From establishing a contemporary art gallery in New York to developing a distinctive felicity for traditional arts, Alan Freshman, Art Consultant & Curator from New York has been admirer of Indian art crafts. He has also put exhibition with MITHILA Smita Art & Craft Organization along with showcasing Indian silk paintings of Krishna’s Tales, contemporary paintings of Sutras and Kolams on canvas. Here he cast some light upon the opportunities for Indian handicrafts in America and share his opinion on marketing strategies to further popularise them in global market.
What are the most sought after Indian artifacts or traditional art forms, admired by people in the United States?
I believe that Americans appreciate rugs and handwoven textile from India with traditional floral and geometric patterns like Native American weavings of southwestern USA.
India has some leading artisans who work in wood, pottery and leather and these goods largely do not penetrate the markets because of cheaper and more competitive merchandise produced on a mass industrial scale. I believe that the doors can open to these handcrafted items because of their durability and timeless aesthetic beauty. Americans do appreciate handcrafted goods from diverse cultures around the world.
I believe that the ceramics from India can follow the same path as that of Mata Ortiz ceramic which originates from Casas Grandes region in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and are highly collectible. Museums acquire Mata Ortiz pottery for their collections, and the ceramics are prized by individuals too pottery.
What are the marketing activities that need to be put into practice regularly to further popularize the traditional crafts?
I believe that traditional crafts should all be traceable to their source for the sake of quality assurance and integrity. With traceability of handicrafts, the customer can feel a personal connection with the artisan and the region of origin. I imagine that handicrafts from India may already be adopting this marketing idea and common application of traceability to retail goods. It can be taken to new levels.
Besides education and traceability, I believe that there are many reputable artists that can be spokespersons and cast some light on traditional Indian arts. Many Gond artists from India today are widely known and making headlines for promoting tribal arts.
What are the impediments faced by the importers in buying the things of luxury and aesthetics from India?
American companies like to discount luxurious items and you can see numerous Indian rugs heavily discounted in the marketplace among many retailers. I think that the prices of these luxurious goods from India must be valued for their aesthetic and handcrafted or artisan qualities and not be reduced arbitrarily in the marketplace to make quick sales. There seems to be too much commercialization of the traditional arts & crafts. These crafts must maintain their value and integrity as unique artisan works of priceless cultural identity and heritage.
Given the fact that India has a rich heritage of crafts with a welter of products from almost every state, how do you see the potential of Indian handicrafts in the export market?
I see a great potential for Indian handicrafts to scale up its exports, and organisations like Authindia can leverage its resources for the betterment of traditional arts & crafts market. There is a sheer wealth of goods from many regions of India. Each region has its own unique tribal history and folklore. Your organisation has many key resources to educate the public about its rich tribal cultures and heritage.
How do you foresee the scenario of handicrafts import and export in the post covid world?
I foresee new interest and resurgence of imports/exports of handicrafts in a post Covid world. The import/export business of handicrafts certainly is impacted by the current scenario of artisan workers during this pandemic.Some commercial markets may have shrunk for handicrafts because peoples are buying food and necessities but It is important for traditional arts & crafts to maintain its presence in the marketplace regardless of the economic conditions.