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Wood Work - Seema Art–Saharanpur–Uttar Pradesh

Saharanpur, in the North West of India, is the traditional centre for Seshamwood carving. The forest along the slopes of Himalayas provides abundant source of raw material for the craftsmen. Here, Muslim craftsmen create carved and inlaid products for the local and export market. Inlay used to be done with sea shells/mother of pearl (MOP) which is now banned for environmental reasons. Now plastic is used to depict the flowers and leaves. Brass wire inlay craft is called Tara Kashi. It requires a considerable amount of skill. Seema Art Centre is a partnership that employs 20 artisans who are assisted by five staff members. They have been associated with Asha since June 1998. Mr. Bashir, who is recognized as master craftsman by the Indian Government, supervises Seema Art Centre. Here he is seen with the metal plaque and the intricately inlaid box that won him this award.
Ana, Bashir’s son, has now completed his studies and is managing Seema Arts. introducing computer systems to streamline the operations of Seema Arts Centre. Seema Arts received extensive input from our designers during 2003-04. Taking advantage of the fact that Bashir Ahmed is an master craftsman, this year we have sponsored a training program in wood work for the unskilled youth in Saharanpur.

Paper Mache -- Mugloo & Sons - Srinagar - Jammu & Kashmir

Mugloo & Sons is a 40 year old family-based organization. Asha's association with them goes back to 1979, and produces majority of papier-mâché products promoted by Handicrafts Association.
They have about 35 artisans working for them, of whom 15 are women, along with 15 staff members, of whom 2 are women. The artisans earn about Rs. 8000/- each month. Artisans are given training in crafts to improve their skills. Though male artisans dominated the craft, due to efforts made by the Government of India more women are now being inducted into the profession. There are no children employed at any stage of the manufacture. Assistance is given by the Mugloo family to meet medical expenses of the workers and their family members. Mugloo & Sons offers equal opportunities to all groups of workers. No one is excluded on the basis of gender, religion, caste or disability. Asha Handicrafts has stood with its artisans from Srinagar during their troubled times, promoting their products and developing new ones with design inputs in spite of delays in supply and other problems. In the year 2004—05 Asha Handicrafts has given work worth US$ 30,847.00 to Mugloo & Sons.

Leather -- Harmada Leather Employee - Harmada - Rajasthan

Surrounded by dry barren fields and thatched mud huts, Harmada, in Rajasthan, is a small village right in the depths of rural India. It is here, where Ramratan lives and works with his family. Ramratan is a leather producer, making hand-stitched, cut and embroidered items from camel leather. Working with his brothers and son in an open space in the front of his house, Ramratan cuts out from the leather traditional designs, inspired from geometric patterns, using hammer and tool. His sisters add hand-embroidered designs onto the leather with different coloured wool. These decorative pieces are then hand stitched or glued together where the product takes its final form. When substantial work is available, Ramratan shares it with other leather artisans from Harmada, increasing his work force to a total of 13. Ramratan regularly attends exhibitions organised by the government, where he promotes and sells his work. Despite receiving sponsorship from the government for the exhibitions, he rarely makes much money, as he tends to face bribery from corrupt police officials during his travels. This is why Ramratan prefers to work directly with Asha Handicrafts, which gives him an opportunity to reach the export market he would otherwise not have. He has been working with Asha since 1992, with orders today contributing to approximately 30% of his family income.

Ceramic -- Pink City Kala Udyog - Jaipur - Rajasthan

Pink City Kala Udyog was founded by master craftsman Lalchand Prajapati. Lalchand is recognised by the Government of India for his expertise in blue pottery. In the early eighties, having heard of the work being done by Asha Handicrafts, he came to Mumbai and showed us his handiwork. Thus began a long relationship between the Prajapati family and Asha Handicrafts that has continued since being passed on from father to his son, Sanjay. Lalachand's son Sanjay, was trained by his father in the practical craft of blue pottery. After Lalchand suffered a stroke that left him incapacitated, Sanjay took upon himself the responsibility of taking care of business and the artisans who had worked with his father. Unfortunately the business declined and Sanjay faced several reverses. The number of artisans working with him reduced, he was unable to provide them with work. During these difficult times Asha Handicraft continued to stand by the Prajapati family, giving them orders as well as ideas to for new products. Asha also assisted Sanjay by paying the cost of educating his two children. This year Asha contracted a designer from abroad to work with Sanjay so that his products could be marketed abroad during the Bangkok International Gift Fair (BIG) as well as during the World Social Forum in Mumbai. Sanjay has eighteen artisans working with him during peak time.

