Narmada Chachi

For one of our recent projects, we invited a three Madhubani artisans from Bihar. Their train was late and since the ladies had never been to Ahmedabad, I went to fetch them from the railway station. I was surprised to find that the leader of the group was a wizened old lady. While I dropped her at the hotel, she refused to give her thumb impression insisting that can sign the register. And she wrote Narmada Devi in English, a lilting handwriting that is typical of someone who has been a painter all her life.

Narmada chachi (aunt) as everyone fondly calls her is the president of the self help group. Her grown up sons are married and live in cities while she lives in the village with her husband. While we often hear stories of male dominance and abuse towards women, this lady tells a different story. Her husband encouraged her to paint. He manages the household when she is away chaperoning the young apprentices in her charge.

As the grand old lady manages the group, orders materials from all over the country, deals with clients and allocates work to the team, she leads by example.

Take a bow, chachi!

Shanti Devi, Madhubani

Shanti Devi is a single mother of three children. Her husband was bed ridden since the time their kids were barely in school. She educated her children and got them (and now her grand-daughter whose father is a good for nothing fellow) married and settled in, built her family home and is the matriarch in the real sense. And all this in a tiny village in Bihar where in 2012, I had to walk the last couple of kilometres as there were no paved roads.

A Madhubani artisan by profession, she paints to support her family. And at 60 (approximately, as she cannot recall her age), she continues to do so. For someone this spunky and full of vigour, her paintings reflect the same. She unapologetically paints Draupadi‘s de-robing in the Mahabaratha while cracking the most sexually laced jokes. Her wicked sense of humour and forthrightness is her signature.

When she talks about the tough phase of her life, she recounts the patriarchy in her village. Every home has Madhubani painters and the ones with husbands willing to chaperone them get the best opportunities. She had to struggle against such odds to set herself up in her profession. When she was painting a pandal in West Bengal, she heard of her husband’s demise. She got her son to take her place immediately. She did not allow him time to grieve. A practical woman, she says that she always knew that this day would come. But the living need to survive.

I have the education and the exposure to be the person that I am. I wonder if I would have stood up to such a thing if circumstances were different. So here’s to the real feminist, the one who doesn’t claim to be one.

I really wouldn’t say that I work very hard. The cliché that if you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work, is true. Very true. I’ve skipped lunches without feeling even a bit hungry and woke up in the middle of the night to write down a dream, cos some awesome ideas are only dreamt. Even for a job like mine, there are surprises. As if everyday wasn’t awesome enough, I stumble upon more wonder.

Peacock using sea shells

The Troikaa family is one such. With a home that will take your breath away and the home owners tastefully doing up every inch of it, this one project was a delight. We usually work with interior designers, the home owners are people we barely meet. The whole idea for this project came up from a humble collection of shells, yes sea shells from one of the family’s trips to Goa. A whole box of fragile, shiny, white shells were handed to us.

While we buffed, tinted and dyed the shells, we were convinced about using it the way it was. The lustrous, white, mother of pearl finish that caught the eye in every direction was the winner. Dotted inside the Kalamkari peacock, we had a one of a kind piece. Something that the family owns and cherishes.

Gond wall mural, middleman in crafts, SKS microfinance, Compartomos

Designer Artisan collaboration

Every time I listen to a student presentation (or even tea-time discussion) on crafts, I hear about this obnoxious middleman. The guy who is in between the artisan and the final customer, the one who makes the maximum profits leaving the poor artisan with barely anything for survival. I imagine the middle aged man with a paunch wearing a gold strapped watch and chewing paan. His life’s goal is to fleece the poor artisan. Only the reality is far away from it.

The artisan has to deal with multiple issues like lack of access to credit, understanding of his market, idea of design, pricing, packaging, inventory management and whole lot more that I can rant on about for pages. Middlemen are the least of his problems. I am a middleman (yes, another sexist term!) and I am not that guy. In a typical product based organization, there is a manufacturing/production unit, sales and marketing unit and allied functions like Human Resources, Finance and Accounting and many others depending on the specific needs of an organization. In no set-up is it possible for the manufacturing unit to directly sell their products to a bunch of customers and then go back to making more of those products. So why should this phenomenon exist in the craft industry? The maker/producer’s core competency is production, so it is in his best interest that he/she sells it to the ‘middleman’ who in turn stocks inventory from multiple producers and sells it at a higher price.

