Five women entrepreneurs practicing the ancient tradition of creating things with hands

18th Oct 2015
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Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “It is not enough to say that hand-spinning is one of the industries to be revived. It is necessary to insist that it is the central industry that must engage our attention if we are to re-establish the village home.”

Be it painting, kitting, carving, building or carpentry, people who have spent significant time in creating with their hands can value the satisfaction it evokes. Handicraft, as wide a spectrum as it can encompass, is not about the daily chores only. There’s a difference between doing your own home repairs to save money and savoring the experience of precisely renovating your own home. Following are the women entrepreneurs passionately pursuing their interest in the handicrafts space.


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Urban kala – Savita Iyer

Savita Iyer’s passion for art and creativity led to the launch of UrbanKala in 2012. Its product line involves a wide range of painted jute and canvas bags, jewellery, murals, key holders, and trays. By using waste products such as wood, coconut shells, old jute pieces, etc., it blends sustainability and design to high levels of creativity.

Ethnic shackSrijata Bhatnagar

Srijata Bhatnagar founded EthnicShack in 2014 to pursue her passion: handicrafts. By mixing traditional and modern trends, it offers apparels and accessories, dupattas, stoles, salwar kameez sets, handbags, statues, home decor, wall hangings, and blankets. Working with artisans and craftsmen directly in complete collaboration, it makes sure the artisans get their due and is well rooted to their problems thereby benefitting them and enhancing its customer base.

Sadhna – Leela Vijayvergia

Founded by Leela Vijayvergia in 1988, Sadhna started with a group of 15 women which has now grown to 625 women artisans. Located in Udaipur, the foundation aims to empower women economically and socially. The ownership of the organisation lies in the hands of these artisans and the entire surplus earned goes to them only. Therefore, providing them with alternative means of income generation. Sadhna offers products such as kurtas for women, home accessories, jewellery, and apparels for men.

Sabala handicrafts – Mallamma Yalawar

Mallamma Yalawar founded The Sabala Organisation in 1986. Based in Bijapur, Sabala is well rooted to women’s concerns. It provides opportunities for women to learn skills and convert them into productive activities that generate income. Sabala has revived the traditional Lambani and Kasuti crafts. The manufactured products are traditionally handmade and of high quality.

Creative handicrafts – Isabel Marti

Twenty-five years ago a Spanish missionary called Isabel Martin lived in Andheri. The women living in the nearby slums asked her to help them find a way to become economically independent. She collaborated with a local community organisation to provide a crèche to these women.

Two of these slum women launched sewing classes and began to teach other women to make soft toys, clothes, and other traditional handicrafts. Isabel used her sources to place these items locally and in Spain, France, and Germany. More than two decades after those first sewing lessons, Creative Handicrafts employs over 300 women full time and creates work for over 400 seasonal workers. The products made by the women are marketed in three shops in the suburbs of Mumbai, that is, in Andheri, Kandivali, and Bandra.

Understanding how something is made, why it is made that way, is more important to modern life than ever. Handicraft is a language of material, origin, and making. It inculcates the learning to value things. Sure, handmade things aren’t so economical but their value isn’t solely monetary. It is political and social – to know how and where something came into being makes us more invested in it, so much so that, as consumers, we become more responsible. The handmade products have distinct aesthetic pleasures and are braided with a set of values, be it localist, green, or even just plain-old fashioned.

(image credit – shutterstock)

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