Artisan Entrepreneurs of Kamrup and Nalbari Handloom Clusters, Assam
For weavers, a loom is their lifeline...
Antaran has studied and acted to create a sustainable system through a systematic intervention, where artisans feel confident that their craft has special value and can become a means of sustained livelihood. This in turn creates an enabled community learn modern methods to fuse with historically evolved craft knowledge and make traditional craft practice viable in a contemporary market.
In the process, we have seen support come up to artisans from across the world in different forms. Be it engaging with the artisans as buyers, designers, customers or supporting them in other ways. These artisans were so far anonymous, largely dealing with markets through middlemen or traders, rarely able to directly engage with buyers, designers or customers outside, limiting creative possibilities.
Even during these unprecedented times when there was a dire need of financial support for craftspeople, there was an overwhelming response from people who came forward and supported their cause through Antaran Artisan Connect.
This brings us to our next stage of enabling artisans in a more inclusive manner inviting craft lovers and patrons to support deserving craftswomen through #giftofloom programme - which would help them upgrade their production capabilities and earn better.
For women in Assam, weaving has been a centuries old tradition, with most rural households having looms to create textiles for personal use. Some were occasionally able to monetize their skills through local markets in recent times. In Kamrup region which Antaran chose to intervene, income through agriculture started decreasing due to constant floods and heavy rains eroding cultivable land, making communities economically vulnerable. The loom gradually became a tool for a woman artisan to earn supplemental income and support their families. The precious skill of weaving became a means of livelihood; an intangible cultural heritage, at times the only piece of inheritance she receives from her mother. Weaving is perhaps one of the first forms of education a girl receives from her mother which continues from one generation to another.
As years pass by the loom frequently bears the brunt of natural calamities, repeated wear and tear and repairs leading to reuse of same tools for years.
Moreover, weavers started realizing that standard sizes, quality and productivity are aspects they would have to take care to be successful in outside markets. This requires that makeshift looms would have to be upgraded, which requires a capital investment upcoming weavers find difficult to garner. Before becoming formal entrepreneurs, it becomes difficult to access finance. Women keep juggling between small orders, managing domestic work, investing a few rupees in raw materials to create some stock but with no means to invest in upgraded tools for effective production. Antaran is currently involved in two clusters in Assam i.e. Kamrup and Nalbari where the loom is one of the principle source of income.
While Antaran continues to invest in their capacity building through design and business education, Eco-system, sample and market development, your support to individual craftswomen will go a long way in bettering their lives and sustaining their craft through upgraded tools of production.
You could individually or pool through a group of acquaintances and support the Artisans with a new loom costing Rs.30,000, upgrade a loom for budget of Rs.20,000. You can reach out to our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can talk to Vishesh or Mallika as they will connect you to the artisans and share their bank details.
Namita Das is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Guimara village in South Kamrup. She has been a part of the Antaran Training program since its inception in November, 2018. She has gained market exposure by attending various exhibitions in Delhi and loves to motivate her associate artisans to work hard as well.
Rupali Kalita is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Chapathuri village in South Kamrup. She has an excellent sense of design, colour and placement of motifs and has actively been a part of the Antaran Training program since its inception in November, 2018.
Mamani Kalita is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Chapathuri village in South Kamrup. Her entire family is extremely supportive of her work. Her daughter draws inspiration from her and is determined on becoming an accomplished weaver and entrepreneur. Mamani has been associated with the Antaran Training Program since November, 2018.
Renuka Kalita is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Nahira village in South Kamrup. She is an excellent designer and looks at developing her business by continuously engaging with the Antaran Training Program. She has been an active learner at the Antaran Incubation and Design centre in South Kamrup since the commencement of the program in November, 2018.
Ranju Das is an artisan from Chapathuri village in South Kamrup. She is an associate weaver who is extremely dedicated to her work. She pays keen attention to the requirements of her buyer as well explained by the Artisan Entrepreneur she works for. Ranju has understood the importance of diversification of the Artisan Entrepreneurs she works with in order to receive fair remuneration for her work. Her work is well appreciated by the Artisan Entrepreneurs of the cluster as well as the buyers to whom they supply their products.
