I just did a skype presentation to the students of the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology in Bangalore India. They are doing a really interesting project developing inventive ways to produce quality cost effective picture books for families who would usually be unable to afford them. I have been twice to Srishti to lecture and do workshops and I think they are really one of the most interesting colleges i have ever visited. very forward thinking in many ways. Its the first time we did this skype talk but it worked really well. Thanks very much to Matt Lee who got me involved
I had been reading contracts and giving advice to the Association of Illustrators’ members from India without ever actually mentioning where i was to the AOI office.
Then they actually called me up on my UK mobile when i was at a very loud and strange sounding festival (Shivaratri) …flutes/cows/rickshaw horns and a man wailing from a tannoy in the background…..and they were surprised to hear i was actually in India all along. Paul from the AOI had been threatening to post about it on their blog ever since.
Some people have mailed me to ask how I got in contact with the Fair Trade groups etc so i thought I should explain it a bit here.
There is two main certification marks that govern fair trade. The first is the FLO mark on the left above, it oversees commodities such as coffee/tea/fruit and is the most widely recognised. The second is the WFTO mark which oversees the more complex fair trade manufacturing certification. Clothing/stationery/handicrafts any manufactured goods etc all come under this mark so it is the place to go for designers looking to create and manufacture designs and products.
I always wonder why it is the Fair Trade raw commodity mark is so widely recognised but the Fair Trade manufacturing mark isn’t as well known. Mainly perhaps because the Fair Trade raw commodity mark products can sell themselves without much help from design (coffee, tea etc need nothing more than a packet) but fair trade manufactured products aren’t as easy because they heavily rely on design. There are great companies such as People Tree that are doing their bit to show that its possible to do great designs in fair trade, but in general I think its clear that there still isn’t enough great design. Why isn’t it everywhere? More than 50% of coffee sold in the UK is fair trade and still rapidly growing but in clothing it is less than one percent. If there were more it would be a huge force in poverty reduction and the main thing I see holding it back is design.
Having worked myself in advertising and commercial design for a long time I had become very disillusioned in the world and business of design, and I am very grateful to the people I have met in Fair Trade who have reminded me again what good design can be. There are some amazing traditional crafts and hand made objects that just cannot be produced industrially that lend themselves if designed nicely to really beautiful high-end design products. Textile designers in particular would be blown away. Not only that but I have met some pretty amazing and inspiring people. It has been a great opportunity for me to take some time to do something a bit different that is generated by myself rather than commissioned and it has led my design work into lots of new and unexpected directions.
For anyone who is thinking about getting involved they can go straight to the WFTO website here and contact producer groups all over the world by region/country or by product type. Literally anything you can think of (that can be non-industrially manufactured) can be made somewhere by some co-operative. You can also join them on facebook here
If you have any other questions please leave a comment below.
Some amazing hand-woven fabric swatches from ACP. The craftsmanship and work here is just mind-blowing. The stuff you could do with this….!
Even just very simple screen prints work so well on hand-woven fabrics
I had heard about the fantastic work of Prof. Anil Gupta two years ago while teaching at Sristi College in Bangalore.
Professor Gupta’s interest is in sustainable technologies and remedies found in India’s rural fringes. Traditional technologies such as herbal remedies and other traditional and localised knowledge are facing a decline as these areas adapt to the globalised world. Local knowledge is often under-appreciated in these areas as they strive to modernise. The aim of the Prof Gupta and his team is to record and foster this knowledge so that it is not lost and can perhaps be utilised in new ways.
In addition to this work Gupta and his team are also documenting some incredible new innovations by the local communities they visit. Most of the communities visited by the team are subsistence farmers and use their limited resources in very inventive ways. Without anything other than the resources that grow naturally around them these farmers are living within entirely sustainable systems. There are some really interesting ideas for the developed world.
THE SHODH YATRA
Dr. Gupta had the idea of connecting and learning from these communities 12 years ago. He and his team tried to think of the best way to visit the isolated communities. In the end they decided the only way these places could be visited was by foot, the communities are so isolated that many do not have access by road, also these group walks of learning are deeply rooted in the Indian tradition which Gandhi had tapped into as his way of gathering support and connecting peoples. The Shodh Yatra was born, in Hindi it means literally ‘foot travel’ The first Shodh Yatra was in Gupta’s own state of Gujarat and since there has been a Shodh Yatra every six months. 24 in all so far in almost every region in India. On average 300 people, mainly farmers and academics but also a passionate and extremely diverse bunch of interested individuals from botanists to product designers from all over india and beyond come to each Yatra. Amongst the amazing people we met on the Assam Yatra were journalists, zoologists, architects, anthropologists and a really interesting amateur botanist.
Prof Gupta has set up the Honeybee Network, the idea is to ‘cross pollinate’ isolated communities with the other knowledge systems and innovations of their neighbours. He has collected so many innovations in the past twelve years that their database actually holds the largest amount of registered patents in the developing world. The idea is to use these innovations in a completely open source or creative commons way.
He has also set up the Grassroots to Global network to create business plans for the local amateur innovators to reach a global audience. We joined the Yatra at the Rural Volunteer Centre outside Dhemaji in northwest Assam. The RVC was set up by Ravindranath as an NGO to provide knowledge and training to local farmers. There is also a good article about Dr Guptas work in DESIGN OBSERVER here
I hope i can someday do some work for Dr Gupta. Very inspiring stuff.
professor gupta gives a talk at one of the villages