Tech Interventions

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From memorizing intricate designs to digitalization of Kashmiri’s art heritage, handicrafts sector has come a long way. But is technology really helping artisans to ease their workload, Durdana Bhat finds out

Manzoor Ahmad Bhat weaving carpet at International Buyer Seller Meet. Pic: Durdana Bhat

Manzoor Ahmad Bhat weaving carpet at International Buyer Seller Meet.
Pic: Durdana Bhat

Forty-five-year old Manzoor Ahmad Bhat is a traditional carpet weaver and he is working in this field from last thirty years. Back in 2005, he saw an advertisement indicating that Indian Institute of Carpet Technology (IICT), located at Baghi Ali Mardhan Khan, Nowshara, Srinagar, is going to hold a designer training and teach Talim (language of weaving carpets). He applied.

The institute, was established in early 2003-04, by Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles, Govt. of India and Industries and Commerce Department (Directorate of Handicrafts), Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir to provide necessary technical support to the regional carpet industry.

In 1998 Ashfaq Khan, an engineer created Naqash, a software that converts the coded blueprint of carpets into a design and vice-versa. The software can be used to copy most intricate designs even if they are partially available.

Though it is not known how many old designs have been saved by this software, but Khan continued working and developed a portable dyeing machine for handicrafts industry that can produce 15 million shades. He also partnered with the IICT to produce a lightweight power loom that has improved production capacity and is less cumbersome.

IICT has introduced Carpet Design Software, a locally developed modern technique for carpet designing, wherein carpet designs are automatically converted into Talim Scripts (a unique Coded Pattern). The designs created and developed by this software are automatically preserved forever.

This innovation has eased the design work enormously as it used to take months together for a group of persons, comprising of Naqash (Designer), Talim writer and a Talim copyist,  to make carpet design of standard size and to transfer the design drafted on graph paper (outline only) into the coded pattern known as Talim in the local language. With the help of this technology, one can view complete design on a computer before actually going for manufacturing.

=When Manzoor applied at IITC the first thing he was told to do was to make some designs. He performed his best and finally got through. The training continued for 25 days where he learned shading and esthetics, as colours play a significant role in design. Hot, cold and warm colours may vary from design to design.

Mostly the colours used are hot which means the colour would be red and fascinates the users. Before this, he says, he had no idea of how to dye threads in different shades and colours.

After that, Manzoor came across another advertisement saying that the Dyeing Department of IICT is holding a six month course in dyeing the thread according to exact shades in percentage. He joined that too.

The Institute has set up Design Studio with latest digital equipment’s wherein 561 Carpet and 107 Kani Shawl Designs in the digital form were developed with the application of Carpet Design Software. IICT generated revenue of Rs 13.17 Lacs from the industry while providing these on nominal charges.

Manzoor says, in old days traditional carpet weaving was very hectic job to do, it was time consuming. But now the techniques which are used to make carpets have changed the scenario, without changing the traditional tinge with the help of new technology. Softwares that are used to design carpet are making crafts person work easy.

When he completed his training from the department, he found out that IICT is looking for a trainer. He applied. He was asked a few questions relating to the craft, from where he got through and then he was selected as a trainee at IITC.

However, another important move was Geographical Indication Act, GI mark, a certification, which helps in brand building. Certification, in ISO literature, is referred to as ‘Conformity Assessment System’. It helps the producer to acquire a stamp of authentication from a particular institution. In India, the institution is in Chennai. The GI Act registers geographically specific handicrafts and acknowledges that a handicraft is unique and belongs to a particular area.

The GI mark is owned by the practitioners, so a group of artisans have formed a registered society named as ‘Tahafuz.’ of which Kashmir Handmade Pashmina Promotion Trust (KHPPT) is a part. So far the members of this society are ‘registered proprietors’ of the GI mark.

Theoretically, getting registered under GI act is suggested to be the best plan in place to standardize Kashmir handicraft.

Under GI, the right to marketing the concerned product is tied to a definite geographical territory and the manufactured goods should be produced or processed or prepared in that territory.

The GI status provides legal protection and facilitates action in case of infringement. GIs are covered as an element of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).

Besides, pashmina and walnut woodcarving, the other five products which have got the GI cover are – Sozni-embroidery, Kani-shawl, Papier-mâché, Khatamband and Kashmiri Carpets.

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