Thursday, October 20, 2011

Crafty shoppers

The Dastkar Crafts Mela concluded yesterday in Delhi. An annual event, this year the theme was “the camel”.   Besides the personal interest in this theme of camel as my friends  were present at the Camel Charisma stall, this annual mela is always something we look forward to as a family. It reminds us of life before the concept of malls hit us hard. Long leisurely walks in the sun just beginning to feel  the change in the weather, the interesting and innovative buys, always some fun conversations and interesting people to run into, and of course, the brown paper bags with the Dastkar logo on them – one can never have enough of these paper bags.  It just is so heartening to see some of the products, the care taken to create these products, display them, and impart some information to the buyers about their uniqueness. You may never see some of these products in the larger stores when you walk around with the glare of lights and glass and air-conditioned comfort in malls. Or they may not have the same allure.

A very interesting feature of Dastkar is that every evening, there are workshops of about 1-2 hours in art and craft organized by masters. Last year, Anant and I attended a short workshop on Madhubani painting. This year, as I was  having fun at the  Camel Charisma stall (how wonderful it sounds), Anant went alone for the Phad painting workshop. The master artist painstakingly explained the various nuances to the children of the history and technique of Phad painting of scrolls, an ancient craft from Rajasthan. He supervised and assisted the children to create their own greeting card with a figure painted in the Phad style.

Here is the figure he painted. It’s not easy to work with these paints, made from natural pigments, actually they are more like inks, and that’s why they have that translucent quality about them.

Phad style painting by Anant. Natural inks on card. Phad painting is  the scroll painting technique from Rajasthan used to depict folk legends.

Apart from that, I will get to the serious buying we always end up doing. I mean, guys, I am not a frivolous shopper, and I  do think before buying stuff. Do we really need this? What do we need to get rid of before we can get this? Would I use it? All these questions do run through my mind, but there are just some things that are irresistible. Here’s a view of some of the stuff we bought. Seriously, the amount of thought that’s gone into some of them makes me feel good about supporting some initiatives. It also gives me loads of ideas to mull over. 

From Uttar Pradesh, a fresh stock of clay figurines depicting Freedom Fighters. These shall be included in next years Navratri doll display.

Fresh bright red chillies and ragi flour from Uttarakhan. The Beej Bachao Andolan stall had plenty to keep us and Anant occupied. Lots of stuff to touch and ask about, and friendly volunteers.

A little booklet on the Beej Bachao Andolan (Save Seeds Movement)

Traditional Andhra pickles packed in a ceramic jar, and covered with Kalamkari fabric. An example of  traditional design and materials meeting modern entrepreneurship.

Favourite favourite favourite. A real find. Paints made from natural material like plant extracts, seashell, turmeric etc. packed well just like any other box of paints. Dying to try this out.

One advantage of having your sandals get broken in such a place - is to to be able to pick up a new pair of joothis - mocassins.

This is just the wrapper - a cloth bag used to pack the actual purchase. See below.

An applique quilt from Rajasthan.

A cute little teapot perched on a cup. Just right for the person who loves HIS Darjeeling tea in the morning.

At the same place I bought my crochet necklace last year, I found this pair of origami crane earrings. Imagine how small they are.

The blank kaavad - a portable shrine which can be used for story telling when its painted with pictures on its panels. Usually the deities are placed in the innermost central panel which is painted last. This is from Rajasthan too.
And for the absolute piece de resistance - it was the Kaavad which is a portable shrine which is usually painted with images to depict a story. Storytellers wandered about with this apparatus telling their stories, by opening out the panels in sequence. Now of course with the advent of TV, this is really a novelty. I managed to find a completely made up kaavad, with its panels, even primed so that the final coat of paint can go on. The only thing is: I need to find a story to put on it. Do come back to see what I do with it.