Crafts and craftspeople have a vital role to play in contemporary India - not just as a part of its cultural and aesthetic past, but as a part of its economic future.
Dastkar is committed to prepare the craftsperson, the craft product and the consumer, for the future.
Dastkar is a society for crafts and craftspeople that aims at improving the economic status of craftspeople, thereby promoting the survival of traditional crafts.
It was founded in 1981 by six women who worked in the craft and development sector, including Laila Tyabji, Dastkar's current Chairperson.
Dastkar strongly believes in "craft" as a social, cultural and economic force that, despite being marginalized due to urbanisation and industrialization, has the strength and potential to play a vital role within the economic mainstream of the country.
The crux of Dastkar's programme is to help craftspeople, especially women, to use their own traditional craft skills as a means of employment, income generation and economic self-sufficiency. Dastkar guides the process of developing a craft - from identifying the skill and creating awareness of its potential, in both craftsperson and consumer, to developing, designing, costing and then marketing the product, and finally suggesting the proper usages and investment of the income generated.
The objective is to make craftspeople self-reliant, independent of both the commercial middleman and of organisations like Dastkar, by allowing them to market and sell contemporary products directly, and not simply subsist through subsidised craft. Craft skills range from textile based craft producer groups to terracotta. The product ranges developed include garments and accessories, home furnishings and decor, toys, stationery, and folk art.
Dastkar ensures that the end product is competitive, not just in its worthiness of purpose or the neediness of its producer, but in cost utility and aesthetic - a consumer does not buy out of compassion!
As groups become self-sufficient, Dastkar directs its support to new groups and assists them in their growth. Presently, Dastkar provides a range of support services including skill upgradation, design workshops and training in production and management to many of the 250 plus craftgroups it works with from across most Indian states. All groups benefit from the marketing activities Dastkar undertakes through the organisation of its regular Bazaars and Exhibitions.
These Dastkar Bazaars and Exhibitions, where artisans sell their products directly to the customers, expose craftspeople to the market and gives them a firsthand knowledge of customer tastes and market trends. Dastkar also has an export licence, thus enabling it to provide an alternative international market for craftspeople, developing exclusive items for individual customers and orders.
Apart from the support services and craft development consultancies Dastkar provides to its own family of producer groups, it is also regularly asked to provide evaluation and consultancy services to other government, non-government and international agencies. Its Delhi office team travels all over India, and it has sister organisations in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.
Elaben Bhatt, Founder of SEWA, the Self-Employed Women's Association said "I see Dastkar as both an organisation and a movement. The organisation started the movement and gave many NGOs and craftspeople the confidence to make good crafts products and market them directly. It showed us the way and gave us direction. Today, there is consequently an all India movement of craft as a means to sustainable employment. It is not necessary for Dastkar to grow as large as the movement or to run the movement. At the same time without the organisation there would be no movement, and if there was no movement there would be little point in the organisation."
This sums up Dastkar's vision and mission re. its growth and future development.