I am fortunate that I have been able to keep my engagements with Mauka and Studio Alaya active at the same time. In February 2010 I accompanied few craftspersons from District Bageshwar (with whom Studio Alaya develops handcrafted copper products) and officials from Ajeevika, an IFAD supported Govt of Uttarakhand initiative on an exposure visit to Kathmandu, Nepal. The purpose of the visit was to learn from various craft business models as well as participate in a Seminar and Handicraft Exhibition organized by the FHAN (Federation of Handicraft Associations of Nepal). Our itinerary included visits to Allo (Stinging Nettle) craft processing units, Wood carving enterprises, Metal ware as well as Ceramic based craft enterprises in and around Kathmandu.We also visited several retail outlets run by federations and producer cooperatives such as Dhukuti, Mahaguthi,Sana Hastkala and interacted with resource persons from ICIMOD and Fair Trade organisations in Nepal.
It was a wonderful learning journey for me and my team members. The range of crafts and the level of skill and craftsmanship evident among Nepalese craft enterprises is amazing. Combined with professional management skills, patronage from international tourists and embedded with the social mandates of Fair Trade, these craft enterprises are a force to reckon with. While the same natural resources and similar craft skills /traditions are found in our state of Uttarakhand as well,our crafts producers lack the high craftsmanship, superior quality and professional business acumen of their Nepalese counterparts.
In February- March 2010, we finally began our design-based classes. The course content include a basic curriculum on design principles, and a lot of effort went in interpreting assignments for ease of understanding. Ideas like composition, harmony, balance, rhythm, were discussed with the students and practical assignments were given out to help understand these ideas. These assignments were designed to help students develop an understanding of visual expression and
how we interpret visual imagery. We drew a lot from media such as TV and print advertisements to explain 'concepts', composition, color and content. It sometimes felt difficult to do so, as most of the terms are in English and we had to find related terms in Hindi to help share the idea better. So Harmony became 'smta'and rhythm became 'tal,ly'. It is good to have an English to Hindi Dictionary on the computers, as it helps us in finding the right match. My Hindi typing is horrible. I have to press all the keys for the correct letters and matras.
We also realized that perhaps we need to encourage local interpretation of these ideas and so we let students take inspiration from local environments. At the same time, since we wanted them to learn from other sources and from other regions, we encouraged learning of the terms/ideas in English as well. After all if one of them wants to develop this learning into a livelihood activity, they will need to be well versed with the common terms used in the industry.