A Hundred Hands, a Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organization that promotes handmade arts and crafts and helps artisans earn a sustainable livelihood has put together a very special edition of The Handmade Collective, which has been a fixture on the national craft calendar but had to be put on hold last year because of the pandemic. This weekend, the craft festival is back in Bengaluru and is pitched to a very relevant theme: that of reconnection.
Emphasising the need for the human connection that we have all missed during the pandemic, Mala Dhawan, co-founder of A Hundred Hands, says, “Our member artisans have gone through so much during the pandemic and while our WhatsApp group brought our community together and kept everyone going, they missed the face-to-face interactions. That is why our theme of this special edition is ‘Reconnecting…’ which conveys the significance of this event in enabling member artisans to reconnect with their craft and with one another, but also very importantly, to reconnect with members of the public from whom they draw their inspiration and encouragement.”
“2020 and the pandemic was like a coma in our lives. The sudden halt hit us tremendously emotionally and professionally. It was a time when we could only recall our past and had nothing to imagine for our future. Initially each and every moment was full of fear, uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety...getting back to connect with A Hundred Hands is like reconnecting with myself. Here we work alike, we think alike and we all stand strong together, encouraging and supporting each other to save our Indian artsand crafts,” says member artist Preeti Gupta of Aranya EarthCraft, a studio that makes clay pottery to make functional and decorative objects for the home.
Making and using handmade products is not only more sustainable practice, it is also better for the soul, and as we all grapple with a post-pandemic world and its changed realities, it might be time to rethink consumerism and what it does to our mental wellbeing. Using products that not only support others but also satisfy our craving for beauty in our lives is, possibly, a very doable way of living a more meaningful life.
The Handmade Collective, being held at the Bangalore International Center (BIC) on 20-21 February (Saturday and Sunday), will see over 60 participating artist groups from urban and rural India, some of whom will hold workshops and demos as well. On display will be a range from crafts showcasing Indian art and craft traditions, including bead craft from Khambhat that dates back to the Harappan Civilization—the process uses beads chiseled out from naturally occurring carnelian—and a host of other arts, some of which are increasingly under threat of dying out, such as copper bell metal craft from Kutch, Kowdhi tribal quilting from North Karnataka, Surpur miniature art, also from Karnataka, and Pattachitra and leaf engraving from Unesco Award-winning Odisha artist's collective Phad Scrolls.
There are a number of workshops and masterclasses as well on both days. The ones on Saturday 20 Feb include hand-building with clay, basics of kitchen gardening, gardening and block-printing for children, and a talk by Vinoo Mathew, a maker of handcrafted guitars. On Sunday 21 Feb, the sessions include a masterclass in Mughal painting, a leather puppet and lamp painting workshop, a doll-making workshop, and a talk on natural dyes.
“This edition of The Handmade Collective takes on a very special significance against the backdrop of the pandemic and the struggles that artisans have had to endure. Lockdown and other restrictions meant limited marketing opportunities, little or no demand, cancelled orders and a struggle to survive every day not knowing what the future would hold,” says Sonia Dhawan, co-founder of A Hundred Hands.
The Handmade Collective will be held at the Bangalore International Centre (BIC), Domlur, Bengaluru on 20-21 February between 10 am and 8 pm