Artisanscrest: Innovative Dais For India’s Traditional Arts And Craftsmen


India’s vast and rich art heritage finds a new narrative every time it is rediscovered by people who make it part of their lives and living spaces. Artisanscrest, a group of art aficionados, brings craftwork from various artisans spread across India into living spaces. Its aim is to showcase and profile pieces of craftsmanship and the artisans who create them, through works, material and inspiration from various states — sandstone sculptures from Rajasthan, exquisite wooden statues from Channapatna and Assam, Dhokra artefacts from Chattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal, and more.

Artisanscrest talks to Creative India about its journey in preserving traditional arts and crafts through art intervention and interaction with artisans and customers.

What is the creative vision of Artisanscrest?

India has a rich heritage of traditional art forms. They do not get the recognition they deserve. Traditional artisans follow time-honoured methods in creating exquisite works of art. At Artisanscrest, we aim to bring these traditional skills and expertise to a global stage, so that the crafts are preserved for posterity. It is our dream to ensure that our rich arts and crafts not only survive, but flourish in the homes of discerning art lovers, in India and abroad. Through our extensive and exclusive network of traditional artisans, we build a platform to market these arts, as well as provide a better livelihood for these artisans.

What does curation mean to you?

To us, curation equals expertise. We share this expertise with our customers. We share our extensive knowledge about traditional Indian arts and help our discerning buyers make an informed choice about purchasing an art work. This process unearths hidden art and craft gems. Our endeavour is to bring these stories, artisans and art forms into the limelight again.

Which art forms do you explore?

We explore a wide variety of art forms. However, we only work with traditional artisans who still follow ancient techniques of craftsmanship. These artisans have practiced their craft for many years, maintaining a tradition that has been handed down from one generation to the other, honing their skills by working on a variety of materials including metal, stone and wood. We are sensitive to the tastes of the modern consumer and aim to blend our vision with the customer’s unique needs, in order to co-create a perfect, unique and personalised masterpiece.

You allow visitors to create. What prompted you to merge curation and creation?

We work with very fine pieces of art. It is our privilege to offer customers a chance to get involved in the creation process, making the artwork even more personal and unique. A small change here, a unique requirement there, and we bring to life the customer’s idea through a rich and long-lasting work of art.

How does it work?

We have a good rapport with our customers. On our website, we list featured products, curated art forms and our capabilities. For a readymade piece, the procedure is actually quite simple: select the product and buy it. We deliver it to the address with instructions on how to install the masterpiece. We are just a click or phone call away at all stages of this process to guide the buyer and help them with any queries. We also provide solutions for customised masterpieces. In case of customisation of a product, we talk to the consumer, understand the unique requirements or reference images, work along with them and the artisans to create a masterpiece while keeping the customer in the loop throughout the process. Our website has a specific section devoted to customisation.

How do you help create metal sculptures at the studio?

Creation of metal sculptures is a unique yet complex process. When customers ask us to create them, they come with an expectation of making something incredibly unique, mostly a piece that will occupy pride of place in their homes or their workspace. To meet such expectations, the first step is to develop a sketch according to the brief given by the customer. On approval of the sketch, a wax model is created and then clay is spread over it to create a mould. The mould is burnt in a furnace allowing the wax to melt and escape through a tiny passage, which is eventually used to pour molten form of metal that settles down to give shape to the final sculpture.

What challenges do you face?

The challenges vary because of several factors. For instance, small statues are more difficult to make, if there is intricate work involved. When we deal with large installations, it is a challenge to get large, monolithic blocks of stone to work on. If we are unable to work with monolithic blocks of stone, then it is a challenge to make the work look seamless. This is true for art works on stone. When it comes to metal, the challenges are entirely different. When creating a customised metal sculpture, the biggest challenge is to create a unique mould in order to build the specific sculpture requested by the customer.

Who helps explore the art forms — customers or curators?

Both, actually. As curators, we help our customers explore new mediums and styles, educating them about the history and tradition behind each art form. In turn, our customers push us to explore different sculptures, different artistic visions etc. For us, the challenge and the greatest joy is in delivering exactly what the customer wants in an art form, which is both traditional and revered. It is based on the customer’s requirement and specific needs that we are also building in the back end, a machine learning based, predictive analysis model that helps us choose variants of an art form, the media used and propensity to buy levels. So, it is a mix of customers, curators, social interest and technology, too.

What are the popular representations in sandstone and red sandstone?

Ganesha and Buddha are the most popular, while we have a lot of enquiries for Radha Krishna artworks, Nataraja sculptures and Shiva statues. Lord Hanuman, Parashuram and garden statues of apsaras, welcome statues and darwans are also popular. Over the course of our journey, we have learnt a lot more about the amazing traditions across our country, as we receive customised orders for local deities, gods and goddesses. This, in turn, helps us guide other customers while purchasing artwork that not only looks good but is also designed to spread harmony, peace and good fortune at their homes or workspace.

Where does the confluence of brass and stone emerge from? 

The art of making sculptures using a combination of brass and stone has been existence for many years, but a definite answer on its origin is not known.

What fascinates you about brass and stone sculpture?

With stone, it is about converting a large, dull block of stone into an exquisite masterpiece. It is like giving life to an inanimate object, adding the expressions on the face, the intent in the eyes, the shape of the body and the mudras, all culminating into a piece of art that embodies skills of yore and captures the beauty as visualised by the craftsman. It reflects a piece of art that transcends time itself. It gives us great joy to watch artisans transform something lifeless into a masterpiece. With metal, we also get to watch how different colours play with one another, the attention to detail on each piece, the aesthetic value of moulding and shaping metal into a symbolic and magnificent artistic masterpiece.

Where are the sculptures made and which stones are used?

We work with artisans across India. For sandstone and redstone, we work with stone sculptors from the state of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh or Rajasthan and for blackstone, we visit expert carvers from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. For marble, we work with artisans from Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Do artisans share their views on material and form with customers?

Yes, they do. In the end, the artisans are the experts – they know best what works and what does not. Their inputs are crucial to us as we do not wish to mislead our customers at the time of purchase. Our network of artisans is divided into several teams and each team has a master artisan who provides inputs at every stage of the creative process.

Do you have plans of expanding your reach?

Our vision is to make every house around the world, a proud owner of an Indian art form. We focus on reaching out to a global audience, not just Non Resident Indians, but discerning art collectors from all over the world. We strive to bring to focus our country’s glorious artistic tradition and guide our customers who have an interest in India and all things Indian.

How do you sensitise customers towards different art forms?

The first thing to do is to understand what the customer needs. Depending on their requirements, the complexity, the location of the piece (indoors or outdoors), we gain an understanding of the customer and guide them towards an art form and style. For instance, if we speak to somebody regarding a large outdoor piece, we recommend different forms of stone sculptures as they are more durable and create a great impression right from the start. To those looking for large indoor pieces, we recommend paintings, as they tell a story and create conversations around the piece.

A work of art you are proud of:

We are proud of all our creations. Each masterpiece is an example of an art form that has endured the test of time and is now the centrepiece in the collection of a discerning art lover. From exquisite Pattachitra to intricate Dhokra brasswork; from handlooms to finely-crafted golden grass craftwork, our masterpieces are part of a story we are privileged and honoured to be a part of. We take pride in the fact that we have been able to contribute, in a very small way, to the livelihoods of the artisans and provide a global platform for traditional Indian arts and crafts. And in this, lies our way forward too.