Semi Precious Jewelry -- Ramprasad Patwa - Mumbai - Maharastra

Ram Prasad Patwa was born in the village of Nevada Isahakpur in Sultanpur Dist. of Uttar Pradesh. After finishing high school, he came to Mumbai and began to sell costume jewelry, personally making earrings and bracelets of cast iron. In 1989 Ram Prasad began to work with Asha Handicrafts Association. Today he supports seven artisans who work wholly for him while he concentrates full time on marketing his products. In 2001 Ram Prasad and his two artisans were given inputs concerning basic design principles and colour combinations for the U.K markets. This has built up his confidence in his own creativity. He now plans to create more original designs than depending on catalogues for his “inspirations”. During the time that Ram Prasad worked with Asha Handicrafts Association, he has been able to rebuild his family house as well as build a new home for his family in his village. Ram Prasad also gives assistance to his artisans in time of family crisis such as illness as well as an advances in times of weddings and other happy occasions. Through his association with Asha Handicrafts Ram Prasad was given the opportunity to work with designers based abroad who developed a new range of products with hiled to increased orders for his artisans. This year we have given him a grant to subsidize his move to a better work place, so Ramprasad could move his workshop from a loft above his home to a two room apartment.

Home Furnishing -- Bundar Kalamkari House - Kalamkari Pedana - Andhra Pradesh

Situated in Pedana, a small rural village in Southern India, Nagendra Rao is a textile producer practising Kalamkari, the craft of hand block printing on cotton cloth. Passed down from his father, Nagendra runs this traditional block-printing unit with his younger brother, Shrinivas. Bunder Kalamkari House provides employment to 17 men and 7 women, of whom many are widows or separated. Widows in rural India are often shunned upon by society, as it is considered a bad omen to have outlived their husband. Divorcees tend to be regarded with equal contempt. Nagendra is a warm and generous man. He appreciates all his staff and considers them as a part of his family, but most importantly, he gives them financial independence and respect in their community by providing worthy employment. In the year 2004—05 Asha Handicrafts placed orders worth US$ 50,684.00.
Bunder Kalamkari House Staff Profile
Lakshmi is one of Nagendra’s block-printers, separated from her husband. She joined the Rao’s company at the time when Nagendra’s father was in charge. When Lakshmi found herself out of work., Nagendra’s father took her on, not only providing her with a secure job but also supporting her during the difficult time as her marriage broke down. Lakshmi’s husband is remarried and offers no support to her or her two children. Lakshmi has found stability and independence with her employment, and today lives in a rented house with her son. Her daughter has married and lives close by.

Bidri -- Madhukar Gawai - Aurangabad - Maharastra

Madhukar Gawai was born in a remote village of Jawakheda in Maharstra state. Raised by the Catholic priests, he learnt him the craft of Bidri ( from Bidar). This is overlaying silver wire on a special alloy of various metals. At the age of 22 he began as an apprentice to MD. Hussain who was one of the top five craftsmen of Bidri in the region of Bidar. After his apprenticeship Madhukar came into contact with Asha Handicrafts Association. In times when other Bidri craftsmen are replacing silver wire with inferior metals, Madhukar remains true to his craft and does not compromise on quality of raw materials. His skill and integrity has been recognised by the Government of India when he was included in the list of Master Craftsmen. Several years ago he underwent a major surgery on his spinal chord. He was hospitalised for three months. During these times he was assisted by Asha Handicrafts Association in form of a grant to meet his medical expenses. Madhukar has given education to his children two of who are studying in college and the youngest one is in final year of high school. Asha Handicrafts Association has been assisting Madhukar to bear the cost of his children's education for the past three years. His eldest son has been brought up in the tradition of his father and now assists his father in producing items to meet the delivery schedules. This year Asha Handicrafts Association provided Madhukar with a buffing machine that will help him to have greater control over his production schedule as he will be doing this stage of production in house instead of having it done by outside artisans.

