Bhalchandra Kadu looks on proudly as one of his proteges,Ganesh Lanjekar,is busy working on a copper saucer at Kadus workshop in Kasba Peth. The finished saucer gleams brightly in his hand until he picks up another and begins to work on it. This technique is called matthar. There are only 50 people in our community here who know this technique,and only four who can do it with such finesse, Kadu said.
Matthar – a technique of beating copper – is native to the tambat community,who reside in Kasba Peth. While most of the tambat workshops churn out utensils and religious articles,the community has won over new,more affluent patrons such as five-star hotels and connoisseurs that want handcrafted artifacts. Recently,a large collection of tambat-made designs made their way to a handicraft exhibition at Dastakar,in Delhi.
The community may seem in demand for their fine work now,but it wasnt always so. Originally from the Konkan belt,the tambat community moved to Pune around 400 years ago to forge weapons and other items for the Peshwa rulers. Kadu is a seventh-generation tambat craftsman. His son,however,has chosen to make a career in human resource management. The story is similar across the community,which is losing its younger generation to jobs,which pay more than their traditional metal work.
The artisans make items,which we no longer use in modern life. Over the years,people stopped buying their products,and their livelihood kept shrinking. The younger members of the community have lost interest in the tradition and are looking for alternate professions, said Shubhada Kamalapurkar,a conservation architect,professor and member of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
The little money we made by selling the products went to middle men,Kadu said. The craftsmen earn around Rs 200 – 300 after working for 12 hours. The problem with handicraft is that you cannot mass produce. It is a work of art and must have the same value, he added.
INTACH had helped the community reach out to a clientele that would appreciate their work for what it was art. They helped us identify where we could find more appreciation and money for our work. We began to display our products at exhibitions and began supplying to hotels and high-end stores, Kadu said.
The community also received help from Rashmi and Jaidev Ranade,members of INTACH,who taught them newer designs that were more contemporary and practical for modern use. Weve kept their techniques intact,because it is hard to find such quality of work anywhere in India. We have made their designs more modern. Now,they make items like candle holders and lamps that can be used for decoration, said Rashmi. The couple also taught the artisans the technique of lacquer coating,to keep their products from tarnishing. Through their firm Coppre,the Ranades market the copper products to a wider audience.
The project has had quite an impact on the community. Workers now earn Rs 600 – 700 for the same amount of work as before. Their products have also become popular among people as decor items and gifts. INTACH intends to work on providing them better living conditions in the next project, said Kamalapurkar.