Standing near a windowsill in a two-room structure, Zahida, in her early 30s is calling out her children for breakfast at 9 o’clock in the morning to complete the unfinished work and tend to her kitchen garden along with her mother-in-law.
But this is not the routine Zahida had thought of when she arrived as a newlywed bride back in 2009. She is well trained in the art of embroidery, having taught many girls in the Magam area of Handwara to become self-reliant.
“I taught girls handicrafts here, especially during winters. Some came to learn out of curiosity and others to become financially independent,” says Zahida partly circled by children with mobile phones.
During the 90s, when Kashmir was facing an untoward situation, Zahida’s father, the breadwinner of the family, was injured in a cross-firing. It was right after that incident, that she decided to switch from studies and focused on a skill that would add some bucks to the family income.
“At the time of training and even after that, we were paid just Rs 100 on monthly basis at a centre, ” recalls Zahida.
When the work had gathered some pace and she was making a good sum using the gold and silver thread to beautify the traditional pherans of women in the village, machines arrived to snatch the livelihood of many like hers.
“For the first two years after marriage, work was good, and one was able to earn. But the sudden arrival of machine-embroidered work halted the business of hand-embroidered pherans,” says Zahida.
Since then the decline began and women, according to her, prefer machine-made even though the hand-embroidered are stronger and long-lasting.
Zahida is not the only one trained, her younger sister, Rifat is also well versed with knitting and could pass on her skill to those willing to learn. “For that, we should have a centre where we can teach girls and earn for ourselves as well,” said 23-year-old Rifat folding her hand-knitted sweater.
The changes from the last few years have made much wind up the work because the ROI (return on investment) is negligible.
“It takes us around a week if done continuously from morning to evening, but due to other important chores at home, we take around a month to finish one pheran,” says Zahida who is set to go for work in a lawn cum kitchen garden.
As of now, according to her, two pherans are still kept unattended in a tin box. “Knowing the return and time required, I don’t feel like working anymore,” says a visible dejected Zahida.
Many in the area believe if they are given the attention they deserve from the government, they could teach others, especially girls from financially weaker sections of the society.
For 34-year-old Parveena though, discontinuing is not an option. She gets some work from the shopkeepers in Hindwara and helps her husband who is a daily wage labourer.
Whenever in the market, the sight of machine-embroidered pherans hanging outside shops brings back the dreams Zahida had woven in her mind before marriage: “Besides becoming a helping hand of my family, I would buy a bicycle and many other things for my son out of my own earnings.” But that remains a plan buried in the heart of a skilled woman.
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PHD chamber holds capacity-building programme for artisans of chain stitch, crewel embroidery
PHD Chamber holds capacity-building workshop for crewel embroidery artisans
Srinagar, Sept 13: PHD Chamber Kashmir chapter conducted a two-day capacity-building workshop for the crewel embroidery artisans here at Kashmir Haat.
The workshop was organised in association with the Directorate of Handicrafts and Handloom Kashmir and with the support of the Department of Commerce, Ministry of Commerce & Industry Government of India in an effort to bring the business of weavers, craftsmen, artisans, and designers into the mainstream.
Director Handicrafts Mehmood Ahmad Shah inaugurated the workshop.
“Even though handicrafts is the second-largest industry after agriculture, they do not receive the attention they deserve. Weaved and handmade objects are regarded as art by foreigners, but because they are indigenous to us, they don’t seem to have the same value,” said Mehmood Shah, according to a statement issued by PHD Chamber.
These kinds of workshops serve as a platform for bringing together artisans, craftsmen, and designers, allowing them to connect and generate fresh ideas in response to changing consumer demands.
Mehmood Shah interacted with craftsmen working with crewel and chain stitches and gave them instructions for registering as artisans and providing them with a platform for marketing. In order to expand the scope of marketing for handicraft and handloom items, the director handicrafts emphasised to artisans the importance of incorporating the most recent technological developments and innovations in accordance with current market trends. This includes proper e-marketing of the products.
The programme was attended by 49-artisans of crewel embroidery work and craft clusters from various areas.
On the occasion, Riyaz Ahmed Kawoosa, Assistant Director Publicity and Exhibitions, Handicrafts and Handloom Department, was also present. The resource person, Mushtaq Ahamd, Designer School of Designs, focused on topics including the value of design in crafts, how to create refined designs for export, new and innovative designs development and quality improvement.
“The Indian handicraft industry needs to embrace technology across the value chain, from production to the final sale of goods,” said Dr Asif Naqeshbandi, assistant professor department of management studies.
The use of technology, whether it be to increase production yield or give artisans access to direct digital marketplaces, needs to be taught at the grassroots level in addition to this. The long-term survival and expansion of the sector depend on Indian artists having a bigger presence in these virtual platforms, where young customers are increasingly choosing to purchase.
Dr Mohd Sayyed Bhat from the Institute of Chemical Technology in Mumbai made artisans aware of the importance of packaging for handicrafts, especially for crewel and chain stitch.
Later artisans visited the school of designs where they saw a live demonstration of the chain stitch and the crewel stitch. The tour was organised by Shahena Bhat, a designer at the school.
The artisans thanked the Handicraft Department and PHD Chamber for organising such awareness workshops. They also stated that they would use the techniques they learned to improve the packaging, design, and marketing of their products.
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