Stone Inlay / Undercut R.C. Marble -- Agra - Uttar Pradesh

Not far from the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, three brothers, Ramesh, Chotelal, and Deepchand Sharma, have set up their business, hand-carving exquisite and intricate designs from stone. Specialising in Gorara stone and Soapstone, the brothers work alongside their 25 artisans to create a variety of products. Bowls, boxes, animals, candleholders and soap dishes are amongst some of the most popular items produced. Each item is hand-carved with such precision, often including undercut work with unbelievable detail, or delicately inlaid with mother of pearl. These master creations are made in small workshops. There are various production problems faced by the artisans, such as power cuts, which are a regular occurrence in the region. Production is also a very dusty process, so Asha Handicrafts Association has provided cleaners and cloth masks to improve their working environment. Asha Handicrafts has assisted Ramesh Chand to build his own unit in order to install a dust extraction system that would provide a clean and safe work environment to them and their artisans. The new unit was inaugurated by Adv. A.V. Lokhande, Chairman of Asha Handicrafts Association, on 26th February 2004. The Sharma brothers are very progressive in their thinking. After coming into contact with Asha Handicrafts Association, they have embraced the Fair Trade Movement wholeheartedly. With design input from our designers, both in-house and contracted, we hope that their income would go up. The Sharma brothers also received assistance to meet the medical expenses for their family members from Asha Handicrafts.

Horn & Bone - Mohd Ayaz - Sarai Tarin - Uttar Pradesh

Gulam Abbas and Mohd Ayaz are a father-and-son team living in a small village called Sarai Tarin. Gulam Abbas has 11 children; Mohd. Ayaz, the eldest son, has chosen to follow his father in the business, and one daughter is also being trained to take over the accounts books. Gulam Abbas established his company, which is named after himself and his son, in 1975. In 1992, he was introduced to Asha Handicrafts Association by his uncle who was also an artisan supported by Asha. As during the process of working with bone and horn, fine dust is generated, Asha Handicrafts Association has provided his artisans with face masks and they are encouraged to wear these masks in order to prevent the dust from causing damage to their lungs. They have also been provided with a vacuum cleaner to remove the dust fallen on the ground more efficiently. In 2003-04 Asha Handicrafts gave Gulam Abbas orders worth US $ 16972.00. This is more than 75% of his income. The reason he appreciates working with Asha Handicrafts Association is because, through them, he gets design inputs from their designers, advance against orders and prompt payments on delivery of goods. He is also given adequate time to produce the order so he does not have to rush production by hiring many new artisans. He can give more work to his regular artisans with help of Asha Handicrafts Association.

Women’s India Trust (WIT), was born out of a vision of Ms. Kamila Tyabji, a distinguished barrister from U.K who arrived in India in 1965. Seeing the plight of women, particularly those from weaker sections of the society, she directed her energies towards organizing a self help program for them. Her goal then was to help women help themselves. Thus in 1968 WIT was registered as an Non Government Organisation (NGO).
Today WIT aims at making women more self-reliant through education. WIT provides them training and an avenue for employment in various fields.. The Kamila Tyabji Centre is located at Panvel about 40 km from Mumbai. Women from surrounding villages attend the various courses such as Nursing, Balwadi Teacher’s training, Toy making, Screen printing, Block Printing, Tailoring, Catering and Food processing. These are conducted at the centre itself. They have also found employment in the field that they have received training.
Their food processing unit is well equipped. It follows HACCP guidelines(an International Standard for Food Processing) and produces quality jams, marmalades, chutneys, pickles and squashes.
The Balwadi (non-formal education for children) has a Marathi division as well as an English one. Here the children are given a good foundation for their future education. At any given time there are about 100 children going through this program and it provides an opportunity for students of Balwadi Teacher’s Training Program  for practical work.
Women’s India Trust has succeeded in providing training and employment opportunities to unskilled and under-privileged rural women and has drawn them into mainstream economic activity. WIT has empowered them with knowledge, power, self-reliance and prosperity.

Karigar is an Indian Handicraft Stores and Online buying portal for Indian Handicrafts.Karigar is the retail arm of Asha Handicrafts a major Indian Handicraft exporter.Karigar's mission is to help increase handicraft export that will eventually benefits the artisans and improves their standard of living.Besides handicraft exports interest, Karigar's genuine endeavour is to promote Indian culture and artisans, and create sustainable environment for the craftsmen and artists.

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