It’s that time of the year when Surajkund starts prepping up for the annual crafts mela. The 15-day event, held in February every year, is much awaited by art connoisseurs in and around Delhi — to stock their homes or shops with traditional Indian artefacts. While there is fervent artistic activity in the run up to the fair, the rest of the year is relatively lean in this Delhi neighbourhood. But what if one could watch artisans at work in Surajkund at all times of the year?
That may well be possible now, with Folk Studio — a space that brings artisans face-to-face with their clients. A brainchild of Mumbai-based Sachin Puthran and Pranali Daundkar, both graduates of Mumbai’s JJ School of Art, the store hosts two award-winning artisans at any time and offers them a six-month residency programme with monthly stipends. Visitors can sit with them and learn from them, buy their artwork, and even get customised products.
Located inside the premises of Vivanta By Taj Surajkund, the studio opened its doors in November, coinciding with the launch of the hotel itself. At present, two potters from Haryana’s Rewari district are housed here, working on the mechanised potter’s wheel, while curious visitors huddle around them to see how pots of different shapes and sizes are being churned out. Besides these two resident potters, other artisans and artistes are also welcomed for a temporary period.
The day we visited, there was a woman from Rajasthan shaping bangles out of lac (an alloy used to create colourful bangles). One saw an enthusiastic young girl interacting with the woman, understanding her craft, and realising what it takes to shape a Rs 20 bangle out of piping hot iron stick. There was also a group of teenagers, their shoes and jackets forgotten on the sofa, muddying their hands with clay as they learnt how to model a pot. “I could not even shape a diya properly, forget about pots,” said one of them. Harkishan, one of the two potters, cheered him up, “Baba, you are doing fine for your first attempt. It took me a lot of practice when I learnt the art from my father.” Fifty-year-old Harkishan is a third-generation potter and has been into the profession for almost four decades.
The artisans have adapted to the times and, instead of restricting themselves to everyday household pots, are creating home decor products commonly found on the shelves of lifestyle stores. Puthran says, “We chose this place because the hotel is situated exactly opposite the Surajkund fair venue. The funding for the project has come through Vivanta by Taj’s CSR arm, and the aim is to offer artisans who practise the dying Indian arts, a round-the-year platform to directly interact with clients and market their ware, without any middlemen.”
While everything else seems to be going in the right direction here, one only feels a proper channel should be worked out to get more deserving candidates for the residency programme. Maybe, the fair next month could be used to spread awareness among participating artists.