KALA RAKSHA VIDHYALAYA:
AN INSTITUTION OF DESIGN FOR TRADITIONAL ARTISANS
In its second decade, Kala Raksha is addressing India’s most
pressing need: Education. In October 2005, Kala Raksha launched a
design school for working traditional artisans of Kutch. This
educational institution, whose environment, curriculum and
methodology are designed to be appropriate for traditional artisans,
is intended to model a new approach to the rejuvenation of
traditional arts. Project Director of KRV, Judy Frater, was awarded
Ashoka Foundation Fellowship
to realize the project. In March 2009 she received the
Sir Misha Black Medal for Distinguished Services to Design Education.
2011, she received the Crafts Council of India Kamala award for
service to the field of crafts.
Concept of the Design School for Artisans
Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya is an educational institution with a direct
marketing link, open to working artisans of Kutch, conservatively
estimated at 50,000. The focus of the school is on acquiring
knowledge and skills that can be directly applied in the artisan’s
own art to enable innovation appropriate to contemporary markets.
Rationale and Structure
Working artisans rarely have the luxury of leaving their home and
profession for long periods of time. Therefore, the curriculum is
designed as a series of modular classes which are conducted over a
period of one year in a residential local setting.
Design Instruction and Institutional
Kala Raksha has well established links with premier Indian design
institutions, including the National Institution of Design (NID),
the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Srishti Design
Institute, and the Indian Institute of Crafts & Design (IICD).
Faculty from NID and NIFT are advisors in establishing Kala Raksha
Vidhyalaya. In addition, Project Director Judy Frater mobilized a
team including faculty from the Fashion Institute of Technology, NY,
and the Rhode Island School of Design to develop the basic
curriculum for Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya.
Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya is situated on 8 acres in Mundra Taluka, a
peaceful rural setting near the coast of the Gulf of Kutch. A
spacious guest house designed by Architect R. J. Vasavada, and craft
studios and student hostels and exhibition hall designed by
Architect Hemen Sanghvi today host the courses.
A Computer Aided Design Center is a vital part of the educational
program. Presently, this Center as well as a sampling studio are
housed in the existing facilities.
Course Content and Development
Raksha Vidhyalaya’s curriculum is a work in process. In its quest to
insure the relevance of education specifically for traditional
artisans, the institute observes impacts and innovates on content
and structure of courses. Revisions are also made to address
the changing needs of the artisans and the ever developing market
scenario. The year long course now has six intensive two week
sessions: 1. Colour: Sourcing from Heritage and Nature, 2. Basic
Design, Sourcing from Nature and Heritage, 3. Market Orientation, 4.
Concept, Communication, Projects, 5. Finishing and Collection
Development, 6. Presentation. Together these form a comprehensive
process in developing tradition-based products for contemporary
Examples of innovations that have evolved in our four years
of operation are the addition of a critical component of
meeting craft consumers as well as visiting shops in a field
trip to Ahmedabad, and equipping non-literate artisans with
a language of visual symbols to analyze their experiences,
transcending the lack of conventional literacy.
In the finishing and presentation courses, mock juries of
Kala Raksha staff and artisans’ relatives were added. These
prepare the students for their final professional jury, and
engage family members in the students’ hard work. In the
third year, the problem of product design was addressed.
Textile artisans cannot learn effective product design in a
year. Yet, as product is supremely important, we sought a
sustainable solution. Urban design school students were
engaged, not to give designs to KRV students, but to be
their clients. The artisan students presented their briefs
and chose from concepts presented by the urban design
students. The result was a range of new product designs, and
the introduction of new perceptions in roles and abilities.
