Meet a few of the national awardees showcasing their creations at Crafts Bazaar 2013

The Ministry of Textiles honours master craftspersons with National Awards to encourage finesse in traditional craft. These awards make a world of difference to them — they bring opportunities to take part in exhibitions, conduct workshops abroad and to teach their craft in a more organised manner. Crafts Bazaar 2013 organised by the Crafts Council of Tamil Nadu, which concludes today, provides a platform to many State and National Award winners, and the progeny of National Awardees who are now too old to travel.

Kiran Varsha Patiala

National Award: 2008

Craft: Phulkari

State: Punjab

Kiran grew up in a household where her mother Lajwanti and her siblings worked with colourful thread and cotton fabric, creating rich tapestries. She would join them and embroider striking geometric phulkari patterns. Today, her family of five National-Award winning craftspersons runs a cooperative that provides employment to 800 people. Kiran has stitched an exquisite bagh chaddar, traditionally given to a bride, with 52 different motifs. The chaddar also won her the award. It now hangs in the INA Metro station in New Delhi.

Kiran, now 32, has travelled the world. She has conducted workshops in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, U.K. and the U.S. and given lectures to design students in the country. The National Award is a huge morale booster, she says. “Earlier, I was just another craftsperson. Today, people look at me with respect. The exposure that follows the award opens your eyes to the world,” she says. She says her children will continue the family craft, but will also equip themselves with a degree in the subject.

Alak Kumar Jana

National Award: 2008

Craft: Reed mats

State: West Bengal

Since when he was a kid, Alak Kumar Jana, 45, has seen his family weave the humble reed into mats. His mother is a National Award winner too. Jana weaves gossamer fine mosland mats, each of which takes more than three months to create and costs upwards of Rs. 50,000. He lives in West Midnapore, West Bengal, and tours the country. He says all this travel has helped him contemporarise a traditional craft. He also makes the more affordable regular mats. His other products include brightly coloured door and window screens, table mats and floor mats.

Shree Ballabh Chhipa

National Award: 2003

Craft: Block printing

State: Rajasthan

He created a ‘Suti sari with saudagari designs’ using block printing techniques to bag the award. He was just following the family tradition — his parents have won the award before him. “It was an intricate design. Each block contained 12 blocks, which, in turn, had four designs inside them,” he recalls. Today, he uses one of the three saudagari saris he created to demonstrate the art of block printing to students from textile design institutes. That is where the award helped most, he says — it popularised something artisans were doing without any fanfare.

Debabrata and Ruchita Dey

National Award: 2003

Craft: Kantha work

State: West Bengal

In 2003, couple Debabrata Dey and Ruchita Dey went up the stage to receive their award for kantha embroidery. Debabrata says the award lent them izzat (respect). From just regular craftspersons, they are now artists people look up to. He still remembers the motif that won them the award — plumed peacocks on a dupatta. He has now been invited to conduct a workshop in Japan.

Krishna Singh

National Award: 2002

Craft: Shola pith carving

State: West Bengal

Thirty-six-year old Krishna took 45 days to carve a two-foot-tall Ganesh using soft white wood. That won him the award. Today, he’s diversified to make everything from fish key chains (Rs. 30 each) to showpieces, besides works of art for the true connoisseur. “The award is a huge blessing for us. Where it has helped most is in providing us exposure. We were unknown till then.”

Viswanath Reddy

National Award: 2008

Craft: Kalamkari

State: Andhra Pradesh

Vishwanath 28, is from Srikalahasti, known for its Kalamkari craft. When he was 23, he recreated the Ramayana on two metres of cloth to bag the award. It took him nine months of painstaking work. He says the award has helped artisans such as him improve their quality. “We still work with traditional designs, but are improving our techniques. We also use the prints differently. From just wall hangings, we have diversified into dupattas, saris, fabric patches, blouses…we have more visibility now.”