Can’t compete with big brands: traditional artisan

Can’t compete with big brands: traditional artisan

Master hand-block printer Ram Kishore Derewala, who was in the city recently, talks about his ancestral profession and how he keeps it alive.

Ram Kishore Derewala (right) at the fashion show, organised by Prasad Bidapa (left), showcasing his new collection of hand-block print saris.

Master hand-block printer Padma Shri Ram Kishore Derewala from Rajasthan was in the city recently to launch his latest block print sari collection. 

His new collection was exhibited on April 12 at a fashion show, put together by Prasad Bidapa at Prasad Bidapa Institute on Church Street.

From pink pastels to bright yellows, the sari collection is a mix of traditional and modern designs. “I think fusion work has a bigger impact; that’s what sells,” Ram Kishore told Metrolife about his new collection.

Utilising Dabu printing technique, the artist took about 15 days to fabricate the saris.

Dabu technique, practised mostly in Rajasthan, is where a natural dye made of lime, black soil, wheat and natural gum is used for printing the designs on the fabric.

An ancestral profession, block-printing was taught to Ram Kishore by his father. It is an art that was practised by only specific communities, but things have changed now, he says.

“The art of block printing has spread far and wide. It was only practised by particular local communities, but now people from other religions and castes have also taken it up as a profession,” he quips

Despite the availability of ready-made garments at cheap prices, the demand for the garments Ram Kishore manufactures is high. “What we produce are hand-made and is traditional art. The ready-made garments are made of low-quality fabrics. In comparison, it doesn’t make a difference for us and hasn’t affected the sales so far. People who are aware of traditional art will recognise and purchase our work; that’s the reason why our products are still in the market,” he details.

He agrees that there is an effect on the weaving industry because branded clothes are sold at cheaper rates. He adds, “We can’t stand in competition with big brands. They are required to produce garments in huge quantities which can’t be met by normal handloom weavers and block printers.”

Ram Kishore employs about 400-500 local artists in Rajasthan.

When asked what he does to retain the tradition of Rajasthani block printing, “I have increased the wages of my employees; that’s what I can do. I also work with old artisans; I have given them the freedom to work as much as they can.”

Ram Kishore’s future plans involve taking forward the art of block printing. “I want the art to reach more people,” he signs off.