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Join hands with A Hundred Hands
By Anindita Mitra, Bangalore


A Hundred Hands, the not-for-profit group has quietly weaved itself into the cityscape. And today, they’re flagging off the second edition of The Handmade Collective. The aim of this bazaar is to bring back the joy of hand-made objects into our lives and, in the process, help craftspeople be commercially viable, says Mala Dhawan, founder trustee of A Hundred Hands.

“We want to bring back the whole joy of hand-made crafts to people. We try to get people to appreciate the process involved and draw them into the world of Indian arts and crafts. We work with artisan groups and small artists, helping them become commercially viable. We try to extend support at each phase, right from orders to sales. The aim is to cut out the middleman and do away with the whole notion of the ‘faceless’ artisan. Here, people get to meet artisans who’ve handcrafted the various objects, they get to hear their stories,” says Mala.

This year, the collective includes Venkat Shyam — an award-winning Gond painter specialising in wildlife, Bindia Thapar — a children’s illustrator working on environmentally sensitive topics, Aditi Babel — a book maker who’s broken the conventional structures of a book, Asha Ram — a traditional Mughal style wood carver, the sisters Manisha and Vaishali Gadekar of KEC Green Games who make traditional games for children, and last, but not the least, Alessandra L’Abate, an Italian weaver and textile activist who is a Gandhian, working for the cause of the weavers.

Alessandra started the Weavers’ Wheel network in Tamil Nadu with three communities of farmers. It works to make the weaving process sustainable and ethical — right from cotton farming, carding, spinning and natural dyeing to marketing. The network embraces the Gandhian ideals of sarvodaya — welfare for all, swadeshi — local production, distribution and consumption and shramadan — service to the community. Alessandra is bringing the fabric malkha to The Handmade Collective, the fabric now termed “freedom fabric”.

Khadi isn’t ethical,” she states outright. “If ethics imply fair conditions for the producers then khadi has failed. The Khadi Commission has fixed a price for the fabric and if the weavers and spinners have to adhere to that price point, they are left with a very small amount of money. Malkha is the freedom fabric. We are implementing the Gandhian principle outside the ambit of the government. Malkha is the result of technology being harnessed to the service of the rural community and we want people to take up this ethical fabric,” says Alessandra.

Malkha, for the uninitiated, is pure cotton made from raw cotton sourced locally. The technology used is modern, but the weaving principles are traditional and the process is energy efficient as it does away with unnecessary transportation and baling and unbaling of cotton by heavy machinery. The fabric has beautiful texture, is soft and keeps shape for a longer time. The fabric has found favour with responsible fashion designers, including big names like Tarun Tahiliani and Wendell Rodricks.

For the fabric to be sustainable, the weavers need regular orders, feels Alessandra, rather than sporadic efforts by designers who create one or two collections around the fabric and then leave. To this end, Alessandra and the Weavers’ Wheel network works with a group of Italian designers who wanted ethical fabric. “They give us regular orders in return for us marketing their designs in India. We have got some of their products, priced between Rs750 and Rs1,800, at the collective, too,” says Alessandra.

The Handmade Collective
11.30am to 7.30pm
4, Ashley Road,
Behind Hotel Ajanta
Off Brunton Road