We connect…We co-create

“Co- creation as a concept has been the core of design development in Rangsutra and, as a whole in the craft sector. Every crafts community has the inherent knowledge and skill to make beautiful textiles/products. Our role as an organisation working with both producers and buyers is to strike a balance between the requirement of the urban/ export market and the inherent skills of the community. While this seems to be the ideal way of functioning as a designer in this sector, it can get pretty challenging to strike this balance. One is perpetually drawn between the two contrasting worlds to create something worthwhile.

          Krithika Acharya, Designer, RangSutra

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Krithika has been one of RangSutra’s oldest and youngest designers. She landed up as an intern with RangSutra while studying at NIFT and grew up as a meticulous all- rounder and a gentle designer. Kritika has helped RangSutra create designs, she has also helped the women from the villages of western Rajasthan decipher the designs on paper and produce them in real. It is delightful to see how well the women bond once they learn to put on canvass their thoughts and colours and create something extraordinary.

“Co-creation is the core of our functioning and we will keep sharing stories related to the creation of products at the different clusters. But to begin with let’s start with the story of the sarees woven at Dhanau.”

Award winning sarees from Dhanau

Krithika shares, that when she first reached Dhanau, a tiny village in western Rajasthan, in June 2016, she only had an idea, a Baradi (Pattu), sample (Baradi is the name of one of the traditional woollen shawls woven in the area) and an intention to make lovey handwoven sarees for Rangsutra. She recalls, “So, there I was with a baradi and a few weavers gathered around me to figure out my intentions. These were weavers who were accustomed to weaving beautiful extra weft textiles with thicker yarns for garments and home furnishings. The idea of weaving a 2/100s count saree didn’t really appeal to them! At that moment, leave alone production of sarees on a large scale seemed like an impossible task, even sampling a saree seemed like a long haul. Fortunately for me, there was a bunch young enthusiastic weavers who had been to the handloom school who finally agreed to attempting to make sarees. The yarn broke often, we faced difficulty in winding the bobbin and in setting up the warp but we managed sampling some sarees. All this took about 3 months! Way more than how much normal sampling takes.

We still face problems in production, our sarees come in slower than our other products but the appreciation from our customers and the enthusiasm of the young weavers perpetually pushes us to keep trying. One of the weavers at the centre recently received a Rajasthan state facilitated award for innovation

From convincing weavers to work with 2/100s yarn to finally producing a few sarees, the journey has been challenging yet fulfilling. This experience made me realise the potential of the new age weavers to be part of a change for sustaining their skills in the future.”

One of the learnings for RangSutra and its employees have been the fact that our producers in the handicraft sector have been continuously struggling towards keeping alive their craft. The skills of crafting a community possesses is an identity which has been passed down through generations. At RangSutra, we make sure we do not lose this identity of the artisan, in the process of increasing the scale of production. At the end of the day, personalised designing and production found in the handicrafts sectors marks its definitive distinction from the mass made machine produce. RangSutra is proud to say that every thread that makes your wear has been individually put in place by the artisans and designers.

Krithika says, “The sarees from Dhanau feels like a second skin. The care bestowed in their making is felt while wearing.”

 Check out the Sarees made at Dhanau- http://shop.rangsutra.com/category/8542/sarees/

Crafts and Mathematics

Craft, is basically a hobby, used as a tool by the men and women to make the world identify their cultures and existence.

 The spaces we call home and the workplace are but, holistic units defining the foundations of civilisation. In the process, it is always delightful to observe a woman become an agent of change when she chooses to step outside of her house, and participate in the activity, most commonly termed as, trade. Working with RangSutra made me realise that, when a hobby is taken as the base reality of extending skill and livelihood, the community is more interested to learn as it is in a language which is already known.

There are generations of weavers, dyers and craftsmen for whom, the ‘craft’ was first an ‘art’ passed on to them, lovingly by their grandparents and parents. There are few who learn this art simply because they are best friends with the girl whose grandmother taught her how to make the crochet top. The persons grew together in a community and had tea, while their children practiced their home works from their S.U.P.W. class.

For the girls who were denied participation in the schooling system, their needle works became their sole escape into creativity. A space where they could express themselves through their needles and thread. RangSutra is a window for many such women, who stay indoors and behind veils. The women come together at a centre where they have to sign their daily attendance, a space where they are pushed to think about bringing a change in themselves and their families through better health and fair pay. The centre is a ‘learning space’ where the women are introduced to right angles, circles made with stencils and quality checks, done with precaution.

The activities involve use of pens and pencils, erasers and sharpeners to perfect the cutting of the drape, signing the challans for the customers, keeping a track of inventory, ensuring quality check and delivering finished goods as per the production schedules. The entire process focusses on making the women better equipped to handle the responsibilities of a successful craft manager. Craft managers are also responsible for , adherence to policies such as regulation and control of child labour, fighting gender discrimination and promoting a healthy work culture at the village based centre. Working at the centre, along the lines of the carefully developed work formats of RangSutra, helps develop a craft manager’s mathematical, entrepreneurial and leadership skills.

Above: Karimatji with her group.

RangSutra is witness to the reality of women became first generation earners, in their family, and the community. One of the newest women to join this group is Karitmatji from Bhadla, Bap tehsil, Jodhpur, Rajasthan. She leads, guides and assist the group of women in her village, on the production orders and leads by example for the many women in her village to step out and speak the language of maths for a better life.

  • By, Meghna Chatterji

Rangsutra- The Beginning.

The idea of RangSutra came to me, in the year 2002, while I was on a sabbatical, studying for a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution at the Eastern Mennonite University, writing a paper on Organizations needed for Conflict Resolution in the 21st Century.

It was 10 years since India had opened up her economy to the world, and the impact of that was beginning to show. There were several benefits – especially for middle and upper class educated Indians, who got access to more and newer job opportunities, as well as to training institutions both within India and internationally.  The not so good part was that rural Indian, especially those with little access to higher/ job worthy education were not faring as well. They were not skilled for the higher paying jobs, and at best they were benefitting by getting manual jobs in the construction industry in towns and cities of India, thus having to migrate from their village and having to live in slums and temporary settlements on the outskirts of cities.

Herein was a conflict: Unless India’s growth story was inclusive there was bound to be conflict due to unequal growth and large numbers of people being left behind.

The good thing was there was also an opportunity: Middle class incomes were rising, with people having more purchasing power. There was a growing demand for hand crafted contemporary clothing and home decor items. And India had millions of craftspeople who still retained their craft skills, as well as young ones who were keen to learn.

Upon returning home I met with craftspeople from the URMUL network of organizations I had worked with earlier, as well as other artisan groups and craft lovers. We decided to set up an organization that would be market oriented, but would ensure that hand crafts and rural livelihoods remained at the centre.

And so Rangsutra was created: first in 2004 as a Producer Company and then again in 2006 as  Private Company which later grew into a Public Limited company as the number of artisan shareholders grew.

Envisaged as a bridge between rural producers and urban customers, between traditional crafts skills and contemporary needs, between change needed in the 21st century while keeping in mind continuing our craft and cultural traditions, we embarked on a journey, encompassing both social and economic goals.

By Sumita Ghose