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Rendezvous with crafts at Dastkar!

I had been in Delhi for the wonderfully, long summer holidays and squeezed in many a visit to artisans, designers and independent retailers, which was as always, satisfying and fun. However, one of my ‘bestest’ afternoons’ was spent at the ever so brilliant ‘Desert Weaves’ organised by Dastkar. If you are blessed to be living in the Delhi NCR area, and have an interest in ‘all things nice‘,  that are simply not bought off the high street but instead are created with sweat and love by the very talented craftsmen and women, then you must (that is if you haven’t already!) pay a visit to ‘Andheria Modh’, where a permanent exhibition exists at ‘Gali-e-khas‘ and from time to time, special events are held, to include even more talent and ‘Desert Weaves’ was one such event, that was worth a visit!

Just the ambience, the earthiness, the plethora of creative heads working together, talking about their work and then simply seeing big smiles pasted across the artisans faces, just because people like you and me are acknowledging their work……is so humbling, educational and as a bonus serves as a humungous shopping extravaganza too!  An opportunity to support the work of artisans as well as treat yourself to some pretty, unique, crafts too. Ready for the trip? Here we go:

The green, relaxing entrance created and presented by plants and garden accessories by this nursery was certainly a treat from the warmth of the sun!

dastkar desert weaves delhi crafts
Welcoming green…cooling the air around us, and giving us respite from the strong sun
dastkar desert weaves craft artisan
Bastar crafts – Iron work, animals, diyas and bells…pretty and perfect for your home

I was drawn straight to the shoes guy…my love for ‘juttis’ is big and I have spoken about it in the past too. For me, the feeling of finding a pair to fit my wide, pretty feet is equal to finding some kind of long, lost hidden treasure, and gets me terribly excited! So, my feet dragged me straight there and I have to say that the ‘jutti’ stall there was extraordinary. A visual treat, indeed and with so many styles and designs on display; and to top it all a live demonstration by Hanuman Lekhraj!  This was a first for me and the ease and passion with which the artisan spoke about this work was truly inspirational. A peep:

Hand made, extremely comfortable and, yes, it's a 'jutti'
Hand-made, comfortable ‘juttis’; see those yellow and brown pairs? They are both mine 🙂
dastkar desert weaves artisan hand made juttis shoes leather
Handmade ‘juttis’ calling you….and they are extremely, soft, well-cushioned and pretty too!

After buying a few pairs and listening to their anecdotes and tips was rather refreshing…here is a tip from the specialists on how to darken the colour of your ‘jutti’..take regular black shoe polish, mix it with a little mustard oil and apply! Leave it to rest and a brand new pair gets created….and several others, maybe in another post, another day…for now, lets move on to another artisan’s nook.

Hand-made Pichai ; made for 'thakur' but would look stunning in your home too
Hand-made Pichwai; made for ‘thakur’ but would look stunning in your home too
'Chitra Sevak' creating 'out of the world' paintings...check out the intricacy of these
‘Chitra Sevak’ creating these gorgeous paintings…check out the intricacy of these

The ‘Pichwai’ painting…the painter or as he refers to himself as a ‘chitra sevak’ (in the blue shirt) was there himself along with his guru (in the white shirt holding up the painting) ; telling us about the history behind those paintings, the significance of the paintings and what a real ‘pichwai’ painting is…all told to us in simple and yet such romantic words…It took Nupur to another land straight away; with goose bumps and moist eyes, she fell in love with their creations. Hence, it’s only fair that she dedicates a whole post to this exquisite style of paintings. For now, we’ll have to just do with this.

Then, of course there was the ‘saree man’. Both, Nupur and I love wearing sarees and love to add some hand made ones to our collections as and when we get an opportunity. In this exhibit, was this tremendously talented man, Zia who makes these ‘ajrakh’ and ‘shibori‘ dyed sarees, some are ‘ajrakh’ and painted, that he works with another artisan to create! Who says there is a lack of talent in India? Nupur bought one stunning piece but Zia patiently continued to show us a lot more and with a sparkle in his eyes, told us how he crafts these and how it is rewarding when people just take time to listen to his work, buying or not doesn’t even matter, he added! What an amazingly talented being? Humbling to meet such people…

'Ajrak' with tie&dye work in a saree...handmade by Zia
Ajrakh’ with tie&dye work in a saree…handmade by Zia and now Nupur is its proud owner
Handmade to depict the snowfall effect? Picture just doesn't do justice; the 'real' scarf is even better than the picture
Handmade by this wonderful man in the picture …. the snowfall effect
Hand painted by another clever artisan while this clever man does the 'ajrak'..all handmade in Rajasthan
Hand painted by another artisan while Zia does the ‘ajrakh’ work…all handmade in Gujarat

Another ‘saree man’ was representing the crafts from ‘Bagru’ – a place famous for hand block printing   and Dabu mud-resist printing in Rajasthan. He displayed the finest, softest ‘kota’ and cottons sarees, stoles and dupattas with hand block ‘bagru‘ prints; each piece was different and his stories about the pain that goes into creating those prints have left a mark in my heart! It’s a tradition and his people don’t want to stop doing it, so they keep on living with the pain and the ill-health, that the process brings. On a happier note, the peacock prints stole our heart…Apologies, as the pictures for this wonderful shop somehow got deleted…so, I have to hunt this wonderful man down again and write about him another time…until then, pardon me.

Then, there was ‘Chhapa‘. We love them too. What’s not to love about their hand printed quirky prints? We took away some dresses, some tops and some very stylish waistcoats. Like them on facebook and keep abreast with their world.

chaap-hand-block prints-quirky
Hand block prints with a quirky twist on cotton…we stopped and we shopped
And it all boils down to the shoe…quirky prints to make you stand tall

There was a lot more out there; some stunning food too to re-fuel your ‘holy temple’ while you looked around and shopped. An experience, where you are sure to come out feeling that ‘you are notjustashopper, you are so much more’….

May this tribe of skilled artisans live long and flourish!

Shilpa xx


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