So the next question is how much should the artisan earn? What is the fair price for his product? Since craft is an unorganized sector, there is no policy on this. Hence in such situations, the market decides the cost of the product. This scenario leads to competition and this in turn leads to ‘better quality’ wares being demanded more.

Take for instance Fabindia. You could call it a middleman. Being an organization that buys from artisans and sells to the customer through its brand name, by definition, Fabindia falls into this ambit. The big difference being, Fabindia just does not buy. It trains artisans to make better quality products. Their design team understands market needs, translates them into products and helps artisans form self help groups that create channels for access to credit. The resulting products are both urban centric and rural made, with a strong flavor of the traditional form. While all this portrays the organization as a beacon of hope for the craft industry, there is always a question of how much profit that it makes? The industry average of net profit margins for social enterprises is pegged at around 3%, while Fabindia makes 8%. For the sector that it belongs, it is a highly profitable company. Fabindia employs 80,000 artisans and is for most of them, the only source of livelihood. For me, this one factor clearly justifies the business model of the organization and the profits that it generates.

Social mission is the foundation that houses many organizations, but profitability is what makes them grow. It infuses efficiency and accountability in the system and incentivizes the individual working to further the mission. Microfinance is a grey area here, it struggles to walk the tight rope between eradicating poverty and worsening it.

Hyderabad based SKS Microfinance may have taken a leaf out Compartamos’ book, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to ensure the same success story. SKS went public a year or so after Compartamos, the leading Microfinance institution in Mexico. While Compartamos regularly netted a profit margin of around 20%, SKS promised investors a higher figure. Critiqued globally (even by the father of Microfinance Mohammed Yunus), Comparatamos is seen as an organization that got richer by charging interest rates of up to 90% to its million poor borrowers who are mostly women. The success stories range from small grocery stores selling snacks to high school kids to producing homemade cheese that sells to bigger markets every year. While Mexican borrowers did not care much for the criticism or the high interest rates, the scenario was quite different in India. A spate of suicides in Andhra Pradesh owing to pressures by the microfinance institutions led to government scrutiny and a ruling that prohibited any sort of pressure to recover funds from borrowers. This led to unrecovered loans to the tune of rupees 1300 crores forcing SKS to exit state operations. While the situation isn’t exactly black and white and the factors that finally did SKS in was much more than just the hand of the government, the end result was that the needy were deprived of the much needed capital. While the Mexican counterpart continues to grow its base and help the women borrowers grow their business, the Indian story once again stagnates.

The answer to the artisan poverty problem isn’t doing away with the middleman. He isn’t a bad guy, after all.

 

Gond ceramic mural at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad

The CIIE mural

It is a mixed feeling as you walk past one of your own installations every morning. Sometimes it is a feeling of elation seeing a piece of art that will remain forever. But most times, it is panic at the thought of small chip here, a little paint peeling there and loads of excruciating scrutiny. This installation, a magnificent, vibrant tree perched high above on a dominating grey wall is part of my own office. Made with ceramic and pasted (yes, piece by piece) on painted plywood, this 12 feet by 12 feet structure is a jolt in the predominant stark grey architecture of the building.

Gond ceramic mural design team at ClayClub

The design team with the artisans

A collaborative project with Design Innovation and Craft Resource Centre at CEPT University, David Gray, a ceramic designer from Scotland, ClayClub, the local ceramic studio and our team at CraftCanvas, this was one hell of a joyride. Spanning over 2 months and sweating it out at the studio while a 1000 degree Celsius kiln is on (it is one of the hottest summers in Ahmedabad), this has been one of the most physically taxing projects ever. Interspersed with a lovely exchange of ideas and conversations from the East and the West, Indian food and Scottish coffee (no, not palatable at all!), the mural took shape.

David Gray working on the base design for the Gond Ceramic mural

David working on the drawings

The language barrier faded very quickly with the Gond artisans from Madhya Pradesh  figuring out a way to swap ideas with the Scottish designer. David spent a good amount of time in understanding the art techniques before suggesting a design. The mural was to be installed at the Centre of Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad. Being the focal piece of art at the institution, this mural at the entrance symbolizes their vision.

