Project #3860

Design Education for Traditional Artisans in Kutch

by Kala Raksha
Mar 14, 2011


Devalben gives thumbs up to workwshop student
Devalben gives thumbs up to workwshop student


In January 2011, KRV held the pilot of a workshop program with international design students and faculty.  Twenty three participants from Colorado State University, Kansas State University and Missouri State University participated.  Fourteen Alumni taught day long workshops in their traditional crafts and the Vandh and Sumrasar campuses.  As always, everyone learned.  At the wrap up the students were impressed with the skill and knowledge that goes into each craft.  Shakil Ahmed expressed his delight that urban Americans were so ready to get their hands dirty.  The Colorado State University students wrote later that they felt their visit to Kala Raksha was the highlight of the trip.  “We thoroughly enjoyed working with the artisans; it was a once in a lifetime experience!”– CSU students.

 In February 2011, KRV held the second successful workshop with a group from Austria and Germany. The workshops take KRV a big step forward in becoming financially sustainable, and in addition open new markets for KRV alumni- teachers.  It is a win-win proposition!  We are ready to hold more workshops in the coming year.  For information, please download our proposal


Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya’s sixth year began with a small but select group of students. For the women’s class, this is the first year that applications were open to artisans outside Kala Raksha membership.  We were happy to receive three Rabari women who initiated application, and two more young suf artisans who are not yet Kala Raksha members. The Vidhyalaya enjoys a number of visitors while classes are in session.  In the first men’s course, Mr. Paul Folmsbee, Honorable Consular General of the USA in Mumbai visited the class.  He was pleased to learn about our unique design school.

 KRV encourages visiting faculty to repeat courses as it helps to build the strength of our curriculum.  Bishaka Shome has taught Colour: Sourcing from Heritage and Nature to the men’s section for the past four years.  Drawing on her experience and her analytical abilities, Bishakha has improved the course each year.  This year, she focused on understanding the difference between colour proportion and colour intensity, and added an exercise to demonstrate the effects of fibers and structures on colour absorption.  She also contributed to our ongoing design dictionary project. 

 The men took a trip to Kala Raksha Center to study traditional textiles in the Kala Raksha Museum, and met with the KRV Advisor Master Artisans for a program discussing aspects of textile traditions. They visited Mandvi beach to observe the colours of nature. Colour theory inputs were tested practically in dyeing sessions. By the time the first course ended, the artisans themselves were impressed with what they had learned and done in two weeks.

 Dhanjibhai- “If we learn this subject 5 years we will still want to learn.”

 The women’s Colour course was taught by Stina Gardek, who had taught it in 2009.  Stina also improved her syllabus. She added painting and coloured sketching to deepen comprehension, but focused on colour placement, which is the orientation of embroidery artists.  The women also studied textiles in the Kala Raksha Museum, seeing traditions with new eyes.  As time goes on, the younger generations of both men and women artisans have less grasp on traditions, making this exercise more important.  

 Then the group took inspiration from the colours of the Bhuj bazaar.  The assignment of capturing colour combinations they liked made the use of digital cameras easy.  During the final assessments, the artisans reflected on their initial KRV experience.

 Jivaben- “We embroider at home.  We come here to go forward.”

Jassiben- “I do traditional work but now I’ll do it for sale.”

 Deviben- “I wanted to go ahead, to try.  At first I wasn’t sure I would like it.  I learned something and how I like it.”

 For men and women alike, one key initial realization is the value of knowledge.

Hansraj- “Before, I knew red was red because my father told me and I believed it.  Now I have knowledge why.” 

 Lakshmi- “I never saw colours before.  I just saw a wall, a forest….I can see colours everywhere! We thought contrast looked good.  Now we know why.”

 Both the men’s and women’s sections of Course 2- Basic Design: Sourcing from Heritage and Nature were taught by Neha Puri, who had taken the men’s section in 2009.  Neha’s exacting eye helped to instill in the artisan students the importance of seeing carefully and taking their work the extra mile.  This understanding at an early stage will benefit the students the entire year.  The men tackled principles of design in paper and paint.  Finally, they examined traditional textiles to realize that most of the principles of good design were already used.  The final exercise was to dissect a traditional layout and remix it, using what they had learned in the two week course. They left the class feeling full, but eager to translate some of their layouts into their own traditions.

 This was Neha’s first experience with a women’s class at KRV.  She learned the first day some of the nuances of the differences between men and women in learning styles. Surprisingly, the women work quickly, perhaps not worried about making the correct decisions, or tapping easily into intuition. Morning exercise and sketching classes were a welcome chance to exercise body and eyes. 

 Balance, texture, rhythm and movement were explored in paper, but the emphasis was always on bringing it back to fabric and thread.  Exploration of texture led to an exciting realization of how simple variations can create new looks for the market. The artisans had to think and work, but in the end they realized that it was all there from the start.

Jasiben- “We did it, but we didn’t know it!”


Kala Raksha has launched its Artisan Design Concept in Mumbai in December and in Delhi in February.  Both exhibitions proved that artisan designs are well appreciated. Products from all of the KRV graduates who participated sold well.  

 E-Portfolios of KRV Alumni

KRV’s a new website is growing.  The portfolios are still under construction so visit with patience and anticipation. 

 Khalid Amin, recipient of the 2010 Best Collection award, enthusiastically responded to a suggestion to hold a solo show, and has developed an amazing collection of 95 stoles, each unique with his distinctive painterly block printing style.  Look for further details. 

 Not to be outdone, the Sumrasar Sheikh women alumni have decided to begin now in planning a collection for next year’s KRV Fashion Show.  This is very important first independent initiative from women graduates, and it underlines the importance this event has had in inspiring and motivating artisans to continue in design development. 


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 Facebook.  You can follow us at!/group.php?gid=34302983925

And join a discussion on issues of craft and design on our blog


On 12 March, 2011, Project Director Judy Frater was presented with the Crafts Council of India’s annual Kamala Samman award, which honours outstanding merit in the handicraft field.  At the meeting at the National Institute of Design, Ms. Frater gave a presentation on the achievements of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya.


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 begins.  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!!

 Miraben: “What was most difficult was making decisions. In two weeks I am more confident.  When you climb stairs you see something new from each level”


Sustainability is still our challenge. With the launch of Artisan Design we hope to develop new markets for our graduates’ work.  This year, women graduates will produce an Art to Wear collection for the biannual Surface Design Association meetings in the USA in June.

We have submitted a proposal to a potential funder 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.

Kari learns batik at KRV workshop
Kari learns batik at KRV workshop
Master Artisans share with KRV students
Master Artisans share with KRV students
Jivaben documents Bhuj bazaar
Jivaben documents Bhuj bazaar
Divya learns to see and sketch
Divya learns to see and sketch
Jasiben contemplates design in embroidery
Jasiben contemplates design in embroidery
Tulsi triumphs in first presentation
Tulsi triumphs in first presentation



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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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