Some people don’t like crowds. I am one of them; unless it’s a crafts bazaar! Being a Bengali, with our legendary love for travel, I used to accompany my mom on trips.
I remember our visit to the Jabalpur rocks. Near the entrance was a collection of soft stone artisans, selling a variety of gods, little bowls, carved elephants in beautiful stone colors- pale pinks, soft blues, dusty greens, greys and yellows.
And small urchins selling ber (a local gooseberry) in leaf dongas. A madari (folk performer) was singing a song while his monkey danced with his anklets on. I was transfixed.
It was as if I had found a different world. ater in life, during my studies at NID, Ahmedabad, a most remarkable teacher Prof. M.P. Ranjan, would speak to me on his love for crafts, his trips to the North East and his work with Bamboo clusters.
Design education also gave me a different perspective on craft – how a product like a “lota” is an enduring symbol of both good craft and design.
I did not realize it then, but I think my interest in crafts really anchored at my institute. I started my career with a great corporate job in digital media. But after a few years, I felt the calling to do something more meaningful.
I founded one of the earliest dot coms in the crafts space. This became my training ground in the world of crafts. Travelling to cities in Rajasthan, visiting artisan bases, getting their products online was challenging but extremely engaging.
However, the dot com was too early for its time and I had to shut it down. A decade back, I set up Baaya Design. I felt that there was a gap in the market for well designed, quality handmade goods and customizable work for interiors.
We started with a retail showroom and moved into doing bespoke projects – art installations, wall surfaces, bespoke lighting using Lippankam (river clay mirror work) from Kutch, Thikri from Rajasthan, Brass Dokra from Chhattisgarh, Copper enameling and the list is big.
We have built a deep understanding of very many craft processes, a network of artisan relationships and undertaken meaningful design explorations. I love this combination between the old and traditional, working with rural artisans and global designers and architects on the other.
And this is why I love being in the handicrafts space- new discoveries and journeys all the time. There is learning, challenges, creativity and the satisfaction of doing something important with the incredible skills that we possess in India