Installation of the Gond Ceramic installation at CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad

David working on the installation

The logo forms the base for the mural. Painted in bold Gond colours and textures, this represents CIIE as the platform/roots for every start up in their premises. The tree symbolizes the ecosystem that houses all the companies. Every sector dealt with by the incubatees here is represented by an icon.

Installing the Gond Ceramic Mural at CIIE

Installing the mural on the wall

The run-up to the climax was no less than a Bollywood flick. With 15 people working on either sides of a shaky scaffolding, the final installation was the longest 30 minutes of my life. I panicked as the massive structure swayed chipping a tiny edge, but more damage was averted by the hero of the show- our carpenter Naresh. As the final screw was nailed in, there were tears in my eyes. We had done it. I’ve heard that going through labour changes your life and makes you a different person. As I see the plaque holding my company’s name beside the mural, I know that with every project a little bit of me changes. And I welcome that wholeheartedly.

Arka modular furniture, option 2
Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Jimena with the artisan, Anilbhai

When I first met Jimena at the DICRC office, my first thoughts were not very positive. In my opinion, the very tall and very thin Jimena (from Mexico city, Mexico) would not last a week in India, especially if was going to work with artisans in their workshop. All it took was a week to disprove that fact. She blended in so well and at times, I was the outsider. The artisans took to her instantly and her very positive and optimistic outlook caused this camaraderie.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka modular furniture, option 1

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka modular furniture, option 2

The ‘Arka’ project done in collaboration with Design Innovation Craft Resource Center (DICRC) was the first of its kind. Jimena interning for a month at DICRC worked on developing a modular shelving unit using wood turning and lacquer craft from Gujarat. Inspired by the widespread ‘do-it-yourself’ (DIY) concept, Arka was conceptualized as the new age application of a traditional craft.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka-explorations

We started off with working on paper, trying to make sense of our idea. Jimena made a ton of these little things.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Close up shot Arka

Then as we progressed, we tried various designs and chose the one above.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka-Work in progress, at DICRC with Prof. Jay Thakkar

Towards the end of her internship, the workshop was busy with activity as pieces were being turned, coloured and lacquered. Prof.Jay Thakkar from DICRC mentored Jimena on the design application during the entire process. And we set up the the first prototypes.  For future use, we also developed an entire palette of colours that the buyer can choose from.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka- single unit, hand-turned by artisans from Kutch

Post Jimena too, Arka has undergone some changes in terms of design. We tried a bit with the beautiful Kutch lacquer work mainly used in spoons and other cutlery.

Arka, wood turning, lacquer, modular furniture, do-it-yourself, DIY, colour furniture, Jimena Biro, DICRC, CEPT university, CEPT, Jay Thakkar

Arka, at the Garvi Gurjari exhibition

And here is how it looked at a recent exhibition at Garvi Gurjari, Ahmedabad. The product is a collaborative output, the artisania of Mexico joining hands with the karigar in India, bringing about the birth of Arka.

To purchase this product, please write to us at mail@craftcanvas.com.

I’ve always hated hospitals and airports. I find them vast and cold, very very cold. I guess it is to do with all the swanky steel and the blinding white light. It is not a cozy place to be in. And I would attribute this inherent dislike to my absolutely Indian sense of aesthetics. Before I am banished off of as someone who loves the hideously carved and highly varnished ‘Indian’ furniture, hear me out. I love the straight lines of FabIndia’s furniture. But give me the same thing in steel and leather and I would run a mile the other way. I’ve always wondered why our architects and interior designers borrowed so much from the West. We have some wonderful materials, a million sources of inspiration and some gifted artisans, yet our recently built public and corporate spaces mirror those in the West.

So when I saw pictures of the T2 terminal in Mumbai, I was elated. Designed by Rajeev Sethi, this is the reminder that we have arrived on the global scene. The way we flaunt our culture in one of the most visible points of the country is our way of telling the world, “Hey, look you are now in one of the most gorgeous countries of the world”. One of the largest art & craft galleries in the world with 7,000 artifacts and works by 1,500 artists, the 3 Km long art walk is a definite incentive to reach the airport much before time.

