The Art of the Desert
Several northwestern regions of India were completely destroyed by a massive earthquake in January 2001. It was the most severe earthquake (out of more than 90 earthquakes) to hit Kutch in 185 years. The area affected is called the Rann of Kutch, a seasonally marshy saline clay desert located in the Thar Desert, in the state of Gujarat, India. It is the home of 3 artisan cooperatives: the Kala Raksha vocational school of art, Qasab and WAMA. Now, years later, the artisans have rebuilt their lives and dreams thanks to their traditional art: fine mirror-work embroidery, traditional weaving and leather work.
The Women Artsians’ Marketing Agency is located in the heart of the Kutch area of Gujarat, India. After the earth quake, much of this area was destroyed, and the women artisans belonging to this agency relied on their art to raise funds for rebuilding. WAMA has also served as a keeper of traditional embroidery, making sure the art does not go extinct.
Handmade Expressions has partnered with this group to help them make a living from their art. Through dialogue, we have been able to develop unique products such as the World Peace Bags. We also carry their more traditional fine embroidery bags, which can be seen in the list below. Through Fair Trade, this group has been able to keep their art alive, rebuild their villages after a catastrophe, and learn about new designs that make their products more marketable in the Western world.
This group of artisans practice very intricate mirror-work embroidery. In earlier times, this beautiful art was used to make dowry items for brides-to-be. It was considered too precious to be sold to outsiders. However, fair trade policies, a growing respect and appreciation for the art, and the need to rebuild after a devastating natural disaster compelled the local people to share their art with the rest of the world.
Due to the lack of employment opportunities in these regions of India, many people resort to working in agriculture, which is seasonal and crops are often affected by drought. However, with mirror-work embroidery, over 2500 artisans living in villages across this region are revitalizing this traditional craft for sustainable livelihood.
This art has now helped the artisans obtain a dignified social standing. It has also promoted the development and independence of women by making them self-sufficient, decision-makers in their communities.
The following is a video that documents one of our trips to this region:
To see the “Art of the Desert”, please browse the list below:
Size: Various Shapes. About 6” x 3.25”
Materials: Cruelty-free Leather, Glass
Named after the technique used to make them, these pillows are deep blue and have a zig zag pattern down the side. Made of cotton.
Rich, traditional embroidery with mirror work. Assorted colors. 2 card slots.
SIZE: 4" x 3"
These lightweight, 100% cotton scarves come in three colors: fuchsia with an ellipse pattern, indigo with a zig zag pattern, and turquoise with a diagonal pattern.
Original Price: $13.00
Colorful and trendy, this scarf comes is three colorways: chocolate, blue and fuchsia.
Original Price: $11.00
This is a Fair Trade product made by artisans in India. The artisans are compensated fairly for their work, and are given development help...
- Made of cotton
These trendy, functional wallets come in an array of different colors and designs, perfect for anyone’s style. All designs of this tri-fold wallet have a zipper pocket on the back for coins and closes in the front with a magnetic snap. The inside has 5 pockets to...
Modern patterns are embroidered using traditional embroidery stitches on a handloom fabric, making the bag an interesting blend of traditional art and modern design. The inside of the bag is lined using handblock printed fabric in contrast colors.The bag also has a small zipped pocket inside. The flap of the...
These stoles are woven with fine wool threads in the Himalayan regions of India. They are given a very rich feel. The patterns are woven into the body of the stoles.
Artisans receive a living wage and work under safe conditions. Fair trade allows them to practice their art and...
The Peace Coin Purse is the perfect place to keep all of that extra change! The coin purse is off-white with an embroidered red peace sign outlined in yellow on the front. It unsnaps upward and has a pocket on the inside. This product’s lightweight and flexible cotton material makes...
Intricate thread and mirror work embellish this key chain. It has a small hanging bell at the end. It comes in assorted colors and designs.
Artisans working on these key chains receive a fair wage and work under safe conditions. Fair trade has opened a market for their products, helping...
This is a fair trade, handmade card holder. It is made from cruelty free leather (leather from animals that died naturally). The holder has three compartments, and it is embellished with fine patterns hand embossed by village artisans.
The artisan community that makes this product lives on the edge of...