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Adding value to life with art

Venkataraj K G, Dec 4 2017, 22:28 IST
A product made by the women associated with Siri Village Art in Dharwad.

A product made by the women associated with Siri Village Art in Dharwad.

Nigadi in Dharwad is a sleepy village amidst widespread fields. It opens up to a success story with a group of women sitting in the hallway of their homes creating art, in the form of quilts. One comes across Shivakka, sitting with unused pieces of cloth and large cotton threads spread over her lap, making a king size quilt. Another woman, Manjula mastered the skill of quilting at a young age, by observing her mother while she quilted. Whenever her mother was free, after working in the fields, she would stitch together coloured pieces of cloth and make quilts for the family.

The artisanship with which her mother created quilts always interested Manjula, but she never imagined that the art would bring her economic returns. Like Shivakka and Manjula, several other women of the village are engaged in the same creative profession with the support of Siri Village Art in Dharwad, which took their products to the doorstep of the customers.

A shared passion

These women living in a village that was wrecked by consecutive droughts and loss of crop had nothing more than to hope for better days. However, today, they spend their leisure time making quilts, after completing their work in the fields. Thereby, utilising the time to practice the art and earn from it. In 2015, Mamata Sattur, a homemaker passionate about rural art, gathered around 20 women in the village. These women were talented and shared the passion for art. Mamata and the women chalked out plans to create and market the art created by these women. Thus, Siri Village Art was formed, with the objective of achieving rural women empowerment by promoting rural art.

The organisation focussed on the skilful art designs that were gradually dying out. First and foremost, Mamata focused on reviving the traditional designs that attract people today. With an initial investment of one lakh rupees, Siri Village Art was established. Mamata faced several hurdles in this endeavour. Out of the 20 women who came forward, only eight could continue to work. However, the women gradually realised that they could earn something by participating in the endeavour, and a few more joined the group. Mamata supplied the raw material to the women and set deadlines for production. Later, she collected the completed designs from their houses after clearing the payments.

Promoting craft

Soon, Mamata started exploring the possibilities offered by social media. She used it to highlight the importance of rural art. She showcased the products online and soon people started showing interest and began inquiring about the products and the availability. She also put up stalls in exhibitions. Gradually the demand for the products increased and she started receiving specific orders from customers. As a result, the production expanded and more revenue was generated, and more women joined the group to create new designs.

Now, the group produces bed throws, tablecloths, pillow covers, embroidered khadi cloth, bags and quilts. Wall hangings, jar covers and bedspreads with a rural touch are also produced. With increasing demand for traditional goods, Mamata encouraged the women into making bamboo baskets and welcome mats. Handwoven bamboo baskets coated with carrot seed oil were received well by the buyers. Hand-designed photo frames are another addition to the wide range of products these women make. They plan to include food items now. The organisation intends to produce traditional sweets during festivals, depending on the demand from consumers. They want to produce home decor items as well.

Siri is in talks with Eco Village Nature Trust in Dharwad to set up a stall to display and sell the craft created by the group. The women have exhibited the products created by them in expos held in various cities like Bengaluru, Belagavi and Goa. The transactions recorded so far have crossed Rs 10 lakh, while the women artisans have been earning from Rs 3,500 to Rs 6,000 per month.

Mamata coordinates from her home-office located in Sattur Colony of Vidyagiri. Encouraged by the demand, she is targeting the wholesale buyers and setting up exclusive sales counters in selected areas. She is also associated with an organisation called Rapid. She says, "We are trying to preserve the dying art as well as paving a way for the financial empowerment of the women in villages. We also conduct training sessions for young enthusiasts to streamline the production process and reach the set deadlines."

Vani Purohit of Rapid organisation has seen how the productions of Siri Village Art have helped distressed women. "It is an effort to revive dying art forms as well as rural life. We are ready to extend further support for such endeavours," she says Dr Veena Kulkarni, a regular customer of these creations, says, "I feel proud to say that the products of Siri Village Art transform the interiors of the house. From the handmade traditional quilts to modern curtains, these products bring a sense of antiquity. The quality conscious people who like village art would definitely get attracted from these artistic creations."

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