Cultural enterprise, The Craft Katha is reviving the vanishing culture of art in India by inculcating today’s innovative ideas of style with age-old art forms. It offers an extensive collection of accessories, tableware, wall decor as well as fashion – all seeking inspiration from the myriad of art forms that exist. With the help of authentic craftsmanship, they enable customers to reminisce about the precision and patience that goes into the making of these products. From the careful brush strokes of a Tholubommalata artist to the practiced carving of a Kalamkari craftsman, The Craft Katha aspires to bring archaic culture to today’s precipitously changing world.
Here is our conversation with the founder Sudha Mallena as she elucidates the incentive and the drive behind her enterprise. Read on to find out how she manages to strike a chord with fast-paced fashion trends whilst being rooted in indigenous art forms.
Reviving archaic artforms
I believe that the timelessness of the art culture and handiwork in India is commendable.
My motive behind bringing The Craft Katha to life was to give a product a contemporary touch whilst preserving the integrity of the product’s art form. I wanted to bridge the gap between cultural art forms and today’s trends.
Also, traditional craftsmanship doesn’t have to come with a huge price. I believe that sustainable and eco-friendly art can be appreciated at affordable prices. My customers fully admire the artistic products they purchase without being hesitant about its affordability.
I began working with a handful of artisans practicing a few art form styles. Eventually, we started curating products that preserved the culture while still being relevant in today’s world.
An amalgamation of Culture with Fashion – The target demographic
We have a few regular products across various categories like furnishing, fashion, and accessories. A bestseller amongst young people predominantly would be our barefoot sandals – lots of young girls love the idea of adorning their feet with these, especially at parties or going out to the beach. Our product line is very niche and comes at nominal prices, making it different to other brands in this industry.
Apart from the regular list of items we sell, we also believe in customization to cater to the distinctive needs of our customers. Personalized gifts and hampers designed after considering the customer’s perspective have played a significant role in retaining our clientele. Products like bag tags, wooden key chains and bookmarks are quite popular. The tailor-made experience you can only find at The Craft Katha encourages first-time customers to return.
We also receive multiple bulk contracts for weddings, ceremonies and parties. The hampers and gifts are based on designs the client has in mind which are inculcated in the artforms used to make them.
Preservation of Craftsmanship … and the Craftsmen
Our ultimate aim is to ensure that the artisans are being paid fairly. The unfortunate exploitation in this industry means that many artisans succumb to severely low incomes because of the unavailability of work. It is shocking to see products sold at exorbitant rates commercially when most of the profits never reach the artists involved.
At the Craft Katha, we develop personal relationships with each artisan and understand that they deserve fair pay. Gaining their trust and connecting with them is an important aspect of my business. Our motto is to preserve art and the occupation of creating art by making products stand out and more importantly relevant in our fast-paced lives.
Niche product work and style – The hurdles
When I started The Craft Katha years ago, trying to find artists to work with was extremely challenging. With the help of a few connections from the Government, I began working with a handful of craftsmen. With just two art forms at the time of inception, coming up with a unique product line was a requirement. I focused on understanding the skill set of the artisans and the capacity to design my products efficiently. There was also the issue of scalability which we overcame as we expanded. I factored in the skill set of my artisans as well as the tastes and preferences of my clientele to come up with an exquisite line of merchandise.
Another barrier we faced was explaining the inhomogeneity in our products. True craftsmanship is far from homogenous. Everything that we sell is hand-made which is why there is no similarity in the pieces. This sometimes leads to a rough finish on the products. It was a long time before our customers could appreciate the artwork for its raw finish, but they have grown to love the beauty of the human touch.
The Katha so far and the journey ahead
Being the sole investor in this business, the growth has been slower than desired. I am yet to invest my funds into marketing. Most of our new clientele is from digital publicity on social media or through word-of-mouth from existing customers.
I started a website and decided to put my story online. We shared our motives in the blog and put up videos of artisans working on the products. This garnered a lot of attention from people all across the world.
Videos tailored to showcase the craftsmanship behind our products help people relate to and appreciate art in its raw form. I aim to continue the publicity and hope for substantial returns, which I can invest in marketing in the future.
One of the most significant milestones we have hit was the scalability of our products. With the help of our artisan network, we ventured out into artforms of different regions. I work very closely with these craftsmen, making brainstorming and customization of products hassle-free.
I love that there is so much more left to explore in terms of culture that can be brought out in myriad forms. People can immediately relate to the artwork when we mention it – Kalamkari or puppetry. I want to extend this to other art forms as well. I want people to realize how easy it can be to inculcate time-honored craftsmanship into every little aspect of their daily lives.
NICEorg wishes The Craft Katha the best of luck in their journey ahead!
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