For someone who works with crafts everyday, this is welcome news. ‘Contemporary’ architects and designers, please take note. We’d gladly help you install some of our country’s most beautiful hand-crafted products and solutions in your projects. Take a pick from 22 different craft clusters, experiment with modern ideas and shed those inhibitions once and for all. We have enough artisans waiting to take up this challenge. Let’s bring our crafts back home. Sharing some pictures of the T2 terminal.

Mumbai airport, CraftCanvas, handicrafts

T2 terminal, Mumbai airport

Inspired by the peacock feather, the entryway is an ode to our National bird

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, handicraft flooring

Floral pattern on the floor, T2 terminal, Mumbai airport

Marble Inlay, very very Indian

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, handicraft flooring

Jaali installation

With inspiration from the carvers and carvings in key monuments of various states, a jaali (lattice) installation

T2 terminal, Mumbai International airport, CraftCanvas, Madhubani wall

Madhubani wall installation by Pratik Prabhakar

This is a special one, designed by a friend. As you can see, Madhubani is not all about Ram-Sita or Radha-Krishna. It is contemporary, celebrates our roots and cherishes a collective memory.

Do watch this video on the process. Narrated by Amitabh Bachhan, this one is sure to touch that proud patriotic nerve somewhere.

Video on art and crafts at the T2 terminal, Mumbai International Airport

Rajeev Sethi and GVK, take a bow!

 

Lakhpart fort, Rann of Kutch

Lakhpat fort

Day 3 started off with another long journey. With all the craft work done, it was time to check out other sights. We traveled through huge stretches of barren landscape and crossed the Tropic of Cancer (yes, you can stop by and click a picture of yourself!) to reach Lakhpat. Once a prosperous port town, it is now a shadow of its former self. The seismically unstable Kutch region was home to rivers Hkra and Sindhu. During an earthquake, the rivers changed course, leaving the land barren. Add to it the high salinity of the soil, and all that is left of vegetation are just the hardy shrubs. According to Wikipedia, ‘the area was a vast shallow of the Arabian Sea until continuing geological uplift closed off the connection with the sea, creating a vast lake that was still navigable during the time of Alexander the Great. The Ghaggar River, which presently empties into the desert of northern Rajasthan, formerly emptied into the Rann of Kutch, but the lower reaches of the river dried up as its upstream tributaries were captured by the Indus and Ganges thousands of years ago.’

Gurudwara, Lakhpat, Rann of Kutch

Gurudwara at Lakhpat in Rann of Kutch

Nestled inside the village is a tiny Gurudwara. Guru Govind Singh had stayed here during one of the visits and the house eventually was converted into a gurudwara. We were greeted by the local caretaker and offered tea and refreshments. He told us some wonderful stories (including the one above) about the history of the place. From the Gurudwara, we walked up the Lakhpat. Owing to it’s proximity to Pakistan, the fort is guarded by military personnel. Living away from their families for long durations, these men serve in difficult conditions. From their vantage point, we could see an endless stretch of water almost merging with the sky. Some fishermen were going about their daily business.

Mandvi, ship building, Great rann of Kutch

Ship building at Mandvi, Great rann of Kutch

The trip to Mandvi from Lakhpat is a long one. But one that no-one should miss. Mandvi is a beach town and is home to the local ship building industry. A highly complex structure (architecturally speaking) is made without a single design on paper. The master-craftsman is an expert with decades of experience and his measurement using very crude tools is precise. These little ships traverse the sea all the way to Singapore, Dubai and even Africa. Over tea, the builders and the sailors were reminiscing about days spent at sea, Somalian pirates and sea-storms. I could have very well imagined to be on the sets of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. In Mandvi, do check out the palace if you find time.

Every trip has a trip photograph and we had ours! With all this done, we headed back to the hotel to pack up and leave. Another trip with loads of crafts, sights and memories!

P.S: Best time to travel to Kutch is October to February.  There are only a couple of stay options near the desert, so make your bookings in advance. Also these options are open only during season. We traveled off-season and hence used Bhuj as the base and traveled back every night. Though very exhausting, this is possible.

