I dropped my external data drive yesterday and its not working. I was in a state of panic and despair, all my life's work was in it. My recent work is on my computer but I had spent the last couple of days organising my earlier work and it was all on the drive!
Instead of worrying about what i lost i am looking at what i have left. So i am starting a series on my blog about the craft groups i have worked with and their context on this blog and the products on pure ghee products.
A new craft shop in Delhi called me yesterday to place orders for some Nirmal toys that i had designed in 2006.
About five hours from Hyderabad in Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh on national highway #7, you cant miss the huge hoarding of Nirmal Toys and Arts Industrial Co-operative Society. This is the workshop of about 60 craftspeople, one of the few groups i have worked with who still function in the co-operative system.
Initially i found it difficult to work with them as they came across as a bit indifferent and bureaucratic but over time i realised I accepted the fact that they just have a different pace. They are a hard working lot though all belonging to the same caste often related to each other. They are happy doing what they do and curiously not ambitious about exhibiting in bigger cities nor are they looking for new orders.
Its their skill of making beautiful 3D wooden toys that keeps taking me back to them. Their regular items include animal and bird statues mainly used as decorative items. At one time they used to make decoy ducks for export. Now they cater mainly to the local market and to Lepakshi Handicrafts. They are made from the local wood called ponki,which is extremely light. Their process is more like building with clay rather than carving, they use a paste made from tamarind and saw dust in layers to build the form on a rough wooden base. Earlier they used natural pigments but for reasons of cost effectiveness they now use the cheaper and easier to use chemical pigments.
The first range of products i designed with them were bright toys for children. I divided them into animals from the pond like fishes, frog, duck, crabs, animals in the farm like goat, dog, pig, animals from the jungle like lion, elephant, dragon. We used non-toxic colours and the shapes of the toys were designed to have no sharp edges. These toys received a good response in the markets in Delhi. But the follow up of production and marketing did not match up with the initial design development effort.
I worked with them again to produce a range of small home accessories. This time we did drawer pulls, clocks, book ends, magnets, mobiles, boxes etc. These never went into production.
As I understood the limitations and the challenges of the group i became more relaxed and was able to appriciate them better. I think its incredible how they have survived all these years, part of the credit goes to the residents of Nirmal for giving these nirmal toys as gifts on all ocassions includings weddings, birthdays and retirements. There is only one destination in Nirmal when it comes to buying gifts.
The new designs i developed can be viewed here