Design Education for Traditional Artisans in Kutch

by Kala Raksha
Jun 1, 2011


Jivaben Navtank
Jivaben Navtank






This year, Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya published its second evaluation of graduates, on women graduates to date..  We found that with a very few exceptions, women had benefited dramatically from their design education experience.  A full report is attached.


By now the students of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya’s 6th year have completed three of six courses, and the men’s fourth course is nearly finished as this report goes to press.  The third course, Market Orientation, enabled artisans to put their artistic efforts into the context of the outside world.  The students took a three day field trip to Ahmedabad to visit shops and home of the clients they would like to reach.  They created client boards and received individual feedback from designers visiting the institute.

Jivaben  “ We embroider, but we had no experience of shops or clients.  I saw that a lot of work shows less.  A little work shows more!”

 Move Over, Any Goldsworthy!

The fourth course, Concept and Communication was innovatively taught by Santanu Das, a recent graduate of NID.  A screening of the film Rivers and Tides, a documentary of the work of Andy Goldsworthy so impressed Santanu that he spontaneously added a classroom assignment to express the themes the students were working on in natural installations on campus. This was after they had to write up what they felt, draw pictures, create colours, and make motifs within their traditions.  All of the above had gone slowly, with effort.  With this assignment, they worked intuitively.  Dhanji depicted winter.  Under a small grove of gundi trees, where the cars are parked and drivers relax on cots, he made a simple, stark mud womb, with growth coming out of it, and a low stone wall around it.  He said that this represented the safest place, of safety, quiet, and growth.

Hansraj had monsoon.  He chose a neem tree that was in the strong wind, and strung it with streamers that were white with blue attached.  He used the wind to make it dynamic.

Hitesh had autumn.  Thinking of Navratri, he chose a single baval tree, beautifully shaped and situated.  He made a small circle of bricks around it, and also tied subtle yellow lines as restrainers in the tree.  Then he wrapped the tree in cheerful, colourful crepe paper, and hung clay cups covered with different coloured paper. Akib had summer.  He chose our lime crushing pit.  Inside, he filled it with rocks.  He piled up leaves and brush inside and burned them, leaving the ash and the black ground.  Summer is hard, he said.  It is crushingly hot and burns away everything.  He had the round area to symbolize the sun.  He saw the heat as black. Noman had spring.  He went under the stairwell and made a spiral of coloured powder, working out from darker to brigher colours.  Thinking of Holi, and Jackson Pollak, and needing to burn off his considerable energy, he took the rest of the colours and flung them all around the entrance. 

Clearly, the artisans can get to emotion and concept through physical action.  This came easily to them, and they were all very excited about what they had been able to do.  The expressions were deep, profound, and effective.  They also clearly revealed a very different understanding of the seasons than the conventional western one.

 Hiteshbhai: “I never thought I could get a motif from surroundings and experience.”

Dhanjibhai- “From the experience I felt I should use soft colours and materials to express winter.”


E-Portfolios of KRV Alumni

KRV’s a new website has gone live as of today!  The portfolios are still under construction but you can now visit the site, search for artisan graduates, and register to see the images as they are uploaded. 



Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya collaborated with students from Royal College of Art, Imperial College (both in UK) and NID in an innovative program: GO GLOBAL India 2011: Craftology, a think tank on how technology can support rather than replace craft. From the collaboration we are adding QR codes to our product tags, and hope to develop a computer program that KRV design students can use to facilitate their work.


Lachhuben Raja, Field Coordinator in Tunda Vandh, represented Gujarat in the India-Africa summit held in May 2011 in Ethiopia.  She is the first Kala Raksha artisan to travel abroad completely on her own!


Kala Raksha Vidyalaya women graduates have been invited to collaborate with design students in Italy for an exhibition this winter.  Look for details!


To enhance a lively exhibition of textile illustrations of Gujarati sayings, Kala Raksha plans to publish a book of the works.  The first edition should be ready in September.


KRV Films in an online Festival

Kala Raksha has submitted our films "Artisans Design! The Launch of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya" and “The Masters’ Voices” to Culture Unplugged online film festival.  The festival will be live online til June 2011.  See

 Artisan Design Online

Find Kala Raksha Artisan Designed work online at

 Articles on Artisan Design have been published in three important online craft journals: Hand/Eye 3 February 2010; Craft Unbound 27 January 2011, and the Craft Revival Trust Newsletter vol 110, issue 2 Winter-Spring 2011.


Kala Raksha is now on FacebookAnd join a discussion on issues of craft and design on our blog



In May, 2011, Project Director Judy Frater was nominated as a member of the Government of India planning commission on Crafts.


KRV succeeded in raising the funds to cover the academic year of 2010!  The Indian financial year spans between April 2010 and March 2011, and our sixth year of classes is nearly halfway done.  So we now must raise funds for the 2011 academic year. 


KRV relies entirely on donations. 9% of 2010’s funding was individual donations—equivalent to over four scholarships. Global Giving has made a substantial contribution.   

As one donor wrote, “The Global giving website is easy to navigate. It makes giving so much easier.”



Your generous contribution can help! You can make a difference in the lives of our very creative constituency!!



“ We learned so much related to our work. Now if we do an exhibition we know to do it as per season, to arrange as per the clients’ convenience.”



Sustainability is still our challenge. We are now beginning to focus on entrepreneurial activities to enable the institute to become more self supporting. We have submitted a proposal to two potential funders for holding the first of an annual fund raising event in the USA, and are circulating our proposal for workshops with KRV alumni.  Initial response has been encouraging.


Financial sustainability is always a huge challenge for an educational institution.  We welcome any entrepreneurial ideas –and ideas for increasing visibility-from our supporters.

Akib installation
Akib installation
Dhanji installation
Dhanji installation
Hitesh practiccal
Hitesh practiccal
Katherine review
Katherine review



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Organization Information

Kala Raksha

Location: ta. Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat - India
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Judy Frater
Kutch, Gujarat India

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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