Crafting Futures is a British Council initiative. This unique endeavor supports the future of crafts through global collaboration and funding across the world. The idea is to creatively use the local crafts for social, economic, cultural and environmental growth.
Crafting Futures hence encourages the local artisan and crafts community to collaborate with global organizations. The collaboration brings together the expertise of different cultures to create new craft ecosystems.
Applications for Crafting Futures opened in August 2019 in India. Out of the many entries, 6 proposals were selected. These 6 winning entries are led by Indian organizations, who have worked tremendously at the grass root level and in their respective crafts field. These industries are wide spread, ranging from textiles, sustainable fashion, pottery and puppetry. Each of these organizations are now in collaboration with UK partners exploring how ‘traditional skills, contemporary design and enterprise can come together to create new business solutions’.
The winning projects
Each of winning projects brings unique craft or local artistic concepts in the fore. Building on the local talent and skill, the organizations also bring their experience, both in their know how of the crafting techniques, as well as, in their association with the craftsmen and women. In fact, the initiative lays special emphasis on women oriented and generated crafts, hoping to not only empower them, give them their due credit, but also, to use their creative inclinations for a better and fruitful collaboration.
Here is taking a look at the 6 organizations, their collaborations and the work that they propose to do in the next year or so.
1. Empowering through craft
The Swami Sivananda Memorial Institute along with the Goldsmiths, University of London are working on the project called ‘Empowering through craft: using craft heritage and sustainable processes to train women and enhance design process’. Led by Sunita Bhasin from SSMI and Sandra Fruebing the project aims to conduct workshops to train creating environmentally sustainable products and bring women artisans from different backgrounds together on the same platform. Both, Sunita Bhasin and Sandra Fruebing have a good understanding of the community and its issues. The project will be executed in Delhi and Jaipur.
2. Living Crafts
Called ‘Living Crafts’, this project is led by Neha Singh from UnBox Cultural Futures and Irini Papadimitriou from FutureEverything. This project is a mapping exercise that will be conducted in Goa, New Delhi and Bangalore. In each location the craft will be paired with a local creative or digital professional for collaboration and learning. It aims for an exchange of ideas, tools and skills. Bringing together the different skills the project will create meaningful products and services. Some interesting creative collaborations could be bringing together a potter and a game designer or a mat weaver and an IoT professional or a comic book artist and a welder. Each of these collaborations definitely will lead to newer craft ecosystems that will bring forth a fresh approach and new artistic angles to creative expressions.
3. The Pinguli Story
The Pinguli Story is a project collaboration between Rashmi Sawant from Culture Aangan Tourism and Netty Sopata from Applied Arts Scotland. Located in Maharashtra, Pinguli is known for its puppet artistry. With the main focus on women, the leaders of this artisan community will undergo training to promote sustainable development of the community. The Pinguli community will be highlighted as a location for Traditional Craft Skills and Puppetry Performances, as well as, an interactive Sustainable tourism venue. The training will be done through various methods, including online, social media, digital marketing training, interactive tourism models and so on.
4. Desi Unn
The next project concentrates on the artistry of wool. Called the ‘Desi Unn: Revival of indigenous wool fiber value chain through local craft skills of spinning, weaving and hand felting’, it is led by Ghatit Leheru of Khamir and Ceri Jones from Feildwork. The project will aim to revive the local economy around wool in the Kutch region.
5. Women and Crafts in India
‘Raising Awareness of Value (RAV): Women and Crafts in India’, is a project that looks at supporting women artisans of Gujarat. Led by Shalini Gupta of Pearl Academy and Alison Welsh from Manchester Metropolitan University will help improve the life of the local artisans through both product innovation and new marketing skills. Kutch handicrafts have for years churned amazing creativity, but the local artisans have sadly not shared the same limelight or the monetary benefits that the designers sourcing work from them have. The project aims to explore the possibilities for co-ideation and co-creation by empowering the women artisans of Gujarat to carve out their own identity as makers and designers.
6. Terracotta craft cluster of Gundiyali
In a Terracotta craft cluster of Gundiyali, Gujarat is where the sixth project of the initiative will unfold. This project aims to familiarize and sensitize the artisans into converting their community and village into a craft experiential hub. Called ‘Celebrating Clay: generating new forms of cultural production for craft experiential tourism’ it is led by Jay Thakkar from Design Innovation and Craft Resources Centre or DICRC and Barney Hare Duke from the Clay Foundation – Trading as British Ceramics Biennial.
Globally, the Crafting Futures program is initiated in South Asia and Latin America. However, its collaboration and craft focused approach is great news for the local artisans of India. A working together of organizations with experience at the local levels along with international entities will create a win-win situation for all – the local artists, the enhancement of the craft itself, a cherished experience for all the involved parties, as well as, a creative step in the direction of overall craft expertise, expressions and empowerment.