Indian handicrafts date back to the Indus valley civilisation and form an important economic and cultural asset. Crafts have always been closer to luxury throughout its glorious past however in recent times artisans have drifted towards the price conscious mass market, which essentially does not appreciate the excellence and workmanship of crafts. Uttar Pradesh has been the cradle of embroideries like chikankari, zardosi, kamdani, darazdari and other prominent crafts of weaving, printing, pottery, glassware, woodwork and masonry. The artisans are marginalised, lack dignified wages, have poor negotiating power and recognition owing to low socio-economic status, and lack of finances as well as education.

Design has to be an intrinsic part of any craft development initiative. It has the capacity to become a means to improve the state of the artisans if they co-work with designers and retailers. Co-working requires levelling of all participants to respect each other’s contribution. The doctoral research conducted by me showed that vernacular design grammar based education augmented with opportunities for artisans not only leads to economic empowerment but also social cohesion and recognition of creative instincts.

Taking the vision forward we at Kalhath Institute work towards the collective social empowerment of zardosi and chikankari artisans through education, training and incubation support. We constantly research and co-work with craft communities to enhance their confidence in craft practice, financial independence and social well-being through engagement and enhancement of excellence and creativity.