Published: 22nd January 2020
How The Craftsutra is getting India's young to reconnect with our dying art forms all over again
Nishi Srivastava through her platform The Craftsutra, is teaching people about different and not-so-popular artforms in India. Her workshops are attended by people across all the age-groups
'Art should be accessible to everyone, not just a few' is what Nishi Srivastava ardently believes and that is why she established The Craftsutra in 2017 in Delhi. It is a platform where artists can teach all kinds of artforms to those who are interested so that they, in turn, can teach others. "Most of the art in India is unique but is also on the verge of extinction. This is because people are not aware of them or they need to be pushed to practise it," states Nishi.
We were curious to know what got this 29-year-old interested in Indian art. A few years ago, when she was working as a Data Patent Scientist in Delhi, she was dismayed that she couldn’t find a creative outlet in her job. Even during the weekends, she wasn’t able to find any workshops related to her weekend passion — art, "When I looked at beautiful paintings made by these artists, I would wonder if art is something that is accessible to only a select few. That's when I decided to first train myself in one of the artforms of India."
Nishi travelled to Gujarat in 2015 and even explored the state’s remote areas to find out about the artform they specialise in. To her surprise, the women of Gujarat were involved in making beautiful and intricate mud and mirror work — called Lippan Kaam — on the walls of their houses. "I stayed in Gujarat for more than two weeks only to learn this artform and documented it in detail. Women use mud, camel dung and a few other materials to prepare the clay. They make a paste from this clay and add tiny mirrors in the typical style of Kutch. This is done not only to make their homes aesthetic, but there is a scientific reason behind it too. While the clay keeps the house cool during summers, the mirrors reflect light — if there is only one lamp, then the mirrors reflect it and make the room appear brighter," she explains, adding ruefully, "How many of us have even heard about this art? I could hardly find any information about it when I ventured out to document it."
Nishi Srivastava, Artist
Nishi did not leave the artform behind after returning from Gujarat. She took it with her to Delhi and tried to find alternative materials to make the clay. She laughs as she confesses, "You don’t find materials like camel dung in Delhi. So, I experimented a lot to come up with the clay I currently use. After many trials, I was able to nail the perfect combination for the clay with adhesives and other natural materials. Now, whenever we conduct workshops on Lippan Kaam, we provide them with the clay and also teach the participants how to prepare this clay." For Nishi, teaching this artform to others is pure bliss. She was also invited by several institutes and cafeterias to create Lippan Kaam art on their walls.
But this self-taught artist did not stop there. She went ahead to experiment with many such artforms and began reusing furniture scraps to create unique and new pieces. For instance, she taught participants to make a storage box that serves as a table too with discarded wooden pieces. "There are many such products we made with discarded wooden pieces that are otherwise treated as scrap. Usually, these pieces are lying around in storerooms and so on. Instead of cutting more trees, these scraps can be used. They render an aesthetic look to any space. We have made wall hangings, storage boxes and so on," she adds.
Nishi Srivastava has conducted more than 200 worshops since 2017
Nishi believes that learning art is a continuous process. She says, "I always wanted to be in the creative space and learning is a continuous process for me. Recently, we conducted a Madhubani painting workshop for people of all age groups. Though it was my own organisation conducting the workshop, I purchased a ticket and attended it like any other participant. Our tickets are reasonably priced so that it allows anyone to participate. People across India attend our workshops. Apart from this, private organisations, cafés and so on invite us to conduct workshops in their spaces. This is what we think is a positive response."
When we ask Nishi about her future plans, she says, "Till date, I have explored visual artforms but our future plans include exploring all kinds of artforms like music, dance and much more. Currently, we are in talks with musicians who can teach participants how to play different instruments. For example, I have a friend who plays the ghatam incredibly well and he is self-taught. We want to connect artists with people who are interested in music."