Direct from Market: The Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair
Carole Sloan -- Gifts & Dec, November 25, 2012
The mood was buoyant and business brisk at the 34th Indian Handicrafts and Gifts Fair, organized by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts (EPCH) from October 15-18, and one of the biggest industry sourcing event in Asia. A large number of buyers from traditional U.S. and European markets, as well as those from new and emerging ones from Latin America, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa shopped across an area of 97,000 sq. meters at The India Expo Center & Mart in Greater Noida, near Delhi. Nearly 2,400 participants exhibited over 950 products lines of handicrafts, including eco-friendly home furnishings, garden decor, textiles, furniture and hardware.
From Moradabad, the Mecca of metals, now dubbed a "mega cluster" by the government, a contingent of 360 manufacturers displayed a staggering assortment of brass, steel, chrome and ironware in new designs and finishes of what has now evolved into a new oeuvre: artmetalware. Products from Moradabad alone comprise 23 percent of India's handicraft exports.
Long boats used during the Onam festival in Kerala are the inspiration for these graceful aluminum tealight displays from Sanjeev Kahali decorated with a mosaic of luminescent glass.
After the steep decline in exports in 2008 and 2009, an increase of 33.48 percent in exports during the first five months of its current financial year has injected a heartening optimism into the industry. To maintain this upward trajectory, EPCH has launched several multi-pronged initiatives according to executive director, Rakesh Kumar. Its Next Gen program aims to meet global compliance standards, especially in terms of child labor issues. In addition, the Council plans Brand Imaging Programs for product-specific shows, a new Home Expo India fair next spring, and an emphasis on e-commerce trade. Longtime buyers from India, Paola Chelli from Orientalissimo in Rimini, Italy, and John Shackell of Linens Unlimited based in Victoria, Australia, found the fair vibrant; they felt that the continued creativity, originality and innovation of Indian hand-craftsmanship give Chinese products a run for their money. First-time visitor, Jenny Jones from Rugs & Home in Perth, Australia, shopping for furnishings for a 22-room boutique hotel, was charmed by manufacturers' courtesy and willingness to accommodate her custom and low quantity needs.
Several trends were noteworthy, creating a sense of yearning for the rustic elegance and simplicity of bygone eras while holding on to the 21st century's clean and contemporary feel:
• A resurgence of arts and crafts themes in metal ware, glass, marble, wood, wrought-iron, hand-made paper, leather, canvas, ceramics, and textiles, encompassing furniture and frames to table top, garden décor, and textiles.
• The theme of wanderlust evidenced in clocks, maps, globes, lamps, footstools, trunks and storage accessories in riveted metal looks and complemented by hunting motifs prominent in portable furniture that sported distressed wood, jute and hessian trimmings, cane, rattan, canvas and bamboo that harkened back to the jungle. Khemchand Handicrafts laid out a line of bags in 700 GSM canvas in grey, khaki, beige and sage trimmed with leather, jute and blanket remnants; other travel accompaniments were in styles and designs reminiscent of safari camps and made of plywood and mango wood, faux leather, hessian and blanket fabric. Desks with covered leather and brass trimmings, wine accessories and magazine holders from Suneast International Inc. were elegant and masculine.
• Large scale and oversized decor—from huge ship and land lanterns to floor lamps, cabinets and metal accessories—combined classical looks with art deco, industrial and architectural elements to create a rustic elegance evocative of Restoration Hardware. Expression of India showed products inspired by a variety of elements: a ship's steering wheel, ship's lantern, a lamp designed from an upside-down karhai (Indian cast iron wok), and an interesting nautical knot-shaped lamp covered with jute. East Coast Industries' product line embraced the retro theme with large studio lamps and industrial metal pipes fashioned into a variety of functional household items.
• Flea market or "shabby chic" evident in items that showed a distinct feminine influence and a vintage feel in lots of toile patterning mixed with white florals, cabbage roses, scroll patterning, damask, lace and antiqued finishes in cotton, velvet and linen. A unique quilt from Two Roots Company was in aqua and grey viscose with a cotton backing with individual hand-quilted sections that created the optical illusion of embossing for a lovely, luxurious look.
• Victorian and Edwardian styles going hand-in-hand with the nostalgic themes and visible in Jacobean embroidery, floral patterning and ornate embellishing in home furnishings such as tassels, silk trim, lace and beading. Noah's Ark showed cute bijouterie, including jewelry holders in metal decorated with metallic embossing and hand-painting.
• Botanicals, woodland creatures, birds and other natural elements - in wood, textiles, metal crafts (bird cages and garden décor) and mixed media to impart a sense of simplicity and back-to-nature. Makers Mart
A complete range of metal galvanized iron greyware from Makers Mart with multi-function possibilities. debuted two new lovely lines of antiqued finished galvanized iron in grey and green. Its well-laid out booth displayed an array of product lines in iron and wood with designs inspired by mehendi or henna art, nakashi (a form of hand-engraving that uses punching), hammered art, embossing and hand-painting.
