A newly-launched initiative by the British Council aims to support local women artisans and provide them with global exposure.
Over the years, Indian art and craft have found a niche globally. But with the global handicraft market expanding, it is time that attention is given to India’s enormous and largely untapped potential in this sector. The country’s share in the global craft market of 400 billion is just two percent, though there is a considerable room for growth. The industry employs approximately seven million artisans, of which 56 percent are women.
In order to fill the gap of economic disparity and provide Indian artists and craftsmen a platform to sustain, thrive and take their art to the world, the British Council has recently launched a three-year program Crafting Futures. The program aims to improve economic opportunities and livelihood of artisans – especially women - through design innovation, ethical practice and digital innovation.
“This program is brought to India with the aim of enabling Indian craftsmen to enhance their manufacturing and supply chain processes and get exposure to new markets to grow their business,” says Jonathan Kennedy, Director Arts, British Council India, who observes that artisans and craftsmen in India need the tool and network to support and grow their offerings and business.
Talking about the initiative, Jonathan reveals that the grant program is open to art and craft organisations of all sizes across India. And the ventures across textile, jewellery, sustainable fashion, handicrafts, furniture, pottery among many others can participate in collaboration with UK counterparts. “Six organisations will be chosen and they will get monetary and technical support, while also getting access to potential partners in the UK to collaborate and exchange their ideas,” explains the director and adds that the initiative will result in substantial cultural, social and economical impact in India.
One of the four key collaboration themes of the project is supporting women. “It aims to support the economic empowerment of women in crafting communities with reference to inclusive practice and potential, that stem from social enterprise models and creative craft studios,” shares the director. According to Jonathan, the program has been designed to bring about a long-term systematic change and equip over four million women artisans in India. “Through this, we want to equip women with digital technology and tools to upgrade their skills for life,” adds Jonathan.
While there are several ongoing programs that aim to bridge the gap and provide sustainable development to various sectors in both the countries Crafting Futures is touted to be the only program that majorly focuses on women artisans along with safeguarding and developing crafts tourism. And to make the initiative a success, the team will bring together Indian and UK partners to collaborate on 12-14 month long projects which will explore new features for craft in India. “The team will also investigate new ecosystems and how traditional skills, contemporary designs and enterprise can come together to create new system and products, enabling longevity of craft arts,” Jonathan explains, and adds that there will be an advisory panel to shore up craft tourism and improve the understanding of the value of the craft locally and internationally, “India and UK partners in the initiative will enable to connect, create and collaborate,” concludes the director.