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    Craft Council’s store, Kamala brings more than just handicrafts  to the city

    The 1,000 sq feet store at the Co-optex grounds on Pantheon Road is abuzz with anticipation. Heaps of rich textiles vie for space among gorgeous handmade jewel boxes with Madhubani paintings, hand mirrors made from wooden printing blocks and marble boxes with mother-of-pearl lids. “The clamour for a Kamala store in the city has been getting louder and we finally had to give in,” says Gita Ram, chairman of Craft Council of India, with a laugh, as we explore the city’s first CCI store that opens its doors today. Having set up their flagship store in Delhi in 2005, the CCI has been helping to create viable business avenues for artisans across the country. With all things handmade seeing a revival in the country, Gita believes that the time is right to set up a storefront at the organisation’s headquarters.

    Road to revival
    While we have been drawn to their exhibitions every time they have showed in the city, nothing prepares us for Narendra Kumar Verma. A simple man whose day begins before sunrise, Narendra’s raison d’être was revealed when as a teenager he attended a CCI workshop. “I was part of a design seminar. Then I was invited by one of the tutors to be a part of a 45-day diploma course in the City and Guilds London Art School,” says the craftsman from Agra, who started off as a mere stone artisan. Since then he has won the UNESCO Seal of Excellence in Handicraft in 2006, 2008 and 2012, and today his exquisite stone jaali work boxes can be found at all the CCI outlets. Narendra is just one of the artisans that the 53-year-old CCI has nurtured from among its database that runs into hundreds from Bihar, Agra, Varanasi, Delhi and Tiruneveli. This revival of forgotten crafts and livelihoods is at the heart of Kamala — where every durry, copper lamp and wooden box has a story behind it, just like that of Narendra, whose life was changed forever thanks to CCI.

    Tradition on demand
    Attempting to showcase the best in arts and crafts, Kamala will put the spotlight on specially designed products developed by artisan clusters from across the country. Expect to see a range of mats, coasters, and serve ware in terracotta, stone, ceramic and metal, porcelain cups on saucers of carved stone jaali, wooden toys, printed paper mâché platters and more. “CCI aims at making handicrafts commercially viable. Artists might not be able to sell a Madhubani painting as it is. With inputs from our team, artisans replicate these paintings onto smaller boxes, which in turn have faster over-the-counter sales,” says Pushpa Chari, a member of CCI.

    Rs 200 onwards. Kamala opens today at 10 am. Details: 28191457

    — Rebecca Vargese

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