and learn from each others' differences." Shedding some light on the purpose, Jaitly said, "Daastkari introduces Indian art and culture to our visiting country. Unfortunately, Delhi tourism has put in a lot of traders. We have to fight back to keep the originality, genuineness." More than anything else platform like Dastkari inspires and encourage the artists and opens up the windows of ideas. Adding to that Jaitly said, "Artists get the feedback about what gets sold in the market and what does not. "They gain a lot of market knowledge with human interaction without expanding a lot of money on market research and fancy presentations," added Jaitly.

The Bangladeshi artisans, who participated in Dastkari Haat, has been paired with their Indian counterpart, named, Tahera Begum, Bangladesh and Alima Khatun, West Bengal (Nakshi Kantha); Suniti Kar, Bangladesh and Umar Daraz, New Delhi (Handmade Paper); Shwettaj Jahan Bangladesh and Kalpana Das, West Bengal (Fabric Jewellery); Md Harun, Bangladesh and Shivkumari, UP (Bamboo basket weaver); Joshna Begum, Bangladesh and Shanti Paswan, New Delhi (Paper products)

This year's theme is recycle and sustainable art-crafts. The innovative art pieces thus created in the workshops will be displayed on January 14 and 15.

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