“Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso
Art is inspiring, aesthetic and motivating but above all it is very subjective. Holding centuries of history in every community, country and culture, art in its novel form indulging in traditional styles and skills is withering away. The demand for Indian traditional art and handicraft remains high in the market but craftsmen are detaching themselves from their gifted and acquired skills as it does not make their ends meet. The competition from the new age and well exposed designers & artists, struggle to sell to the right market and the lack of much demanded modern sensibility and finishing – all are pushing the rural and underprivileged craftsmen and artists to give up on their art & skills. Inspiration and passion does not fill up their empty stomachs after all.
Navya Agarwal, a 23 year old product design graduate from Raffles Millennium International, experienced the same first hand while redesigning the furniture at her home. She was co-ordinating with some carpenters from a small village near her hometown, Sitapur – a small town in the state of Uttar Pradesh. She thought of putting their skills to test and asked them to create miniature mock-ups of her furniture designs before taking up the project. To her pleasant surprise, the small furniture pieces were carved out to perfection and that too without any use of modern machinery, all done with traditional wood work techniques.
The 4 carpenters amazed her with their skills and made her believe in the potential of rural Indian craftsmanship. After that day, she started going to nearby villages and asked people to portray their talent and art. She also asked her house help, the driver, the neighbors’ cook – anyone and everyone- about what skills they possess and what do they like to do. She was astonished by the talent she found, determined to pay them their art’s worth and revive their interest in their passion. With the same in mind, Navya started ‘I Value Every Idea’ this April. IVEI is an initiative to support and encourage craftsmen who possess the skills but lack opportunities. Their skills and Navya’s designs come together to create handicraft products with India’s ethnicity and new age style and sensibility.
IVEI has a team of 12 – a talented lady who used to clean houses to earn a living now works as a crochet artist, Navya’s driver’s niece shows her hand at the plastic bora work, the 4 carpenters are using their skills in wood craft and karigari, a handicapped girl from a nearby village Tareenpur takes charge of mitti ke khilaune collection and a young girl from the town is following her passion for mehendi designing by converting it to mehendi kala collection.Talking about various aspects of IVEI, Navya says, “All of the artists in the team have amazing skills but have not got any exposure to the markets. They were hungry for making and learning something new every minute but had no idea how to get paid for it.” The first and foremost problem which Navya faces is communicating with the team members efficiently where her mother chips in and helps her. “I know Hindi properly but I cannot speak and understand the dialect many of my team members speak and they do not know English. It becomes difficult to communicate the intricacies of design.”
She vividly remembers an innocent request from her team member asking her to teach her English instead of paying her in cash. With IVEI, the freelance graphic designer and a well taught product designer, Navya, has taken up to designing the products matching the skills of her team, teaching them basic English and bridging the gap between thriving art in the underprivileged society and the modern markets.
Navya has set up a small workshop in Sitapur where she provides these artists with basic resources, tools, design and guidance. All of them get paid on a per hour basis and are earning more than they used to doing what they love doing. The first batch of products from IVEI is ready and Navya has planned on exhibiting it in 3 upcoming exhibitions in Bangalore, Kanpur and Delhi and later on selling it by partnering with handicraft and designer stores and e-commerce portals. Currently IVEI products can be bought from ‘ItsHandMade’- an online marketplace for all things handmade. She has just started a month back and there is a long way to go.Website: IVEI
If you wish to see IVEI’s first collection, visit the exhibition Sunday Soul Sante at Manpho Convention Centre, Bangalore on June 9th.