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Not only money

Selvedge

Selvedge guest blogger Emma Sumner tells us about the Not Only Money: Exploring Co-Design. A project she established with Katab Artisans of Gujarat, India. The city of Ahmedabad in India’s western most state of Gujarat is probably most prevalently known for being the city in which Mahatma Gandhi settled and set up his famous Ashram which, although now a museum, still presides on the banks of the Sabarmati River. It was from here that he promoted his idea of the ‘cottage industry’ as a way for each Indian household to become a self-reliant business and part of an interconnected system free from bosses. It was this vision which he hoped would help empower communities once considered untouchables within the Hindu caste system. dscn0247 In 2014, close to Gandhi’s Ashram, within the community of Vadj, it was within one such community that I established the project Not Only Money with textile artist and researcher LOkesh Ghai. Through ongoing dialogue and creative workshops, the project explored the possibilities of co-design with a group of women artisans with the aim of elevating the value of the artisan hand crafts, honoring their creativity by providing alternative opportunities to the majority of their work where they are approached solely as skilled labours. dvdv Working with the artisan group during the workshop process, it was interesting to listen to their stories about how they had all come to learn their craft. Most had been passed the skills from their mother at an early age but Shantiben had only picked up the skills from a neighbour fifteen years earlier. A particularly intriguing story was from the group’s newest member Miraben, who had helped her mother to make a specially commissioned white on white sari for the famous Bollywood actress, Nargis Dutt who she also got to meet once the commissioned was completed. tailor With the ambition of developing a sustainable model in which those involved can make their own designs for market allowing them to earn an income reflective of their skill and dedication toward their craft, it was interesting to learn that Jamnaben and her husband Premjibhai have acted as agents, helping the community secure large bulk orders. Ultimately my ambitions is that the project will develop a more contemporary approach to Gandhi’s ideas of small self-reliant ‘cottage industries’ empowering and elevating the value of the artisans craft so they themselves see the benefit of their designs and not an agency working on their behalf. Of course this will take time and patience to develop but my hope is that initiatives like this will help forge a new relationship between the consumer and maker. Visit the project's blog site. Image Credits: LOkesh Ghai dscn0322


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