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SKILL DEVELOPMENT through design innovation in Chikankari crafts



India is known for its traditions and culture. But due to forces of competitive market and globalization and also deteriorating socio- economic conditions of the artisans, these skills are not being pursued by the young generation. In this context it becomes of utmost importance to august these traditions with design innovations; creating better marketing opportunities for these craft products and thus developing good scope for youth’s employment in the country. With this back ground, the present research focusing one popular Indian craft i.e. “Chikankari”, aims to achieve better market and employment opportunities for this traditional craft through research in design innovation. Different secondary and primary data from different sources are proposed to be used to come out with appropriate suggestions and recommendations in designing field as outcomes to rejuvenate this craft and thus attract our youths to pursue their career in it.

India is one of the few countries where working population will be far in excess of those dependent on them. This young population will be recognized as a potential source of significance strength for national economy, provided we are able to equip and upgrade skills of these youths, using new modern technologies, especially designing interventions.

Chikankari craft prevalent in different parts of India, is one of the traditional craft providing livelihood to good number of population. Despite having wide scope for employment opportunity, the industry has not been much successful in achieving the targets of better marketing, including export and better livelihood and living standard of people engaged in the industry.   One of the main reasons for this has been not giving much attention on the optimum use of innovative appropriate technologies to meet the demand of the emerging new market sphere. A research focusing on designing and material in accordance to the customers’ liking and choice will certainly help in rejuvenating this craft in an effective manner. The proposed research will be carried out to explore innovative ideas (mainly in design and material) to make this craft more popular and in demand at national and international level.

Chikankari has always been done on the fabrics and apparels since ages. The patterns and the designs used are also not much changed. There is a need of design innovation in this area for promoting this craft at national, as well as international levels. The fabric which is used for this craft is mostly cotton. Apparels have only been the product line developed for this craft. There is also need of material exploration and surface exploration to expand its product line, beyond apparels. Surface material like jute, recycle fabrics can also be used other than cotton for the embroidery. Product line can be more accessories based like Chikankari jute bags, Chikankari jewelries, Chikankari laptop sleeves, Chikankari water bottle covers etc.  Design development can be done in this field with the help of Design thinking methods like brainstorming sessions, design process sessions with panel of designers to take the level of design innovation of this particular craft at a higher level. Software like Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop can also be used for developing new patterns for Chikankari[1]

The major issues, which need to be looked in detail and carry out further research, are briefed in the succeeding text:

Design innovation is a major factor to be looked into. The artisans have been following the same old design patterns since years. There is hardly any new pattern, used by the artisans. Thus Design thinking methods like brainstorming sessions and design process can be used for teaching the artisans to use new patterns.

In addition, they used this craft only on apparels. They hardly looked into developing Chikankari accessories. While with NGO “NEED”, under NCDPD for developing new innovative products other than apparels. Products like Chikankari handbags, laptop covers, and mobile pouches were developed during the internship. This was only done for one organization and that only in Lucknow. Other artisans in different parts of the country can also be benefitted by such intervention i.e. by developing new product line. Software, like Photoshop and Illustrator can also be used for enhancing the skill of the designers for further design exploration.

Material and surface exploration is another issue noticed which need immediate attention. Chikankari is always done on cotton. Other material embellishment and surface can also be explored, like jute, recycled fabrics etc. By using material finish like jute and recycle fabrics, Chikankari can also come under the category of sustainable and eco-friendly fashion line. During the Internship, it was found in the beginning that the artisans were not very comfortable using other materials. But once they were provided proper guidance, they are able to come out of their comfort zone of using just cotton fabric.

Basic knowledge of computers and communication skills: This is a very important issue noticed, while interacting with the artisans involved in the industry. They hardly have any basic computer knowledge of using internet and computer software for design innovations. This shortcoming is also to some extent responsible for hampering their growth and preventing them to take their ideas to next level.

Infrastructure and facilities:  Lack of proper infrastructures, machines, tools and even small facilities, – like proper lighting etc. are other issues noticed, which are found to be major hurdles, preventing the growth of the industry. There is need to look into proper working environment, better equipment and tools, the material etc., which may bring positive changes and new development s in the industry.

In brief, the Chikankari industry in the country has good scope for its betterment, but this needs to be explored in a scientific and systematic way. There are good scopes and opportunities to explore new areas and regions, where artisans can be trained in innovative techniques, including new design patterns and material. The working environment and better equipment are other areas, which also need to be looked into simultaneously. In this context, the proposed research project will be very relevant and useful, which will help in enhancing the skills of the artisans, exploring new marketing and employment opportunities and ultimately bringing a positive change in the life style of the people involved in the industry.

[1] (In the above context, it is worth mentioning that during my internship, which I did on a similar project for two months, with National Center for Design and Product Development (NCDPD), in association of Handicraft Mega Cluster Mission (H.M.C.M) in Lucknow; various important issues emerged relating to the growth of the Chikankari industry, which need further research.)


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