“Surround yourself with people you can always learn something from. Always work with people that are better at their craft than you are.” Tony Vincent.
The connect here is the art Patachitra, which is voluntarily done by artists to decorate Jagannath Puri temple’s chariots and murals during the celebrations of an important hindu festival- the Chariot Festival or Puri Rath Yatra, in Odisha (between 29th June-7th July ’14) is now being appreciated by people outside its realm and the credit goes to Sibanand Bhol, an alumnus of SPA (School of Planning and Architecture), and Shweta Mohapatra, a graduate from NID (National Institute of Design) entrepreneurs of Collective Craft; who are finding relevance in contemporary design made exquisitely with regional art techniques for urban lives.
Many ‘chitrakar’ families have moved away from their traditional crafts, attracting a whole new generation of artists from other communities; a trend contrary to most traditional arts. The saving grace is the local government’s initiative of running various programmes to revive cultural arts and crafts. Collective Craft plays a vital role in employing such apprentices, trained under master craftsmen, by reinstating the artists’ rightful place in the society.
It’s their act of sustaining a studio full of artisans from varied crafts which is heartening, as the duo is pursuing other professions simultaneously to make a living. They have worked hard to create a conducive environment just like a residency for product development and innovation to encourage constant dialogue between the artisans, designers, merchandisers and clients. The skilled men who put together installations for space design, and interior design and architectural projects are primarily from Odisha. But now Collective Craft is spreading its wings to other parts of the country to associate with more craftsmen and their communities.
I’m sure its a daunting task to bring together talented minds as most rural artisans are blinded to the updated needs of a modern world and strictly like to adhere to their craft’s guidelines, derailing the process of design and production in the bargain. Change, in any form, is often met with a stiff opposition. They’re stuck in a time warp but the changes are happening even though at a snails’s pace; the most obvious ones being the palette, from natural mineral and vegetable colours to chemical and more colours than the original, also the designs are more uncluttered and classic than usual.
The idea behind the enterprise is securing rural livelihoods, preserving and developing the ancient, precious and timeless cultures, which are threatened with extinction or are in the process of decline. Bhol and Mohapatra are very particular about respecting the culture, its identity in context to the craftsmen, while giving project briefs to their clients.
Everything is handcrafted and environmentally responsible, so they are happily putting the right foot forward for an ecological footprint. Contemporary aesthetics with simple traditional designs left an impact on my restless soul when I first noticed Collective Craft at the Windmill Design Festival, in New Delhi, early this year. I’m pleased to join the dots for many in this chain of sustenance…..
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