Next Generation of Design Institutes Make No Bones About Incorporating Traditional Crafts

In Conversation With Usha Patel Director- Academics, Indian Institute of Art and Design

“Interventions from design institutes can bring the artisans to understand the requirements of the cities so that they can develop the products for the city dwellers through their skill,” articulates Ms Patel.

Shed some light on the role of design institutions in contemporizing traditional crafts.

The products crafted by artisans might not be suitable for people residing in metro cities because they may not complement their contemporary interior spaces or their functional needs. One cannot deny that artisans possess the necessary technical skills and knowledge required for the craft, but they lack an understanding of urban market demand.

Design institutes play a crucial role in bringing artisans into academia and helping them understand the application of their skills and knowledge to specific requirements of urban needs so they can tailor their products accordingly. This approach helps artisans understand market requirements and create the right kind of products using their fine skills. Students get to acquire traditional knowledge and skills.

What about training artisans in product marketing so that their products can reach target markets? Have you ever had a chance to be a part of any such training? 

DCH (Development Commissioner for Handlooms) and many NGOs and craft enthusiasts have been working in this area for years. We, as a design institute, have been involved with them for various of our classroom projects. These classroom workshops have proven fruitful to both stakeholders, as students get to understand the intricate skills and knowledge artisans bring with them and artisans understand which component needs to be worked upon to increase their turnover and sales through student market surveys.

Once artisans have a clear understanding of the specific requirements of urban markets, they can easily create products that cater to market demand and are highly revenue-generating. The objective is to cater to the needs of urban consumers by creating products tailored to their requirements.

Has your institute conducted any craft workshops in the past? 

We have a pivotal component in our programme called Craft Studies and Documentation. Each department, namely Communication Design, Interior Architecture & Design, Fashion Communication and Fashion Design, works on this for four to eight weeks each year.

Both students and faculty visit craft clusters across India to understand the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans working in the remote areas of India. With their respected faculty members, students document the craft of these natural habitats and also try to map their skills, communities, and geographic concerns.

They then collaborate with NGOs that are interested in that particular craft and collaboratively produce a line of products. Training sessions are followed very strictly, involving both teachers and students. This collaborative effort results in the creation of products tailored to NGOs’ signature styles using the artisans’ skills and knowledge. 

Would you be interested if some organisation proposes to conduct a crafts workshop in collaboration with IIAD ?

Yes, if the project proves to be beneficial to the requirements of our programmes and aligns well with our course. Such projects demand some preparation, and considering it’s not a formal practice for us, we are particularly interested if it pertains to textiles, architecture, or furniture.

Our past collaborations include working with the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) and extending invitations to artisans there. We’ve also worked with brands like Fabindia and several NGOs in the past.

How do you see the future of these collaborations, do you see that if more institutes collaborate so it can ? 

All the design institutes are interested in these kinds of projects. With the widespread presence of artisans across the diverse landscape of India, our approach involves collaborating with artisans for specific crafts.

How many design courses do you have in your college? 

We offer four design courses, namely—Interior Architecture and Design, Fashion Design, Communication Design and Fashion Communication.

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