Also it is best to hire a cab from Bhuj as local transport is not well connected. Keep food and water handy as you will travel long stretches without scope for both. Also if driving on your own, make sure to have back-up fuel. As the Rann is close to the border, you need a permit to enter it. So make sure you stop before turning to Hodka to get your permit. 

As we woke up refreshed on day 2, we were all excited to hit the road. After all, we had crafts waiting for us at the other end. Our first stop was at Nirona, the village famous for its abundance of crafts. We stared off meeting Jabbarbhai, the youngest member of the last couple of families involved in Rogan art.

Rogan painting, Kutch tourism, Nirona, Bhuj

Jabbarbhai, Rogan artist

Rogan art (ironically) was a cheaper and faster alternative to embroidered fabrics. Embroidery is a time consuming process. Embroidered fabrics were given away as part of a girl’s dowry and hence the outcome had to be of superior quality. It is the mandatory skill that a mother passes on to her daughter as early as when she is 4 or 5 years old. The daughter-mother duo then embroider the clothes that the young bride would take with her to her marital home. So Rogan painters came up with a quick fix. Apply paint to one side of the fabric and then fold it to form a mirror impression on the other side. Lo and behold, you have a complete design and much quicker than it would taken to embroider it. Over years, this family has fine-tuned the process making this art too a highly precise one. Now some of their paintings sell for much more than their embroidered counterparts.

Copper bells, Nirona, Kutch, Bhuj, Rann of Kutch

Salimbhai, copper bells making

After a long chat over a cup of chai and haggling over a painting, we overshot our schedule by a good hour. We then proceeded to the copper bell makers. I am not dwelling on the process in this post, if interested you can read it here. The bell makers graciously show us the process of making a bell. A bell is known to be one of the most complex acoustical instruments to make. To see these artisans with minimal tools shaping out these wonders in multiple numbers is a wonder. You can buy bells in 13 sizes, bells made into interesting wind chimes and a lot more here.

Wood turning, lacquer, Kutch, Khamir, Rann of Kutch, Bhuj, Nirona

Wood turning and lacquer, Kutch

The bell makers accompanied us to the lacquer artisan Bhaiyyabhai’s home. Just while we were there, a bunch of foreign tourists walked in. As is the case always, we were asked to wait till the guests leave. We helped the artisan by explaining the process in english and at the end of it, we were family! We bought some little take-aways ourselves.

Wood carving, Gandhi nu Gaam, Khavda, Shaam-e-Sarhad, Kutch, Rann of Kutch

Wood carving, Gandhi nu gaam

With a whole lot left to do for the day, we quickly wrapped up our conversations and headed to Gandhi nu gam. Here we met Aacharbhai, the village head and wood carver. His beautiful geometric designs were converted into furniture. Personally I wish he’s not ‘varnished’ the wood. It was too glossy for my liking, but I did make a mental note on the designs for future use. At the end of this, we realized that we did not have any lunch options. We decided to check out Khavda, where we found the hidden gem-Qasab. The centre there is similar to Shrujan, though the focus in embroidery was much more local. They also had some interesting info on different musical instruments. On lunch, we saw some tourists (who had made prior arrangements for lunch) have their delectable Gujarati thali here. They wasn’t any left for us, so we had to scout for another place. Of course, not before hoarding beautifully hand-crafted bags and pouches. Word of advice- When in Kutch (and traveling without a local guide), carry your own food. Though the hospitable locals may offer food in their homes, it is better to have an option in your bag.

Shaam-e-Sarhad, Hunnarshala, Rann of Kutch, Hodka, Kutch, Bhuj

Shaam-e-Sarhad eco-resort, Hodka

Hodka is the best of all Kutch villages. Shaam-e-Sarhad is in season is the place to stay. If by any chance you happen to visit Kutch during winter and miss out on this experience, I would count it as life’s biggest regret. The food here is par excellence and the hospitality addictive. Designed by Hunnarshala, built and run by the locals, this place is a perfect example of the outcome of the marriage between design capabilities and local skills.

