Craft crusader

Craft crusader

Growing up in Delhi, Sangeeta Roy would accompany her eldest sister Shampa whenever Shampa wanted to visit arts and crafts fairs. She would tag along reluctantly but over time her interest and appreciation for Indian handicrafts grew.

What was once a hobby has now turned into an exciting business enterprise. And every year since 2008, Ms Roy has held one or two exhibitions a year of Indian handicrafts in Singapore through her business Kala Tarang. Due to the growing interest in her exhibitions she is holding three this year at The Arts House.

When Ms Roy moved to Singapore in 2002 with her husband, a senior director at Hewlett Packard, she realised that, despite the craft sector being India's second largest employer after agriculture, there weren't many Indian handicrafts making its way into the global market.

"I thought here (Singapore) is a country that is very close to India yet exposure to Indian handicrafts is very low. I thought back to my younger days where there was so much happening and there is so much that should be happening in the Indian craft sector which employs a large section of the Indian economy. Many people don't realise that, when they think of India they think of call centres and the software industry," said Ms Roy.

She set up Kala Tarang, which loosely translated means "Craft Waves", in 2008 to spread awareness and appreciation of Indian handicrafts. "Indian handicrafts have such a rich and diverse history while also being uniquely beautiful. You will find crafts in a myriad of colours all from nature's palette. India's craft industry is proof that environmental sustainability does not necessitate compromising aesthetic appeal."

At Kala Tarang customers will find a variety of handmade products from folk paintings to pottery, embroidery to weaves and dyes. Prices range from $5 for a pair of earrings to $1,000 for a painting.

"My endeavour is that if you come to the exhibition you will find something in your price range, in your colour palette, you will probably find something you like," said Ms Roy. "I source my crafts from all around India, from NGOs and craftspeople directly."

Through Kala Tarang, Ms Roy is able to share her appreciation of India's rich handicraft heritage. Her passion for her job radiates in her voice as she shared: "I love working in the craft sector. It excites me, it's a sector with a lot of potential. There's so much to learn about the history behind these crafts and the way they have survived.

"It can be a very unpredictable sector, you can say to a craftsman I want these 10 things and everything has been agreed upon and then he might say, 'But actually I have a wedding in my family.' In spite of that it is fun, I find it very fascinating and I want to do what I can to make the sector thrive."

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