The Crafts Council of Karnataka (CCK) presents the thirty first version of Vastrabharana. “This is our annual flagship exhibition and will feature a sale of handcrafted textiles and jewellery. The theme for this year’s exhibition is Spice,” says Padmaja Sakhamuri, convenor of Vastrabharana talking over the telephone from her house in RMV Layout in Bengaluru.
“In the past, we have had celebrities including Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Shoba De, and Sridevi inaugurate our exhibitions. This year, we thought we should have a personality from Karnataka and it is Ashwini Puneeth Rajkumar who will be inaugurating the exhibition this year,” provides Padmaja, additionally a committee member at CCK — a non-profit organisation began in Bengaluru in 1967 below the patronage of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay. It can be affiliated to the Crafts Council of India and World Crafts Council and focuses on selling and supporting crafts of Karnataka and sustaining livelihoods of craftspeople.
“We are a small organisation and make sure all proceeds go to the craftsmen and for the betterment of the craft community. We try to do something in our own little way and look for known personalities to be a part of this exhibition as this also boosts the event in a positive manner,” says Padmaja, who has been curating Vastrabharana for 5 years now. “I started with the Mumbai Vastrabharana, but faced glitches. The show did not take off as expected, perhaps, we did not have the exposure as to what that city expected. But, post COVID-19 we have done well in Bengaluru. We had our show in March 2021, following protocols. We also have regular crafts exhibitions in November every year.”
About deciding on the artisans, she says: “We do connect with them, but off late, with Vastrabaharana becoming a brand in itself, we also have craftsmen connecting with us. We have our curation methods and make sure to bring together handmade, authentic textiles, and nothing ready-made. We only include ready-made-blouses as that has become popular besides semi-stitched kurtas.”
This 12 months’s Vastrabharana will function artisans like Badshah Miyan (leheriya), Taana Baana (Kota doriya), Farookjan from Kashmir, Unma designs (weaves of Chhattisgarh) and Jeenu Panika (Kotpad saris from Odisha) to call a couple of.
“Badshah is a presidential awardee. Some others are regulars in our annual exhibitions. We also have a limited stall number of 50, of which three to four are reserved for jewellery. Besides this, we have our favourites, specially those arts and artisans who are popular with Bangaloreans and their products do really well. Chanderis, Assamese, Jhamdanis and Kanjeevarams are popular here.”
The pricing, she says, will go from ₹ 300 to a lakh. “COVID-19 has led to the doubling of prices as the cost of raw materials has also gone up. Hence, handmade has become more expensive. Yet, to keep the ancient traditions and crafts alive, we have to support the artisans. Arts and crafts do really well on virtual platforms, thanks to social media. We believe things will improve in physical spaces too,” says Padmaja, who has a Masters in Botany and can be a professional gemmologist.
“I always had a penchant for arts, culture and travel. During my travel, I specifically look for local crafts, art and textiles, which has widened my spectrum. This passion is what got me involved in the Crafts Council… and over the years I have learnt from many craftsmen and my seniors.”
Vastrabharana will probably be on at Chitrakala Parishath, Race Course Road, from September 28 to October 2, between 10am and seven.30pm. Entry is free.