Rural Artisans in Odisha: A Design Thinking Perspective

One of the initiatives of The Art Of Making Foundation (TAOMF) is to help tribal communities to retain their art and craft through 3D Designing & Printing technology.

Here is a glimpse of a field trip done by Shweta Thapa, Founder TAOMF during her ecotourism of the lush green & beautiful villages of Odisha in India, as part of a fellowship journey with SBI YFI & Gram Vikas. An opportunity to discover the most exotic & visually appealing “Art-form” that spoke millions, about the culture & traditions of tribes residing in these villages.

“Beautiful, mystical, raw, simplistic, symbolic representations that enchant you in every way”.

  • Saura Paintings

Photo Credits: “Saura” Art, Gram Vikas Odisha

“Saura” painting is a type of wall mural painting or paintings on a leaf or “Patta” depicting the lifestyle of the tribals of the state of Odisha, who worship the Sun God & use natural coloring materials from mountains to make their exemplary work.

  • Art & Craft

Photo Credits: Makers at Village Balisora(Top)& Adri(Bottom) District: Kalahandi, Odisha

The rural Artisans also dwell in alternate livelihoods such as pottery making, bamboo furniture, baskets & cap making, soaps, woodwork & much more, without any branding or marketing linkage of any sort whatsoever.

Earning a living has been very difficult for these artisans, owing to COVID shutdowns, despite having so much talent & effort.

  • Pattachitra using Natural colors
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Rural Artisan using natural colors for creating Saura Pattachitra, Village: Raghurajpur, District: Puri, Odisha

  •  Konark Temple & Mahendragiri

Odisha boasts of a culture of the great empire of “Asoka” & the abode of the gods, “Krishna” popularly known as “Jagannath” here from the Vedas, Mahabharata, a place where the Pandavas were sent in exile & lived peacefully for 14 years. A state with such rich Archaeological findings as evident in the temple constructs of Konark, Jagannath & Mahendragiri hill ranges.

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Photo Credits: Left, Shweta Thapa, Konark Temple, Puri, Odisha. Right, Mahendragiri.

Abode of the Pandavas from “Mahabharata”

Wouldn’t it be a shame that a land with such rich culture is now dying out on even saving these artisans whose earlier generations actually built one of the world heritage temples?

  •  Soap Making

Photo Credits: Gram Vikas, Konkia school, District:Ganjam

I had an opportunity to speak to one of these rural Artisans, in the village of Arsilingi, District: Gajpati, who was a soap-maker, and she mentioned the challenges of having a suitable & sustainable market linkage for their product. Additionally, they were limited to one kind of mould design & packaging with no branding content on it whatsoever.

That’s where I thought an intervention of Design Thinking could possibly help these folks fill in the gaps in terms of the variety of designs for the moulds that could be created using 3D printing, along with the use of natural materials in the actual “soap” making process. In addition to this, marketing with the right content, ownership of the “tribal” culture & trademark, and the depiction of “Saura” in the product itself would definitely help with the prospect of social entrepreneurship for these artisans.

3D Printing can help create moulds with different designs, sizing & shapes that are more market-friendly & offer customized branding!!!

Setting up reliable marketing linkages at airports or city harts would also add more visibility to the positioning of the product using Design Thinking,3D Printing & Customization, Branding.

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Photo Credits: Pottery, Raghurajpur, Puri

Branded Pottery using Recyclable & Tribal Art Depiction

The proposition here is to not let this majestic Artform die out & also help the rural Artisan become sustainable in different ways. The new technology & digital advancement in social entrepreneurship can be an easy fix, but are we all willing to go that extra mile and make that dream a reality for poor Artisans & a dying art-form??

Think about it……..

More about the Author, Shweta Thapa:

Shweta is a Social Entrepreneur, Engineer & Innovator in the field of Additive Manufacturing, connecting 3D printing to the multitude of application segments. She has an M.S. in Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering from Rutgers University, NJ, USA. Not only has she been in the field of Innovation & Design Thinking, for the last 10 years, but has also helped build Digital Fabrication & DIY labs for schools & maker-spaces, all over the world. An advocate for STEM learning & women empowerment, Founder of an educational 3D printing startup (3Ducators) in NJ, USA, & a non-profit organization for skillset Training in India, known as The Art of Making Foundation.

Shweta has been helping small businesses grow by utilizing sustainable solutions by harnessing the power of Design Thinking & Additive Manufacturing.

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