Tisser has two broad categories of work. In the first category, we work with master artisans, who have a family tradition of the craft, and provide them with financial, quality and marketing assistance. In the second category, we provide services ranging from skill identification, training, design and development, quality control and marketing. As Tisser grows, we hope to invest more in the second category of work where we provide the gamut of services initially, and move the artisans to the first category where design inputs, along with quality and marketing assistance would suffice. We believe that quality handiwork, provided it is designed well for the current lifestyle, is capable of generating enough income to sustain economically self-sufficient groups of artisans.
Most of the artisans that we work with are not educated, but they have a younger generation, which has a relatively better access to technology and training. A fair wage, appreciation of the craft and market reaching them at their homes, rather than them having to go out and look for jobs, would go a long way in convincing them to take up the craft as their vocation. Coupled with their education, they can reach the market directly and use Tisser’s inputs on a need basis.
Over the last few years, professionally I have gotten in touch with artisans at their homes, and sometimes in local exhibitions all across the country. The handicraft sector is the second largest employer in India after agriculture. Many of the traditional handicrafts have been awarded the geographical Identify, like the Mysore Silk. In most cases, Tisser start a project by visiting these places and arranging a first-hand meeting with the artisans. In some cases, inspired by the stories of a particular craft, Tisser have gone in search of them, sometimes successfully, and sometimes in vain. We have also ended up with a few unexpected finds.
The respective government office of Panchayat Raj and the Rural development Department, through the livelihood mission have been a great source of help , as I have been working with them through the World Bank for almost five years now.
We design the products keeping in mind the art practiced by the artisan involved (be it embroidery or weaving or any other) and apply a good understanding of the process involved in the craft, and then give the artisans few samples to make. Once the samples are ready and approved, more pieces of the same type follow.
The samples also help us in creating a quality sheet for the product, which specifies every single step that needs to be completed and checked before the product is declared as ready. So far we have been working with traditional designs and functionality, but lately we have been venturing into designing new stuff and imparting training to broaden the skills of the artisan.