INDIA. New Delhi: Craft Village is a platform which integrates art, craft and design together. Iti Tyagi, a NIFT graduate, a product and space designer, set up an organization that serves as an artists’ residency, a training centre where craftspeople from different disciplines can interact and introduce their craft to an urban audience. The main idea was to create awareness around craft so that craftspeople are accorded the respect due to them. She believes that other than art and craft collectors, most people don’t value the work craftspeople do.
The aim is also to start children off young, with workshops, so they are more responsible consumers of culture later in life.
An eminent speaker at Heimtextil (the biggest handicraft fair in the world) Germany, and exhibited Fashion & Home Products at Prét-a-porter, Paris and India Handicraft Gift Fair. Iti has started India Craft week to promote the artisans.
The vision of Craft Village
Almost six years ago, she has conceptualized this novel idea to set up a craft village in Delhi. She realised that to develop and build interface all across the rural parts of India would take many decades, instead if an urban centre like Craft Village is established for the training and promotion of Crafts, it would build quick connect of thousands of artisans and craftsperson with urban and global population, that aspires and patrons crafts. So, in 2015 she has started to build the first campus of Craft Village in the heart of the city at Westend Greens new Delhi. The idea was to position crafts from “Not Desired” to “Aspirational”, so that craftsperson gets the value they deserve.
Craft Week was next step
India Craft Week is India’s first and World’s 5th Craft Week was started in 2018. It is the only platform in India to bring Artisan, Designer, and Luxury Brand on a single platform. Artisans were never exposed to the upper segment of the market directly, Iti feels that ICW gives trade as well thought leadership opportunity to hundreds of participating Artisans (participation is FOC and Craft Village doesn’t charge a single rupee commission on sale and orders).
Indeed, it was difficult for her to choose the artisans, so she at India Craft Week has started with the tagline, ‘Good Stories Untold’, meaning bringing the craft forms from each region to forefront. She started with around 25+Craft Forms in 2018 and this year She would be showcasing 100+ Craft Forms, and the idea is to increase this as much as possible but ensuring that quality is not compromised. “The most important part of any event is to also help artisan train and prepare themselves in terms of products, process, display, pricing, packaging and all the important aspects that can help them fetch the better value. So, across the year our team keep interacting with artisans and craftsperson and train them on various areas, and those who look more prepared than the rest are chosen, and remaining undergoes further training so that they become future-ready,” says Iti.
When asked what kind of challenges she faces, being a woman dealing with artisans and people as well, she smiled and with confidence said, “Frankly, being a woman, I don’t really see an issue rather it is a great advantage as most of practising communities have the majority of women workforce. About the other challenges in India, we have a habit to bulldoze; we destroy the past and build a shabby future. The same has been happening with Craft Sector. Without having a roadmap to ‘Preserve’ we have gone in training this Craftsperson with contemporary. Most cluster development programs deal with sensitizing these craftspeople with export-oriented knowledge and know-how, unfortunately in that process, we are creating ‘Hybrid Skills’ which mean that the person knowing authentic tradition is neither knowing that, and he can’t match up to the contemporary.”
Promoting Indian craft is not easy
In her view promoting Indian craft is a bit tricky, as Indian Crafts are time stuck, “We prefer to see them more ‘Rural’, but the problem is if we don’t work on imagery how would it link to the perception and imagery of a modern consumer. So, changing the perception is the biggest challenge today, as it is content-wise very rich, but ironically, we see the web flooded with repetitive contents, and as a result, it offers a minimal understanding of a crafts and its culture. Why should craftsmen be just treated like workers/kaarigars, they can also become Artist, Designers or a Brand. Promoting craft is very challenging but through ICW we have been able to achieve a great deal, and artisans have been able to get the value they deserve,” Iti sums up.
Organizing virtual Craft Week is not helpful
When asked whether this year keeping in mind the pandemic, does Craft Week would be virtual, she said, “When the pandemic started in March 2020, we were first to do ICW-Digital Preview, and it achieved a global benchmark by using social and digital technology, and more than 1.04 Million People participated from all over the world and connected with Authentic Craftsperson & Artisans, perhaps the largest initiative so far using ‘Digital Media’ in Craft Sector by any organization! But the problem is there is a ‘Digital Fatigue’ and in reality, it has not helped many craftspeople, also the other reason is the finesse of craft products, its craftsmanship etc can only be seen once the product is experienced physically or through tactile modes.”
She believes that the digital mode in this sector may slowly and gradually pick-up but at the moment it is a long wait. “We have decided to host physical India Craft Week through physical format happening at various locations so that we can follow the guidelines of Govt. of India on exhibits and can help artisan begin to reconnect with their patrons. The 3rd chapter of ICW is planned between 18-21 February, and would be first event in 2021 to connect artisans and crafts lovers united through crafts,” she added.