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An investigation into the development of traditional Indian textile designs for new markets, with specific focus on the ajrakh block printing of Gujarat

Clifford, Ruth (2012) An investigation into the development of traditional Indian textile designs for new markets, with specific focus on the ajrakh block printing of Gujarat. Masters thesis (MA), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This research analyses the various models of design development used to find viable contemporary markets for the ancient hereditary craft of ajrakh. Since India’s Independence, there have been various initiatives by government and non-governmental organisations and commercial businesses to revive and preserve India’s handicrafts and find new sustainable markets. This has happened at a time when there has been growing interest amongst international and Indian urban markets for handicrafts and eco-friendly and ethically made products. The research methods involve case studies of four organisations that have played an important role in the revival of ajrakh, alongside three artisan case studies; two of which are successfully producing for urban and international markets; and one who is producing chemically dyed ajrakh for a local market. The case studies were analysed to identify strategies used to preserve the cultural wealth and significance of the craft while appealing to an increasing culturally separate, urban and international market. Results have found that a collaborative model is a successful one. This involves collaboration between designers or intermediaries (which include NGOs and businesses) and artisans - in which the intermediaries serve as an interface between the artisan and the market. Further, collaboration between the local level, in which artisans play a prominent role in decision making, the intermediary level in which the organisations operate, and the heterogeneous level, which addresses issues affecting the broader, social and economical context of the craft, are important. Finally, it was found that design education for artisans at the local level is the most effective model because it focuses on all-round education for the artisan. It allows the artisan to realise the potential of his traditional craft, understand his market and combine tradition and innovation to develop high quality, desirable products that hold cultural and social value.

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