Harimati Das is an active artisan from Chapathuri village in South Kamrup. Having reaped the benefits of the Antaran training program – both, in monetary terms as well as learning, Harimati has understood the importance of punctuality and tries to give her best shot weaving on her bamboo loom. She is always dedicated to the work she takes up and ensures that her work makes all buyers happy!
Mira Medhi is an artisan who is looking to turn towards entrepreneurship. She initially engaged in sampling for the cluster’s design bank facilitated by the Antaran team. Her daughters see great potential in entrepreneurship and hope to set the ball rolling after she can acquire a good quality loom for herself.
Jinti Das is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Chapathuri Village in South Kamrup. Jinti is a dedicated artisan who loves to motivate her Associate Artisans to work harder. While Jinti currently struggles with a rudimentary bamboo loom, she faces several issues with the overall quality of her fabric – however hard she may try to ensure that she puts in the best she can!
Sabita Das is an artisan from Guimara village in South Kamrup. She is a young widow who works hard to support her family of five. She has an eye for detail and finesse and has woven customised products for both – domestic as well as international buyers.
Pratibha Kalita Das is an Artisan Entrepreneur from Nahira village in South Kamrup. She currently weaves on a rented loom and supports her associate artisans to take up challenging designs for customers to have fresh stocks regularly. Her buyers are always glad to receive her products wrapped up carefully with love!
Subarna Das is an artisan from Guimara village in South Kamrup. Subarna is passionate about weaving and enjoys weaving yardage. She drops her daughter to the kindergarten school not very far from the Antaran Incubation and Design Centre and is often seen here utilising her time productively, by showing willingness to learn the nuances of designing.
Nabanita Kalita is an active Artisan Entrepreneur from Chapathuri village in South Kamrup. She joined the Antaran Training Program in June 2019 and quickly learnt the tricks of the trade on being exposed to markets in Delhi where she also attended several events and exhibitions! Nabanita has an excellent sense of design which was further tapped by the cluster team – she was nurtured as part of a special design training course, and has created several designs on her own drawing inspiration for objects of nature around her. She is extremely active on social media and never misses a chance to promote her brand – Brahmaputra Handlooms. She is proud of her rich cultural heritage, loves weaving, and keeps experimenting with motifs by tweaking designs or only choosing a part of them – giving the designs a traditional touch while keeping in mind the requirement of modern minimalism. At present, both – Nabanita and her mother share the same Handloom which is a basic fly-shuttle loom made of bamboo. Another handloom would double their production capacity and thus, double their incomes.
Anjali Borah is an Associate Artisan from Nahira village in South Kamrup. She joined the Antaran Training program in November, 2018 and has well incorporated lessons learnt from the designing classes in the products she weaves. She mainly weaves sarees for retail exhibitions and brings out fresh pieces every single time. Each piece is unique in the true sense of the term!
Jyotsna Das is an Associate Artisan from Jharpara Village in South Kamrup. She weaves on a basic Bamboo loom and finds time to weave despite all the odds she may face. She works in the Anganwadi in the mornings and then weaves post lunch. She ensures that her order is fulfilled on time and is most punctual with her work!
Champak Nath: Working as a weaver in Gharua Baha for more than 15 years. He currently does not own a loom and works for a master weaver based on local orders. His economic condition has worsened in the Covid-19 crisis as work came to halt during lockdown. He envisions to have his own loom shed where he can do business independently instead on depending on local traders.
Jayantha Nath & Niku Moni Nath: Both of them have been working as weavers in Gharua Baha for more than 10 years. Through their existing looms they can make gamosa and mekhala chador. However, they wish to scale up their business by adding more looms through which they can make more diverse products like saree and yardage. Apart from their existing looms, the local traders of Sualkuchi have provided them looms but also have created a dependency on them by ensuring the weavers only work for them. By being aware their economic vulnerability they exploit the weavers by paying less than the ordered prices for their finished products.
Jagadish Nath: Working as a weaver in Gharua Baha for than 15 years. Through his existing loom he can make gamosa and mekhala chador. However, he wishes to scale up his business by adding more looms through which he can make more diverse products like saree and yardage. Also, he has been involved with Tata Trusts Antaran Program since Mar 2020. Throughout the lockdown, he has shown enterprising nature and tried to involve more weavers in to the program. By scaling up his business, he wants to provide more work to weavers in his village.