Collective Craft: Orissa based Craft & Design Startup

24th Oct 2011
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Collective Craft

Collective Craft works towards engaging traditional handicrafts in contemporary product space and communication design.In conversation with Abhilasha Dafria for YourStory.in, Sibanand Bhol tells us how this collaborative work towards securing rural livelihoods by generating work opportunities for artisans through interventions and innovation in design and technical processes.

Also, Sibanand Bhol was one of the finalists at British Council’s Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, 2006. To know more about the Young Design Entrepreneur Awards, click here. Follow the Young Creative Entrepreneur Awards (YCE) on Facebook

Sibanand, tell us a little about yourself.

I am an architect from the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. I wanted to engage traditional crafts skills in contemporary design, primarily in architecture. I traveled widely in Orissa living and working with artisans in remote villages – observing, learning, exchanging ideas and inspiring artisans to perceive their work from different dimensions.

Through Collective Craft, I work towards creating environmentally responsible design solutions. Designing products with crafts is the inception where the larger issues of a sustainable environment and livelihoods begin to get addressed. Much of the studio’s current work is, therefore, focused on product design. The studio also works with other Architects and Designers to design and produce customized craft products, installations and spaces.

Collective Craft
Shweta Mohapatra, my co-designer in the studio, is a visual artist and a graduate of National Institute Design. Shweta was drawn towards traditional art techniques like Pattachitra and Madhubani and their potential use as a medium of storytelling. She has co-directed a film for the Children Film Society of India, has worked with various television channels and has illustrated several children’s books.

Tell us more about how Collective Craft works.

Collective Craft is envisioned to function as a group of professionals across disciplines, like architecture, engineering, communication design, product design and crafts that designs and builds projects that are environmentally responsible and have a smaller ecological footprint. The group works as a collaborative that draws inspiration from the individual and collective skills of all its members. Our work has a very contemporary aesthetic but also draws inspiration from the traditional design expressions. The collaborative also acknowledges and respects the culture, identity and context of its members, clients and the project site.

Since when are you operational? How big is your team?

We have been operational since 2007, but it was not until 2010 that we started marketing. The initial years were spent on research and product development. Our core team is 10 people, but we do work with other consultants and artisans as per project requirements.

Where do you operate from?

Collective Craft has a design studio in New Delhi and a workshop in Orissa. The studio works with individual artisans and artisan groups in different locations.

What were the initial challenges you faced while working with the artisans?

One of our greatest hurdles has been to initiate a dialogue with artisans and include them as participants in the whole philosophy, design and production process. Change, in any form, is often met with stiff opposition, as most artisans consider their craft as an expression that is static and frozen in time. Over longer periods of continuous exchange of ideas, many artisans have showed an understanding and appreciation of the viewpoint that their craft form can be dynamic and evolve with time to reflect contemporary thought in design. The second largest hurdle has been funds to invest into infrastructure and facilities. Production often requires a judicious use of new machines and tools, work places and raw material right from the prototyping stage. Resource allocation towards these requirements is difficult at the onset before production is streamlined and sales materialize.


Collective Craft

So, are you looking a raising money now? We have never attempted fund-raising, being entirely dependant on our own resources. We are considering getting funded now, as we need to scale up and work faster to build a larger and wider network of artisans.

What is your USP? 

Collective Craft was started in Orissa and most of our work even today is centered in that state. We are proud of working in Orissa where we have come across some of the most gifted artisans. The state has some of the poorest people, and we wish to help and benefit a large number of individuals and groups working across the state.

Our products are inspired from traditional architecture and carvings of the temples in Orissa. We interpret and contextualize these age-old design expressions onto contemporary products. Communication Design projects are deeply inspired from ancient story telling traditions and crafts like Pattachitra. Space Design projects often use local materials and building techniques and respond to immediate site parameters.

There are very few ‘craft and design’ startups based in Orissa and having a smaller footprint has helped us uniquely position and identify our products with the exquisite craftsmanship of the Oriya artisan.

Where and how do you see yourself going ‘bout this? Making it bigger? 

We strive to design, seek and adopt materials and processes that have smaller ecological footprints and are environmentally responsible. From smaller products and projects our product lines will eventually include textiles, furniture, architectural hardware and fittings, lighting, etc. The larger objective, however, will always be to include and benefit more artisans and artisan communities.

Check out Collective Craft for some amazing designs. 

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