Special issue with the Sunday Magazine
CRAFT: March 21, 1999
Miles to go
Vijaya Rajan talks to Pushpa Chari
Vijaya Rajan, Chairperson of Crafts Council of India and Vice President, World Crafts Council, Asia region, has had a long and meaningful association with crafts. She has worked for the cause of crafts and craftspersons both at home through the CCI and at international meetings, seminars and forums through the World Crafts Council. Here she speaks on the crafts scene and the issues which challenge it today.
How do you view the status of craft in India today?
Apart from being a cornerstone of our culture and heritage, crafts represent a major economic activity in terms of people employed and the value of goods produced. The government, non-government organisations and private sector marketing organisations all work to keep crafts a throbbing, vital sector. The corporate sector too is potentially capable of making a significant contribution - craftspersons used help in the areas of finance, procurement of raw material, training and marketing. The bottomline is that crafts must sell.
What is the role of NGOs like the Crafts Council of India?
Through increasing awareness, through exhibitions, fairs and bazaars, the CCI also plays a major role in design development efforts and products developed to meet market demands. CCI is now focussing on developing interaction between corporate sector and crafts.
Can the corporate sector play a significant role in craft marketing or development?
The corporate sector itself can be a major purchaser - as presents for its clients and shareholders, for special occasions. They can be consumers in their own right in the area of craft packaging for their own products like watches, liquor, jewellery and confectionery. Titan watches, for instance, have produced a range of clocks using skills, and the Body Shop uses palm leaf boxes for packaging. Another untapped area is the role corporate houses could play in "adopting" a craft, and put their managerial skills and financial resources in running it as a business unit, melding together quality control, design development of craft etc. This has been done with great success in Indonesia.
As Indian crafts reach increasingly widening markets, what specific areas should the craftsperson concentrate on?
Craftspersons need to be constantly educated and made to realise the vital importance of quality, for quality alone can command the right price. Punctuality also is of the essence.
Is mechanisation a necessary "evil" for increasing production?
Upgradation of tools and technology is essential to improve productivity, production, quality and to lessen drudgery. Part mechanisation is a given in many South East Asian countries and assumes great significance in the export market.
What is a languishing craft? In what ways does CCI work towards reviving such craft?
Crafts languish because of the lack of demand for the product in the contemporary context. When necessary we have put in design inputs to reorient the product along with training programmes. Improved awareness, better projection of product quality with increased prices have paid good dividends, as say, in our revival of Pattamadai mats, Kalamkari, etc.
You worked closely with Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay. Do you think her dream of elevating "craft and craftsperson to an honoured place" in society has been realised?
In the 50 years since Independence, crafts, awareness of crafts and craft appreciation has definitely grown tremendously. Today, a growing Indian middle class identifies with craft objects and craft skills and there has been a great spurt in craft growth and development. Yes, I think we are closer to her dream, but of course we still have "miles to go".
India's crafts have endured through the millenia. At the threshold of yet another millenium, what would you say is the basic strength of our tradition?
According to economist Dr. I. G. Patel, India's crafts embody our philosophy of "Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram". They are beautiful (Sundar), practical and functional (Shivam) and are true (and relevant) to good values, goodness etc., I can't think of a better definition of our craft essence....
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