Picasso and Satie. Warhol and Basqulat. Brambilla and West. Dali and Cooper. Yves Saint Laurent and Mondrian. Jimmy Choo and Pruitt. Morimura and Miyake. Art, music and fashion have collided in new and inventive ways over the years, interspersing diverse creative forms and whipping up magical crossover collaborations.

The recently held seventh annual edition of A Hundred Hands collective in Bangalore brought together 85 artists from across the length and breadth of India in a first-of-its -kind “ME2WE” project. Nearly 50 artists collaborated, stepping above and beyond their everyday creative realms, fusing together concepts and skills to launch an out-of-the box innovative range of handcrafted goodness.

Fuelled by our love for all things indie at Unfactory.in, and giddied like little children on a ferris wheel, we walked in to the United Theological College on 63 Miller’s Road, taking in the succoring sights, sounds and scents of perhaps the only collective dedicated to handmade.

Two Green Thumbs and a Glass Blower

Eco-entrepreneur Monisha Lobo from Garden City enjoys packaging the outdoors into unusual containers, stylish fern planters, terrariums and heavenly scented herb gardens. Firozabad based Mahesh Kumar who hails from a family of traditional glass crafters is a state award winner who teaches the craft to design-grads at NID and Shantiniketan. This year for the ME2WE project, Lobo collaborated with Mahesh Kumar to create one-of-a-kind designer glass containers (aeriums) for her specially imported air plants, the rainforest Tillandsias. We marvel at the queer curvaceous containers with custom designed air holes dextrously handcrafted by the manipulation of a glass rod – twisting, drawing, blowing and fusing of glass – over a high temperature flame. They are the equivalent of a haiku in design.

Painted Song-Stories and Musical Gourds

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UNESCO award winner Akshay Kumar Bariki, the young Pattachitra artist from Medinipur, West Bengal, sings like a woodland song thrush. As his fingers unfurl the canvas scroll, panel by panel, lingering over the sequences meticulously hand painted in vibrant natural dyes, he sings us the story of each painting in his repertoire. His mellifluous voice transports us to the world of tribal lore – of Ragi Boal fish weddings, holy owls that serve as vehicles to the Goddess Laxmi, of tribal celebrations and Hindu gods, and surprising new age interpretations – the story of the Titanic, the reckless Tsunami and even, Osama Bin Laden.

Next to Bariki, Tuma art (dried gourd carving) veteran and bamboo instrument crafter Jagath Ram Devangan from Basthar, Chattisgarh, showcases his stunning range of wind flutes, rain sticks, bow ‘n’ arrow slings, gourd lanterns and bamboo planters. Through the ME2WE project, the two artists have collaborated to create a series of beautifully crafted wind instruments, hand painted with dyes made from stones and seashells in the traditional Pathachitra style. We move on to explore the rest of the collective, but the magic of the wind flute and the song of the little fish that didn’t invite the big fish to its wedding, linger on.

The Iron Maiden, the Corrugation Genie and the Ceramic Pixie

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Arati Bedekar the Bangalore based self-taught Encaustic artist uses the iron as her paint brush. Beginning with a starter kit she picked up while living in England, she has produced over 600 pieces, aiming to revive this ancient Greek technique of producing stunning effects with molten beeswax mixed with colour and resin. This year, it has been even more special for Arati as she has cross collaborated with two versatile Hundred Hands associates, ceramic tableware potter Anita Joshua and corrugated cardboard crafter Mita Majithia.

While Mita has stuck to her childhood passion of working with corrugated cardboard sheets, each curl painstakingly hand rolled and glued from beginning to end often in hours-long single sittings, she brings in her interior design aesthetics to mould gorgeous lampshades, framed mirrors and corrugated bowls in an assortment of 3D shapes, colours and sizes. There is no frame of reference to refer back to, for this innovative craft range she has lovingly named CORR BEAUTY, is an absolute brainchild of her imagination.

Anita is happy to moniker herself a travelling potter or a wandering ceramist. A Golden Bridge Potter specialising in ceramic tableware, she has travelled with family and set up kilns in every place they have settled down in, ever since she learnt to work magic with her hands on the wheel.

“The idea of collaborating with another artist was a challenge to begin with as one wouldn’t want to work with an already tested idea. It wasn’t easy working on a smooth super-glazed surface for Arati. To add to the task, we decided to go with something she had never worked on before. Her unfazed and resilient attitude in the face of our hits and misses was very encouraging! It has been a eureka moment for us, an experience I will cherish for a long time”, quips Anita.

She Who Knits, The Denim Project, The Ahimsa Series. And plenty more

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Madhu Mehra’s cosy hand-knit shawls, chic poncho-shrugs and Mary Jane inspired baby booties fuse with Smriti’s delicate crochet and Ajrakh work in this year’s collaborative range of woollies, just in time for the winter chills. Asha Ram revives the dying art of Mughal wood carving with a natty range of wooden puzzles, and a super-chic range of statement jewellery with traditional jaali hair combs with in-built perfume oil channels from the Mughal era.
Kalavishkar’s mom and daughter duo present an infectiously nostalgic range of cross stitched and tatted beauties – dreamcatchers, clocks, key holders and cute wine bottle aprons in tandem with Ramona’s pretty smocked dresses for little angels.

The Denim Project that works to provide livelihood for Nimhans patients has extended its range from denim bum bags to create a new line of denim jootis, Xmas decor and recycled denim sarees in partnership with makers of the very fine Freedom Fabric and Nature Alley, dreaming up a unique contemporary combination of Khadi and Malmal.

Authentic Indigo-inked Bagru block prints lend their magic to the legendary Kalam carpets from Mirzapur. Kalamkari makes way for Ajrakh for the first time in a stunning range of hand-knotted cotton dhurries, including a first lot in sheer black and white. The famous Kanchi sarees meet traditional Porgai stitching. Recycled newspaper goes hand in hand with handloom. 200 year old Channapatna toys get a facelift with traditional Bidri work and the Banjara tribal embroidery of the Lambadi women. A Sunny Disposition’s handmade bags go chic with Chitrika handloom checks from East Godavari. Cane meets ceramic in hip chip and dip sets, crochet meets Mughal blocks, and hand-bound recipe books turn cute with applique motifs rounded up in beautifully imperfect stitches.

Mural artist xxx from Kerala inks out a stunning Buddha inspired series on Prachi’s gorgeous Ahimsa Silk, extracted peacefully after the silkworm has completed its entire lifecycle – the seven lotuses that denote every step to the path of enlightenment, the tree of life, the shlokas and the chakras.

There’s a whole lot more to fill your world with a giddy sense of joy from being surrounded by all things beautiful, handmade and nature-loving. In this technology wired world, we have chanced upon an oasis of creative collaboration and self-exploration. A beautiful quote flashes through our mind’s eye as we silently thank Mala and Sonia Dhawan, sisters-in-arms behind the A Hundred Hands collective, and walk back out of the serene tree-lined college grounds: “Each of us is a book waiting to be written.”

This is it. We have found serendipity.

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