When art meets design

Telling stories artistically through craft appreciation programmes and workshops has been Iti Tyagi's way of giving back to the artisan community who need to be given their due status, she believes.

An alumnus of NIFT and an interior design diploma holder from the KLC School of Design (London), Iti Tyagi has for long been inspired by the local craftsmen who she says, weave not just dexterity but also magic, tradition, ritual and faith into their creations. And so, it was only a matter of time then that she set up the Craft Village in Delhi to not just bring these craftsmen closer to an urban audience but also to help the latter understand and appreciate their work. And now, the latest feather in Tyagi’s cap was the invitation for a preview of the India Craft Week to showcase some exclusive Indian crafts at the London Craft Week. A tete-a-tete with Iti Tyagi:

Iti Tyagi, Founder of Craft Village
Iti Tyagi, Founder of Craft Village

How did the idea for the Craft Village strike you?

It all started when I was part of a cluster development programme and realised that my dream to develop an interface between craftspersons and the urban folk all across rural India would take decades. What would work instead, I felt, would be a venue for the training and promotion of crafts and yes, to create a quick connect with the urban crowd that not just buys but also patronises crafts.

But what I had in mind was a format that was unlike the usual melas, haats and bazaars. What I was looking for instead was a more innovative and upmarket format. So, the Craft Village campus was set up in 2015. 

Here, I must add that the Craft Village was set up not to sell crafts but to train and educate the city folk about Indian crafts through a series of craft appreciation programmes and workshops.

And it is the only organisation that celebrates International Craft Day on October 15, gives International Craft Awards and strives to position Indian craftsmen with leading brands and designers.

Tell us about your India Craft Week, of which the International Craft Awards are a part. How does it benefit the craftsmen and the city crowd?

The India Craft Week was the world’s fifth and India’s first official craft week with a focus on ‘Good Stories Untold’. It strives towards ‘One World, One Craft’ that transcends boundaries. Helping showcase evolving trends that encompass regional and folk styles from across India, it was designed to position crafts in the must-have category both here and abroad.

Then, the International Craft Awards celebrate the unsung heroes who have toiled for the preservation and development of local crafts and traditional skills. This global recognition is a great motivational factor and helps these craftsmen connect with the world outside.

Artisan working on Bidri engraving
Artisan working on Bidri engraving

Meanwhile, a lot of craftsmen complain of their children not being keen to follow their footsteps for want of enough remuneration and appreciation. How are you tackling this problem?

This is a genuine problem. Many of these youngsters who are getting educated and qualified in different streams feel they’d be better off doing other jobs that fetch more money.

So, we’re working on this problem. And I can already give the example of Kritika Joshi, an IICD graduate who comes from a Bhilwara family that has been doing the Phad Narrative Art for generations.

We have engaged her as a ‘designer’ in various client projects in which she looks at different lifestyle products that have a greater market than folk art.

Through the India Craft Week last year, she was able to connect with better markets, clients and platforms.

And now, Kritika will also be part of the London Craft Week later this year.

Meanwhile, once money and glamour come in, I am sure youngsters too would get interested in investing their time and resources in the art of their forefathers.

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