Craftpreneur. Heritage Curator. Karma Crusader.
The scent of a forest tree. Winter chills of a rustic hillside.
The placid grin of a tribal artisan. The steady scuttle of a weaver’s loom.
The sizzle of molten metal. The suppleness of wax.
The rap of chisel on stone. The earthiness of termite mounds.
The rustle of silk. The inkiness of coal.
Dyes seeping stealthily into yards of yarn fluttering in the wind.
You can sense it all – as you chat with her – those wistful sights, smells and sounds from the hinterlands of India.
Meet Chanchal Badiswal
Four-striper and founder of Chanchal, the Bangalore based social enterprise – a love child she birthed to revive, sustain and contemporise the traditional crafts, textiles and art forms of India. Few years ago, this natty art ‘n’ nature lover from Delhi bid adieu to her decade-long career as a stellar business research virtuoso. The pursuit of all things meaningful, and an imminent move to Bangalore made her think straight from the heart. And just like that, one fine day, she began life anew. As a boot-strap entrepreneur. In a city she was only about to discover.
In search of the Chimera
The journey began in 2014 and the Chanchal Badiswal Express has not drawn to a halt ever since. Delhi to Diu. Bangalore to Bhagalpur. Chennai to Coorg. Pondicherry to Pochampalli. Kanchipuram to Kerala. Rajasthan to Raghurajpur. Mysore to Madhubani. Jharkand to Jaipur. Gujarat to Gund. Orissa to Ooty. It has been one long heady enriching ride, chugging through the hills, villages and less travelled interiors, tracing down rural and tribal artisans, striving to keep alive the beautiful arts, crafts and endangered handicraft traditions from across the country.
Early on in the odyssey, Chanchal’s “researcher instincts” kicked in, knocking on new doors for art and craft revival, right at the grassroots level, and across numerous governmental bodies and NGOs within the country. She travelled extensively, often accompanied by her spouse whose fluency in South Indian dialects, clubbed with her mastery of North Indian lingo (thanks to Rajasthani roots) formed the perfect icebreaker combo to interact with the local artisans.
Minding the gap
An arsenal of insights in tow, Chanchal kick started her dream venture with a Facebook page – spreading awareness on all things traditional and handcrafted from the numerous states she frequented. Some were forgotten art forms, some others were fast losing relevance in a world replete with hi-tech machinery, fake replicas and contemporary technologies. She sensed the divide. A gap between art as the artisans knew it in its nascent traditional form, and what the city people hearted, a form that was rooted in tradition and yet adapted to modern day sensibilities.
Holidays that are never just
Holidays, in the Badiswal household, have rarely ever been a family affair. Chanchal and her spouse often set off on spontaneous hour long treks through unfamiliar country, following roads less travelled in search of traditional art and craft forms that are intrinsic to the locality. Soaking in the culture, chatting with village artisans going about their daily creative routines, and on luckier days, chancing upon renowned master craftsmen who are sought-after teachers of the trade in their native villages. Today, some of these fine masters are Chanchal’s regular collaborators, lending their magic to the product line, ergo, inspiring younger generations of craftsmen to collaborate and carry on their unique heritage.
A voice for tradition
Not many are aware – Be it Chitrakar or Shilpkari, Bunkaar or Dastkaar, Ikat, Khana, Dhokra, Madubani or Pathachitra, a handcrafted piece of art in its innate traditional form is a long, arduos labour of love. It takes a minimum of six to eight months to finish an intricate sari. Two weeks to weave a dupatta. A custom designed Pathachitra painting for the drawing room could easily take two to four months from concept to completion. As for Double Ikkat weaves, the fabric alone can take 4 to 8 weeks, add in another month before the bag is done, that is an average of 3 months to go from fabric to final product. Then again, not many urbanites are aware that the hands that mould these exquisite works of art often struggle to feed their families, living out of single room huts in remote villages, losing out on the race against fake replicas that raise the bars on speed and volume, and are slowly, steadily losing faith in their heritage. It’s time to find a voice for tradition. As a true-blue Karma crusader, Chanchal firmly believes that the seeds we sow today, are fruits we shall reap tomorrow.
Tribal at heart. Trendy by design.
Today, Chanchal works hand in hand with traditional artist communities across the country, reliving the magic of the tribes and spreading awareness about their art, while adhering to stringent practices to ensure that their products are 100% earth friendly. Chanchal’s team of artists use only the finest naturally-fallen wood at their Pondicherry woodworking facility. No cutting trees here! All pigments used for Pathachitra and Madhubani are painstakingly handmade by the artisans from all-natural plant extracts, earth and stone colors – marigold and haldi for a fine yellow, leaves for green, charcoal for black and so on. A single Dhokra neckpiece goes through elaborate lost wax casting processes – involving a clay core, pure beeswax, Damara tree resin, nut oils, termite mound soil, non-ferrous metal and more.
The Todas of Ooty, the embroidery specialists of Kulu, the sari weavers of Kanchipuram, the Dhokra jewellers, Pathachitra painters, the masters of Madhubani, Kalamkari, Khana and Ikat…Chanchal celebrates the best in every artisan community she works with, and with spiffy inputs from her Delhi based ace designer sibling, Jasmine Badiswal, breathes modern design sensibilities into every project.
Check out how classic ethnic meets contemporary chic in Chanchal’s eclectic array of accessories – laptop bags, multi-purpose duffels, totes, glittery clutch bags, slings in all sizes, art and weaves made modern with a contemporary twist, handcrafted jewellery and designer fusion wear.
Take a pick, and no doubt, you will sense the smile of a village artisan and the joie of mother earth around you, as you merrily flaunt your style.