Male and female artisans attend courses separately,
conforming to social norms. We have learned to appreciate
and support the courage it takes for women to participate in
the KRV course. The pressure against women’s education is
Visiting Faculty are design education professionals from
India and abroad, and well prepared to work with traditional
artisans. Students and Visiting Faculty reside together on
the campus. Course content is presented in the craft
studios as well as classrooms, and the priority is always
for artisans to implement theory in their respective media. Students and faculty access Kala Raksha’s local resources:
Master Artisans from our Advisory Board, the local natural
surroundings, and Kala Raksha Center, where they study
contemporary work in the shop and traditional pieces in the
Kala Raksha Museum. Through the course, the students learn
to critique and question. KRV is increasingly a place where
learning is mutual. The wide range of ages in classes
enables everyone to understand that there is no age limit
for learning. The elders’ experience enables grasping new
concepts, and the younger members learn of tradition from
Each student works toward creating a final collection. These are juried by
a panel of
eminent experts in craft. The Convocation Mela is a much
anticipated two days of celebration, with over 6,000
people visiting the campus. This
is a chance for the students to test their work on buyers
and professionals in the field. One student said it was
worth another whole class. At the same time KRV is
educating artisans to become designers, the public must be
educated about their creativity and capacity. The annual
Convocation fashion show has motivated students, and has
been an important instrument in educating the public to
think about craft in other ways.
one student eloquently expressed his experiences, “When a visiting
designer talked about giving designs to artisans and our
teacher told her we are doing something completely
different, I felt good. The importance of Kala Raksha is
that it respects us as creative people. This will insure the
perpetuation of our craft.” This fundamental change in
awareness, self respect and confidence is cultural
sustainability, which will insure the vibrancy of
evaluation of the Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya program was conducted by
Mr. Ashoke Chatterjee, President of Crafts Council of India and
former Director, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad. The
thorough analysis of the project has been the basis of development
of a plan for scaling up the institute. A copy of the evaluation and
scaling up plan are available on request.
DEVELOPMENT OF LEARNING MATERIALS
From the first class it became clear that to insure that the
institution is successful in terms of its vision, guidelines
in curriculum and syllabus development, as well as in
methodology must be provided to the visiting faculty. A unit
to teach fibers and structures has been produced. Efforts
are now concentrated on developing material to elucidate the
indigenous concepts of design and aesthetics, including
indigenous vocabulary and means of assessing quality.
Efforts in the development of the institute will also focus
on establishing long lasting market links for graduates. Kala Raksha will play a key role in this aspect of
development, and plans to expand its Marketing Department to
accommodate increased and varied production.
This year, e-portfolios of graduate artisan designers will
be added to the Kala Raksha website.
generous funding from UNESCO and Eileen Fisher, Kala Raksha
produced the film “Artisans Design!” documenting the first
year of Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. In 2010 we completed “The Masters’ Voices” a series
of six short films on Master Artisans’ understanding design in traditional textiles, and a single summary film framed as a discussion among
artisans of different crafts.
The project was supported by Dorabji
Tata Trust, Seagate and Global Giving. The films present a poignant portrayal of traditions in transition, and a
tribute to the creativity of the artisan.
KRV graduates have
demonstrated through development of more sophisticated collections
and participation in national marketing venues that their design
capability and efforts to reach new markets have increased. The
performance of alumni as mentors and permanent faculty also clearly
demonstrates that the content of the course taken was absorbed and
can be effectively conveyed to others. KARVADA (Kala Raksha
Vidhyalaya Artisan Designers Association) continues to forge
policies and activities to maximize the benefits of working
In 2009, an assessment of
KRV alumni was prepared by interviewing 50 of 78 graduates.
Analysis of the feedback of all those interviewed demonstrates
clearly the resoundingly positive impact the institute has made.
100% of the students
were of the opinion that they had learned something new in their
craft and were completely satisfied.
Nearly 34% had found
employment and become independent because of Kala Raksha and the
learning they received at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya.
20% had doubled their
9% had raised their
income by five to twenty times.
The full report is available
In March 2011, a follow up
Assessment of women graduates from 2006-2010 was prepared, including
products designed over the years, and the work of COMO sponsored
With the exception of artisans impacted by
major industry and 4 individuals with extenuating circumstances,
women graduates of KRV have clearly been able to increase their
income after completing the course, from 4% to six times. Women who
have graduated from the course clearly gain self confidence.
