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Carving new techniques

The Crafts Council of India's Stone Tech 2004 aims to hone the skills of artisans from all over the country


WHAT HAPPENS when technology meets tradition? Past can be perfected and preserved for posterity. This is what Stone Tech 2004, a national programme or rather a workshop for stone craftspersons aims to achieve.

Organised by the Crafts Council of India (February 9 to 14 at the Government Museum) it will bring together the practitioners of stone arts from various parts of the country and train them to be tech savvy.

"Our country is a mine of rare crafts and resources which are a global attraction. Sadly, unable to keep pace with changing times most of the craftspersons are giving up their age-old profession. We have to prevent them from fading into oblivion," says Sabita Radhakrishna, executive member of the council.

So the council decided to give a modern makeover to the technique and tools of the traditional arts. "This could increase the turnover, bring finesse to finish, push the prices down, reduce drudgery, encourage youngsters to take up these vocations and most important, compete in the world market," adds Vijaya Rajan, chairperson, CCI.

The Stone Tech idea was born when the council members attended a seminar on the new-age approach to restoration organised by IIT Madras in collaboration with a leading manufacturer of tools. At the seminar, a couple of traditional stone sculptors who work on temple carvings were introduced to mechanised methods. One successful experiment was demonstrated at the programme when a stone jali 2' by 3' which usually would take a craftsman six days to complete was finished in just two hours with power tools.

Stone being the most popular medium, the Council chose to focus on its use in modern art and architecture. Craftspersons from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Bihar will be trained at the week-long workshop. The services of those who undergo training will be utilised to impart the upgraded techniques to others in their respective regions. This follow-up action is expected to be implemented through the network of CCI's state units.

Hamish Horsley, senior lecturer in stone carving of City and Guilds of London Art School and lecturer in sculpture at the Heatherleys School of Art, London, with a number of awards for sculpture to his credit, has been identified by the British Council as the resource person to conduct the programme. Besides, Kaushik Narayan Ramanathan, freelance design consultant from Bangalore and an alumnus of the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, will coordinate the programme.

The CCI is working out ways to make the tools available to artisans at affordable rates. It has been approaching financial institutions to extend soft loans to them. Multinationals such as Bosch, Hitachi and Makita are extending their support to the project through the manufacture of power and pneumatic tools.

The programme is sponsored by the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Government of India, and supported by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the British Council, Chennai.

At a special function on February 9, the CCI will confer the Kamala Sanmaan on Vimala Rangachar, chairperson, CCI, Karnataka. (The award was instituted in memory of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, founder, CCI.) She is a multifaceted personality with a passionate interest in theatre, dance, music and handicrafts. On the occasion, the book "Stone Crafts Of India by Neelam Chibber will also be released. The Governor of Tamil Nadu, P. S. Rama Mohan Rao, his wife P. Uma Rao, Ashoke Chatterjee, president, CCI, and other CCI representatives will be present.

CHITRA SWAMINATHAN

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