• Three Rs—rescued, recycled and re-purposed—seen in products that exhibited patchwork, découpage, hand-stitching, uneven and distressed paint, mottled and antiqued finishes and mixed materials. Noble Art & Craft House showed a huge variety of chests and bins, garden and porch décor, beautiful Christmas décor of fire-etched wood, as well as wall hooks fashioned from industrial faucets. Dileep Industries displayed an eye-catching line of oversized tableware and hospitality décor fashioned from broken, recycled soda lime glass that is combined with arsenic cryoxide, sodium nitrate, sodium sulphate and cerium oxide to impart hardness, ductility and brightness. Saini Exports showed a lovely line of Christmas items in wool that is "elbow thrashed" to impart a distinctive texture and hand feel. Cast papier-maché animals with bodies covered with very tightly woven recycled, dyed cotton rag made for a lively display by Starline Overseas.
• Turkish and Moroccan and North African and Aztec influences in design, earthy colors and geometric patterning were evidenced in textiles, ceramics, home and wall decor. Picture frames of recycled and dyed bone and horn were good examples of these foreign influences, in Shakti Exports' line, while Mahima Exports' frames were distinctive examples of fire writing to color, and acid writing to pattern. On the other hand, Dada's International impressive array of frames in wood, bone, mixed media and metal in unusual shapes and sizes were a treat for the eye with their beautiful, intricate designs inspired by traditional Indian motifs and craftsmanship.
• Colors in mid-tones, indigo and blues as well as mono chromatics (black and white) seemed popular as well as white, ecru and beige. Gold and other metallics were still in evidence, but executed in various finishes and muted tones in keeping with the nostalgic feel.
Screen printed canvas bags, stamped distressed wood furniture, old-fashioned hardware—all capture the latest trend of rustic charm in these products from Khemchand Handicrafts.
Oversized décor from East Coast Industries capture the trend of metal products that hearken back to days of yore.
Two Roots Co. transformed the jeans you thought you misplaced.
Cheerful and colorful, these hand-painted tin and aluminum home accents from Noah’s Ark are sure to delight the young at heart! Front to back: trinket dish, candle ring, wall plaque, shoe-maven jewelry stand and paper towel holder.
Luminous oversized soda lime recycled glass bottles from Dileep Ceramics.
Eye-catching cast papier-maché animals with very tightly woven recycled, dyed cotton rag by Starline Overseas.
Ornate designs and intricate handwork are the hallmarks of these lovely mixed media frames from Dada’s International.
The most product lines and variety at the fair was in metal craft which, as in years past evinced incredible creativity and attention to detail. Finishes ran the gamut from shiny to matte, muted, distressed, mottled and cracked. Tableware was largely in shiny and burnished or pewter-like finishes and new functions and variations of traditional utensils were shown. A surprise was to see highly polished garden décor - picks, sticks and other floral decoratives. Color was incorporated into metal in imaginative new ways, with designs embossed, etched and printed to truly warrant the soubriquet, artmetalware. Metal was followed by wood and glassware. Ceramics were much in evidence with variations on the theme of rustic home décor as evidenced in wooden spice boxes with decorated ceramic pulls or fronts, glazed crockery and delicate bone china. Dadoo Export had an interesting display comprising various product lines that spanned from traditional to modern. Displays of jewelry and handbags were many, followed by textiles, carpets and fashion accessories.
Tradition and modernity coexist: Spices, jewelry, knick-knacks—all will find homes in these colorful wood drawers. Embossed aluminum sheeting and decorated ceramic knobs, or ceramic drawer fronts give a touch of cheerful, traditional whimsy.
A project to revive languishing crafts such as chikankari (the distinctive embroidery of Lucknow), zari handicrafts and shawls as artware is being undertaken by EPCH. The Council is also executing ambitious international marketing projects for India's North eastern region (silk, cane and bamboo products) and the handicrafts of Uttarakhand in the north. In September, the Indian government tweaked sourcing norms for foreign direct investment (FDI) exceeding 51 percent in single-brand retail, diluting the earlier requirement for compulsorily sourcing 30 percent of merchandise from local, micro and small to medium enterprises. That spurred Swedish retailer IKEA to plan to invest $450m in 25 stores in India. IKEA will train 200 Indian artisans on international best practices and labor laws even before its proposal to set up shop gets a nod from the Indian government. EPCH is also exploring the possibilities of collaborations with Wal- Mart and U.K.'s Marks & Spencer.
A selection of bar and home accessories in glass and leather make a statement for Sunset International.
10. From HNS Homes, floor seating options, clockwise from top right: square cushion jacquard woven from rag silk sari remnants; black hand-knit cotton yarn; machine embroidery on brown and tan faux leather; round white hand-knit cotton yarn; red and white hand-knit from hosiery rag yarn.
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