Furthermore, the extended contact and input enables them to emerge
as distinct individuals with recognized capabilities. This favors
them being chosen to participate in internships, workshops,
interactions with guests, and exhibitions, and a mutually
reinforcing professionalism has developed among the graduates. This
report is also available on request.
KRV Workshops to the
continues to focus on building links through which KRV graduates can
develop their capacity as designers and find new and better
markets. In December 2012, Kala Raksha and the Vidhyalaya hosted
the seventh workshop of this year, with faculty from Kansas State
University. These workshops foster exchange, and appreciation of
"We certainly left with
a much greater appreciation for the embroidery work we've seen
everywhere. We also saw women making friendship bracelets. That made
me feel a bit better because even though I can't really stitch a
mirror onto fabric, I can make a good friendship bracelet."
Nora, student of
Participants in workshops
since January 2011 have included international design students and
faculty from Coloarado State University, Missouri State University
and Kansas State University, students from Oregon State University,
who earned college credits in the USA!
Students from the
University of New South Wales Australia, and the National Institute
of Design, art and design professionals from the UK studying the
‘Cotton Story,’ and many interested travellers.
"I enjoyed the creative energy of
working in a group."
was the best experience of my life so far!"
"Working together was a whole new
"I learned enough for a whole new
The workshops take KRV a big step forward in becoming
financially sustainable, and in addition open new markets for KRV
alumni- teachers. It is a win-win proposition! For information, please
download our proposal.
and KRV Alumni
KRV’s new website
is growing. The men's e-portfolios are
up, and we encourage you to see their work!
Visiting Faculty member LOkesh Ghai and KRV Advisor Shyamjibhai
Vishramji participated as Artists in Residence in the Cotton
Exchange Project in Manchester, UK. The program centered on four
stories, two of which were Kala Raksha and KRV graduate Khalid Amin
Khatri. Exhibitions of work were held at the Manchester Art Gallery
and the Harris Museum in September, and the Gallery of Costume in
Juned Ismail Khatri participated very successfully in the Crafts
Council of India's sari exhibition in Delhi in September,
underscoring the importance of design in tradition. KARVADA members
held a successful solo show in Mumbai in December, and KARVADA and
KRV women graduates are all working together toward a major event in
2008 Graduate Murjibhai
Hamir was an exchange artist to Scotland in the ReSide program
2006 Graduate Lachhuben
Raja represented Kala Raksha in the 2012 Santa Fe International Folk
2010 Graduate Hanif Abdul
Majid Khatri and 2011 Graduate Aakib Ibrahim Khatri participated in
a workshop with Australian Designers in New Delhi
2008 Graduate Abdul Rauf
Razakhbhai Khatri won the President's award for craftsmanship.
2010 Graduate Khalid Amin
held a solo exhibition at Artisans Gallery, Mumbai
The Artisan Designer group
has been institutionalized at Kala Raksha.
In July and September,
Kala Raksha tested two collections of one of a kind art to wear
jackets. The market response was unanimous: both sold out!
In September 2012-
Jessica Marati published Teaching Design, an article about
KRV in Hand/Eye Magazine.
Kala Raksha is now on Facebook.
And join a discussion on issues of craft and design on our blog
THE FUTURE OF KRV
much appreciate support of our neighbors, Adani Foundation and Tata
Power/CGPL and this year we give special thanks to the Somaiya Group
for support of the Mela. However, the gap between our nature based
institute and the impending industrial jungle will eventually mean
that our location will have to change. Relocation will incur huge
costs in terms of money, time and spiritual energy. But our
resounding success leads us to continual creative explorations.
While the future of KRV’s site may remain a question, we look
forward to an exciting and ambitious plan to scale up and serve
artisan communities. And we look to our supporters to help us
through the period ahead!
For further information, contact