Cherubic faces, smeared with paint, fingerprints inadvertently smudged onto walls, paint and adhesive streaked clothes and – ah the smug look of satisfaction as a tot holds up a master creation! But it’s only a select few who still enjoy this activity, encouraged by parents. In the past years efforts are on to help kids reconnect with the elemental feel of clay and paint and stone and thread and various other medium. An initiative to revive and even introduce India’s rich tradition of crafts to the future leaders of this country via the kids.
Kahaani Festival, a two-day childrens’ festival held in Delhi Public School, Pune was one such initiative. In keeping with its focus on the art of storytelling through music, theatre, dance and other art forms, Direct Create took on the role of showcasing traditional toys at a pop-up market at the festival, selling products for children made by seven of our registered makers.
For Sandeep Mavji Bhai Vaghela, business development manager of Gramshree, an organisation working with artisan and makers from Gujarat, the festival was a learning opportunity into the scope of the toy industry. “Back home, our focus is on making products like diaries, greeting cards, khadi and paper bags, photo frames, and bookmarks. There isn’t much of a market for childrens’ toys and even terracotta toys like little elephants, horses and sparrows are used more as showpieces these days than as toys,” he informed.
The exposure to visitors of the Kahaani Festival has made him rethink his craft and put new thought to revive it. “This was our first time catering to students, and being there and seeing the response gave us the push to revive Gujarat’s toymaking industry. The revival process is difficult since very few play can live off just making toys that don’t even have a high demand. But we have found a family that had stopped making toys and getting them to work with new designers to create a new range of childrens’ products using traditional methods,” he shared, full of optimism and excitement.
Direct Create also helped introduce the kids to toy-making and other traditional handcraft techniques through a Design it Yourself Craft workshop, conducted by Active Hands, an initiative to provide a hands-on opportunity to learn heritage crafts through interactive kits and a series of useful and engaging workshops.
Four different workshops were held:
– Handmade Paper Making: students explored the technique of making new paper from recycled materials.
– Block Printing: participants learnt traditional wooden block printing techniques for creative, contemporary uses.
-Indigo Shibori: participants were taught how to make natural Indigo dyed stoles and experimented with different techniques.
Vinita Nahar, founder of Active Hands, was delighted by the response, “It was a great platform for us because we could sell our kits and conduct workshops at the same place. It also helped that Direct Create facilitated the event and brought together the makers, students and parents to freely participate and interact. It’s important to have such festivals because crafts take a backseat in today’s time of science and technology. Here, the emphasis was on crafts as an alternate way of learning,” she said.
Elaborating the problems that cripple the toy industry, she noted that even though each of their products is handcrafted and not mass produced, people don’t like to pay the right value to the craftsmen. “But when you do it yourself, you can automatically see the difference between between handmade and industrial. When a child makes something on his or her own, they’re not only learning the craft and proud of it but also reducing the consumerist attitude prevalent today. More importantly, these workshops are also designed to develop and enhance creative thinking, precision, hand skills, problem solving, and design aesthetics. It also sensitises them to the craft and teaches them to appreciate the time and skill it takes to make each product,” she explained.
The coming together of such progressive thinkers and organisations at festivals like Kahaani are the reason why we at Direct Create continue to work towards the creation of one platform to bridge the gap between makers, designers and consumers. A new generation of children who are sensitive to the arts and crafts of India and the world is what is needed to move forward, to help give crafts and craftsmen the recognition and value they deserve.