Design Education for Traditional Craftspeople Vandh, Kutch, Feb ‘06

Design, Designers, Education/Learning, Policy, Skilling, Training, Professional Devt.

Design Education for Traditional Craftspeople Vandh, Kutch, Feb ‘06

Prakash, Aditi


Traditional crafts in India are having to redefine themselves due to the need to find new markets. A pioneering move in this direction has been the setting up of Kala Raksha Vidyalaya at Vandh in Kutch. There have been institutes to promote and uplift crafts before but a formal design school specifically for traditional craftspeople has been set up for the first time in India. When I was invited to teach there for a month I was excited, as I wanted to be part of this promising experiment. Having worked in the handicraft sector and conducted numerous design workshops before, one felt that although workshops are exciting and the results are fruitful in developing contemporary products, the percentage of new products actually being put into production are very small.

There are numerous reasons for this

  1. The workshops are normally conducted for a period of two weeks, which is a short time for both the designer and the craftsperson to understand each other’s skills and resources.

  2. Having to produce a fixed number of prototypes at the end of the workshop makes the designer focus a lot more on the products rather than the process

  3. After the workshop is over the designer is not able to maintain sufficient contact with the craftspeople or to help market the product unless he has his own shop.

  4. A lot of times the craftspeople are not able to deliver orders because of many limiting factors

  5. The products are not introduced to markets appropriate for them.

Teaching craftspeople design and marketing helped to look at these factors in depth. The module aimed at introducing improved management practices and market driven design development.

In workshops designers are normally in control and steer the course of action, but it proved to be a greater challenge to get the craftspeople to come up with ideas and suggestions on their own. Over the years the craftspeople have also become too accustomed to be told by the designers what to do, so the normal response from them is “You just tell us what has to be made and we will do it”

Being in the position of the teacher helped to look at each craftsperson as an individual, analyse their strengths and weaknesses and help them build their potential. This kind of time and space is not available in a design workshop.

The craftspeople were taken on field trips to see high end stores selling craft products, interact with shop owners, visit the Calico museum. This drove home the point that the only way to empower them and make them think for themselves is to provide them the relevant exposure. The aim was to familiarize them with the changing market scenario and align them with new challenges and emerging opportunities.

A lot has been done so far in terms of design but we are far behind in marketing the products. Issues like pricing, customer demand, quality, reliability, customer follow up, need for innovation were emphasized during the course. Other issues covered were market dynamics and application of modern marketing concepts and methods; effective production planning and cost optimization. In advanced session topics like finance planning and management the flow of funds as well as exposure to institutional support systems of government, banking sector etc. can be covered. A study of successful craft businesses needs to be taken up to understand best business practices specific to the crafts sector in India.

Taking separate batches for men and women meant understanding their dissimilar contexts. The need and the kind of education required for the women is completely different from that for men. The women’s batch required a lot more involvement and handholding but their strength lies in the fact that they work better in groups.

This programme has helped bridge the gap between the craftsperson and the designer each understanding the other better at the end of the process. It is a beginning of a process whose results will be fully realized over time.

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