‘A Hundred Hands’ brings home the realisation, that the beauty and sense of satisfaction that we get in anything handmade is unparalleled. And we are lucky that we come from centuries of this tradition. Our independence is also a witness to this phenomenal movement of the charakha where we went back to khadi and handspun. Today we are at the crossroads where we have to choose between handmade and a product of the machine. It is a conscious choice we make to empower our economy and our artisans. The Dhawan sisters, Ms. Mala Dhawan and Dr. Sonia Dhawan started the NGO ‘A Hundred Hands’ seven years ago with just this intention. To empower the unknown karigar and help him create a brand and identity for himself. Having started as an annual bazaar in their garden, it has now over 100 artisans as members with a wait list of another 200. In a candid talk with Ms. Mala Dhawan, she speaks of the need to scale up with corporate funding. Not taking any commission for themselves, it is a tough journey. It is rare to find such generosity of spirit, especially when the years of work is paying off and the annual collective is a big hit among patrons and consumers. Though they belong to neither the NGO nor the Design world, they are determined to make a difference. And this love that they have for ‘A Hundred Hands’ is seeing them through the many hurdles they have come across. I have been following their initiatives for quite some time now and am mighty impressed with not just their zeal but also the results in terms of the innovation and creativity that they are helping foster among the artisans.
The ME2WE project is one such initiative started last year. It has gained momentum and you will be astounded with the results. The eighth annual collective will feature all these artists and more. You can only imagine the deadly combination when two creative minds collaborate! Absolutely stunning collection of products, a creative journey which has witnessed and transcended barriers of language, location, sensibilities merging onto a whole new plane. The fresh colourful kanchi cotton sarees with lambadi embroidery, the globes of glass created to become aeriums or glass gardens, handwoven fabric with banjara embroidery, accessories made of crochet with patwa embroidery, handloom fabric from ‘Charaka’ lining newspaper rolled picnic baskets, soft ajrakh block printed fabric lining wool knitted scarves, beautiful mirrors which have brought together encaustic art and corrugated discs…are but some of the many collaborations.
Their journey has not been easy but the beauty that has emerged, the collective learning on both sides, the appreciation of each others’ art and process, has enriched the artisan, the art and the patron. The willingness to share their knowledge passed on from generations, enriching the art, learning to blend the different materials and processes to create a new handmade product makes ME2WE a unique collaboration.
‘Blanket of love’ spreads the warmth of ‘A Hundred Hands’ and aims at educating a girl child. A volunteer run programme, knitters and crocheters are encouraged to contribute blankets, the sale proceeds of which, will be used to educate a girl child. So any purchase you make at this counter will see you making a positive difference to a child.
The Denim project is a recycling project which also provides a means of livelihood. This was started in collaboration with NIMHANS where the women undergoing treatment wanted to earn their livelihood but lacked the means. Their tailoring skills were put to good use with ‘A Hundred Hands’ taking care of the raw materials, contemporary designs and marketing of the end product. This beautiful initiative resulted in the trendy bum bags, clutches, mojris, iPad covers, jholas and so many other products.
Dr. Sonia Dhawan takes care of the denim project and it now supports 8 women self help groups. The leftovers of the denim is not wasted either. The lambadi tribal groups in turn create beautiful patchwork and these become table runners and other products. The art of kowdhi making from Bellary was also revived as part of this project. The cascading effect has been such that there are many who want to volunteer and collect old jeans so that the beautiful products can keep coming. This annual collective, you have a chance to make your old pair count. Tell your friends and bring over the old denim for some serious transformation. You can drop your old pairs at the denim project counter.
Travel plans – The craft tour was one such initiative where heritage, skill and travel came together creating an experience of a lifetime. I missed this one…but the next time I am making sure that I am a part of it.
The story of ‘A Hundred Hands’ does not end here. I will bring you many more insights from the collective and the artists when I meet them. You could also make your own memories by being a part of their workshops, the details of which will be updated here when they finalise them. In case you are in a ‘no shopping phase’, you can still come over with a friend who needs to shop and off course Christmas is just round the corner (so you do need to stock up on gifts).
My wish for ‘A Hundred Hands’ is for them to move from strength to strength, brightening lives and instilling confidence in the artisans to believe in the future of their craft. Come and be a part of their growth.
Let’s meet at the Annual Collective.
Lots of Twinkles to all of you.
PS- Pics are all from A Hundred Hands, used with permission from Ms. Mala Dhawan.
And I will get my own pics at the collective!