Just got back from Hupari, a small village near Kolhapur, Maharashtra.
The National Institute of Design (NID), has been organising workshops for artisans and people from the handicraft sector to sensitise them towards Design; and this scheme actually helps the MSME sector get some funding from the Government. It’s a good initiative.
One such cluster of artisans are the silver jewellery makers from Hupari. Three of us from the design field- Rashmi Ranade, Surya Tikekar and I were invited to sensitise this village on Design, and how a design intervention can add value to their profession.
Well, the presentation obviously was in Marathi. So I took help of a designer friend Pankaj Sapkal to put my presentation together. And I must say, the impact was good.
A little bit of history first.
The art of making silver jewellery started in 1904 and since then, there are generations of skilled people working on this art. Today, there are about 10,000 ‘karigars’ or artisans who ‘design’ and make jewellery pieces; and they are supported by an ancillary group comprising women, youth and children in a 25km radius.
Over the years, these artisans have also made or rather invented their own tools and machinery. They have also remodelled several machines used for gold jewellery, to suit what they do.
Silver is more than just their bread and butter. These villagers may throw out or dispose or exchange gold, but never silver.
Hupari is famous for it’s ‘ghungroos’ (the tiny tinkling beads in an anklet) and is the only supplier of the same in the entire country! How about that?!
They are also famous for the ‘antique jewellery’ pieces, crafted here and sold the world over.
The extra push.
We found that these enterprising people did not really need design/ designers in that high percentage as we had thought earlier. All they needed was an extra push to come together, create a brand for themselves because the manufacture of silver jewellery actually originates here. (And other parts of India like Jaipur, Agra and Chennai get the credit and recognition.)
They also needed to know that anything is possible, and sometimes for a great cause, risks need to be taken; and it is important to get out of the comfort zone and think bigger, better and for the future. More importantly they needed to get out of the ‘individual mode’ and work towards making Hupari a landmark destination, in order to get recognition from people and government, as well as attract investors, clients and the much needed ‘appropriate money for their value’.
It’s a beginning. The NID Design Clinic plans to do a 15 day survey on the village’s needs and then have a five day workshop on design.
This was an eye-opener for me. Not only in terms of how well these people have managed to be where they are, but also because before this exercise, I did not know Hupari existed, leave aside it being the centre for silver jewellery in India. And this inspite of being a designer and an ardent silver fan.
Such exercises instills an immense sense of pride and humility at the same time. And also opens out the mind and heart to what design truly is and can be.