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Crafting a Revival

Indian Express
by Shreya Sareen

It was while interning with UNESCO in Delhi in 2009 that Medhavi Gandhi came in touch with artisans from across the country. During her interaction with them, she realised what they lacked was a dedicated space, a market where they could showcase their talent. “In the presence of cheaper market substitutes, the handcrafted products do not attract too many buyers,” she says.

That is when she decided to take it forward and founded Happy Hands Foundation, a non-profit organisation that tries to empower artisans and revive their art and cultural traditions. “At Happy Hands, the focus is to provide sustainable development opportunities for craftsmen and encourage them to live a life of dignity. India is defined by its traditional arts and crafts, we can’t afford to lose them as it would mean losing an important part of our culture,” says the 24-year-old who chose to work with artisans after completing her MBA from Pune.

Happy Hands conducts workshops with artisans where they are taught design intervention. “At the workshops, our focus is to encourage them do things differently and innovate to give a modern touch to their designs,” says Gandhi. Apart from holding workshops in Delhi, she also holds sessions in other states. The products made by the artisans are displayed at various exhibitions held at malls and also at The People’s Project, a store in Hauz Khas–an initiative of Happy Hands that opened about a month ago.

At the store, one can find products from different parts of India like cherial paintings from Andhra, pottery from Rajasthan, bamboo products, crafted apparel, home-décor items, jewellery, bags, stationery and a lot of other gift items. “The prices start from Rs 40 and go up to about Rs 5,000. This initiative for development of the craftsmen allows students, young people and artists to be collaborative and innovate. It follows a do-it-yourself approach wherein the consumers, apart from buying the product, can also learn and create. If they have any design ideas that will help innovate rural art forms, they are welcome to share them with us,” says Gandhi.

“ Do-it-yourself approach is a good concept as there are so many young, talented people around who have just passed out of college and have some great design ideas. If they are really passionate about art and can help us in taking this further, they can work with us. It is a good platform for the upcoming designers,” says Sanchita Jain, a graphic designer and a member of Happy Hands.

Apart from conducting design workshops and exhibitions, Happy Hands Foundation has another project–DOR that aims to empower underprivileged women and make them self-reliant by teaching them basic design skills and product development techniques. The classes are held in Dakshinpuri in South Delhi every Saturday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

With financial support from a few corporates, the organisation is constantly widening its scope. Last month, it held a workshop–‘Brush, Botal aur Batti’–at its Hauz Khas store where people got to paint on beer bottles and learn the art of street painting from a billboard painter from old Delhi.

Read the original article here.

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