Dhordo, Rann of Kutch, Lippan Kaam, mud and mirror relief work

Lippan Kaam-mud and mirror work artisan

From here  we rushed to see the Rann before the sunset. Though the local folk strongly suggested that we’d be wasting our time as the Rann is still inundated, we decided to take a chance. And we are glad we did! We reached dhordo, the last village near the border. Here we met the local sarpanch (village head) Mia Hussain who introduced to a famous artisan and Sufi singer- Mutva Mehmood Iliyas. We found the artisan working in a tiny room with his television tuned into Sindhi channels aired from the neighbouring country! Though partition was a difficult time for people living in the border, they still have relatives on either side making the geographical demarcation almost meaningless. With me were friends whose families had crossed over to India during the partition in 1947. It was almost a re-union of sorts for them. Mehmoodbhai rendered a Sufi song for all of us.

With our hearts filled with love for our new found friends, we decided to culminate the day with a visit to the Rann. The border personnel were kind enough to let us in considering there were no other tourists. The Rann was filled with water on all sides, as far as the eye could see. The salt was crystallizing in the dried up areas creating a white sheet on the surface. We were spellbound. Nothing could have prepared us for this wonderful sight.  Like little children, we trampled all over the gooey sand, tasted salt fresh off the water and let our minds focus on our irrelevance in the larger scheme of things. We were but a tiny speck in this universe. Word of advice-Please remember that you need to take a permit at the military checkpost (at the turn to Hodka) to visit the Rann.

On the way back on this long day, one thing that stood out was the strong familial bonds. Be it the Rogan painters, the bell makers or the lacquer artisans and even Mehmoodbhai who looked forward to meeting his relatives on the other side, every person in the family was part of life and work. So family matters, the most.

For more pictures of my Kutch trip, please click here and here.

 

Rann of Kutch, White desert, Kutch handicrafts

Rann of Kutch

When you step into the Rann, the first thing that strikes you is the expanse. The white desert that extends in each direction as far as the eye can see. Mirages, white sand, crystal salt and a little water on the surface is all that’s visible. No human, no animal, no life at all. It is a sort of catharsis, purging all the crowded thoughts. Suddenly, the mind’s lens refocuses into the most important thing in your life. In a short span of time, your mind is all cleared out and formatted.

Kutch, Rann of Kutch

Clothes worn by Kutch people

This land of whiteness is a backdrop to a million colours. The brightly dressed women gleam with their little mirrors all over. Kutch is a melting pot of various cultures. The blend of the local Gujarati culture with the adjacent land of Sindh is vivid in every aspect- food, language, cultural practices. I had a whirlwind tour of Kutch a couple of months ago. In an effort to cover the whole of the region in 4 days, we relentlessly travelled across the largest district in the country. Bhuj has a local airport with flights from Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Or you could take a night train/bus to Bhuj from Ahmedabad (about 7 hours away)

 Day 1: We landed in Bhuj at 7 am. Bhuj is a quiet little town that shoulders it’s responsibility of being the gateway to one of the best tourist attractions very well. A motley of new budget friendly hotels have sprung up all over the place to accommodate tourists with all kinds of pockets.

Bhujodi, durrie, woolen kutch shawls

Bhujodi durrie weaving

After breakfast, we headed out to the local Bhujodi, a local market with a host of shawl weavers. Make sure you pick up a warm shawl for the cold winter nights here. On the way to this place, make sure you check out Shrujan. This beautifully done up craft centre is the place of work for women embroiders from various communities of Kutch. These women interact with designers here creating masterpieces. Prices are certainly on the higher side, but owning such an impeccably crafted piece is definitely worth it. The plan was to head to Ajrakhpur next. But we had spent too much oogling at the beauty of these fabrics.

Hunnarshala, Vernacular architecture, craft based architecture

Hunnarshala, vernacular architecture

We headed to Hunnarshala, the mecca of eco-friendly and vernacular architecture research. Hunnarshala is a heavily guarded secret. One look at the place and you will desist coming back to your steel and glass home. You will crave for the practicality and earthiness of the vernacular architecture in your home. They are now training the local craftspeople/youth in carpentry and masonry techniques. So next time, you are looking to redo/built your home, please look them up.

The evening was spent strolling along the local market. We tasted some roadside samosas (hot pockets filled with potato/lentils and deep-fried), khakra and various pedas (milk-sweets). The market is also home to a variety of silver jewellers. But we were too exhausted to explore any further.

Stay tuned for more and do check out my co-traveller’s blog for an indepth exploration on Gujarati food all over the state.