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Aug 28

Indian Hand Weaver Meets Santa Fe Folk Art Market

Spending immersive time with hand weaver and textile designer Dayalal Kudecha (Dahyabhai) from India, twice within an eight-month period, was a rich learning experience. I introduced you to Dahyabhai in January after meeting him at the weaving gathering in Peru. At that time, he had just learned of his acceptance into the Folk Art Market (FAM) in Santa Fe. So when he arrived at the FAM mentor-to-market training last month, my familiar face warmly greeted him. Better yet, we learned we would be partners during the two days of training.

On the first morning, the artisans introduced themselves in front of the whole class. Dahyabhai’s English-speaking ability is limited but impressive given that Hindi is his native tongue. And even though all the artisans were provided translators, Dahyabhai wanted to introduce himself in English. “Fearless”, I thought. “Very nervous”, he told me later.

But what really impressed me was Dahyabhai’s desire to learn–to learn about the FAM customer and the international customers who would find their way to him via the internet; to learn about other artisans and their traditions and how they could help each other; to learn how modern technology is creating and influencing artisanal work and sales.

The Market Difference
What follows is information and images shared by Judy Frater, founder and director of Somaiya Kala Vidya, and his colleague:

People were raving.  “I’ve never seen anything like this before!” they exclaimed.  “This weaving is amazing…fantastic…. gorgeous!”  The exciting aspect was, they were commenting on Dahyabhai’s innovation on the traditional weaving designs of rhythm checks.

By the end of the two-and-a-half days of the FAM, Dahyabhai had sold almost all of his 250 scarves and shawls. He earned more than double what he averages in a year. It’s not all profit, of course, as he had to extend his weaving capacity beyond himself, his son and his wife. He had hired two weavers. And he had used his credit account to purchase raw materials. But he had benefited from the financial aid the Market provided for first-time participants and now was in a good financial position.

Traditional and Innovative
Dahyabhai Kudecha is a traditional weaver from Kutch in the district of Gujurat in west India. For over 25 years, he earned his livelihood through job work for a master weaver. But he always had two dreams: higher education for his sons, and to become an independent artist. And now he has accomplished both.

In 2008, Dahyabhai took Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya’s year-long design course, and learned to innovate within his tradition. He gained confidence in his creative capability, and began to take creative risks. He began his own business. A natural teacher, he joined KRV as a core faculty member in 2010, and today is a faculty member of Somaiya Kala Vidya.  Through teaching, Dahyabhai has honed a sophisticated understanding of design, and a deep love for his tradition, both of which he seamlessly weaves into his work.

Dahyabhai’s sons are both in college. The younger one weaves while studying business.  The elder one, studying engineering, has been happy to find that he has a role to play in marketing.  His daughter helps with the finishing of products and is going to study tailoring and pattern making. And he taught his wife to weave too, a vanguard for women as she is a full economic partner. Over the last six years, the family has begun to see a bright future for weaving.

The Value of Craft
But it was the Folk Art Market which showed him the value of craft. “It took me beyond my imagination,” he said. “I learned about artisans of the world, and customers of the USA.  I learned what people like, what is marketable–colors, finishing, and the importance of tradition. People at the Market are attracted to our customs. I realized in a real way that we need to retain our identity. We need to present our culture.”

And what will he do on return? “Share what I learned with my colleagues!” He is planning a slide show presentation for all of the students of the Business and Management for Artisans course he is currently taking, and the Somaiya Kala Vidya staff. With his earnings, he plans to source new materials, try new experiments, and especially expand his capacity. “That will be win-win,” he grins, using a concept from the training. He can increase production so that next time he won’t run out of his best sellers, and he can give work and some training to less developed artisans. He is thinking how best to utilize and maintain the contacts he made at the Market, and how to get feedback that will help him in his work.  “I’m also thinking of getting a computer,” he said.  “A laptop will be useful in making presentations. And maybe I will build a website; people asked for that.”

Meanwhile, you can treat yourself to Dahyabhai’s traditional and innovative designs right here at ClothRoads. If you’d like to “Learn with the Masters”, Dahyabhai being one of them, the design school of Somaiya Kala Vidya is offering a 22-day course in the Textile Traditions of Kutch in 2015. Textile Traditions Course SKV 96ppi

You can help preserve and sustain these rich traditions too. If you enjoyed this blog, please pass it on.

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