Designers rescue dying M.P. craft

NEW DELHI JUNE 26. A Delhi designer duo has infused new life into the traditional stone carving and paper mache craft of Madhya Pradesh by helping craftsmen design consumer-friendly innovations to tap the market beyond religious figurines.

Under a project of the Madhya Pradesh Laghu Udyog Nigam, and in association with Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Texitles and NIFT alumni, craftspersons from Gwalior were given training to make a whole new range of products.

The NIFT designer duo Paridhi Sahay and Kirit Shivaraman conducted workshops for the craftspersons in Gwalior in stone carving and paper mache design.

``The market for traditional art and craft items, relating to religious structures or images of Gods and Goddesses is fast shrinking. The artisans were not trained for anything else, hence the need to reorient them to the changing needs and styles,'' says T K Home of NIFT, who is coordinating the project. Initiated in April, the project has introduced 40 craftspersons of Gwalior to the world of contemporary designs while retaining their traditional art, says Home.

The state bodies have been trying to orient the craftmen to make new range of products for the last ten years as people are no longer interested in buying figures of birds, animals and Gods and Goddesses, says R P Singh, Deputy General Manager, Mrignayni, MP Emporium, which is part of the project.

To break new ground, the project was started under the Baba Sahebh Ambedkar Hast Shilp Vikas Yojna, to orient the craftmen to a consumer-friendly range of items which would find a huge market in the country. ``When we started the workshop, craftsmen were hesitant in modyfying their work. But when we made them realise that we are formulating new designs using the existing products which would open a new world for them, they were ready to experiment,'' says Sahay, who was looking after the stone carving range.

``Without experimenting in futuristic designs, we decided to create awareness about the stone and how simple machines can make new products.

``The result was a range of picture frames, book racks, magazine stands, table tops, office accessories and stationery, which the craftmen could never imagine to carve out of their stones,'' says Sahay.

Though initially the craftmen were scared of holding the machines, they soon accepted them when they realised it was easier to cut stone with them and mould it into different objects, says Sahay adding ``we also experimented with the use of `Kudrati patthar' which is found in abundance on the outskirts of Gwalior.

The `patthar' which is also called `phool patthar' does not need much input from the craftman's point of view but can be moulded beautifully into furniture.

Paper mache craft, which was also beset with the same problems with craftmen reluctant to try new products and outdated finishing like use of vegetable colours and hand painting also saw a marked change with designer Shivaraman diversifying the range to include jewellery and house hold products.

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