|Handmade bangles displayed at the mini expo. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Gone are the days when 'arts and crafts' were considered an acceptable pastime only for the very young or very old.
A recently held mini-expo proved that, as Karachi's ‘Indie Art and Craft Show’ held last Sunday at Clifton Marquee drew in a crowd. The event saw many Karachiites up and about in the afternoon, forgoing their siestas to bag some quirky clothes or some statement stationery from over 80 stalls.
The force behind the show, Varah Mussavir the Firefly, who looks after the Crafters Guild shared how the Indie show is a spin-off of sorts of the larger Crafter’s Expo: “The Indie Arts and Crafts Show is a smaller sister show of the annual Crafter’s Expo and that too has expanded a lot. The Indie started last year and it leans more towards honouring independent artists.”
|Handmade and digitalised paintings on display. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
“People were keenly interested and kept asking us to do it again so we made it an annual thing, which wasn’t the intention when we began. We have two guidelines for participants: that the presented craftwork should either be designed by them, or someone from their team or workshop does the work so that you’re in some way contributing to the design process. We have a lot of variety this time and we have people from Lahore, Bhit Shah and Balochistan so people do like to come together and celebrate crafts this way,” she added.
|Varah Musavir with her stall, 'The Firefly'. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Indie artists independently set up shop at home, marketing their goods on Facebook and selling them through online payments and countrywide delivery services.
|Carved lamps bring a glow in the dark light. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
“Most of them don’t have affiliations with organisations or larger art platforms. They usually are students or homemakers who work from home. I believe that 97 or 98 percent of them are selling their stuff from home. We try to help them by asking them to share their posts and market them properly.”
|Quirky Jeans bags on display. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Varah shared that artists from interior Sind or Baluchistan approach them after hearing about the event as many artists frequent Commune Art Colony led by designer Yousuf Bashir Qureshi.
She also told Dawn.com that the noted Baloch singer Akhter Channal was able to come to the event through the Baluchistan Peace Forum. Moreover, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, which caters to about 40 organisations like Indus Crafts Foundation, represents rural crafters looking for a platform to sell their handmade items like bags, kurtas, wallets, key chains etc.
|Put a ring on it! — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
Divided into home décor, gifts and greetings, party planning, artists at work, craft demos and apparel, the expo also had a small baked goods stall, a photo booth and a section for Team Muhafiz comics.
|Baked goods by Terry's Treats. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
With a dearth of exhibitions catering to young, independent artists, it is indeed a convivial sight to see displays of art by those who are largely ignored by the society. Organisations like Family Educational Services Foundation (FSEF), Heartwork, and Banyan Tree connected buyers with the work of those who had auditory or visual impairment or were differently-abled in some other way.
The two Heartwork salespeople, namely Sakhawat and Nafees who was wheelchair-bound, were happily engaging with customers by telling them about their handmade products like bedsheets, cushion covers and apparel designs.
|Sakhawat and Pervaiz with their stall 'Heartwork'. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
Little Ummati, a stall selling kits for children who want to learn basics of religion was being looked after by Fasih who bagged a gold medal at the Special Olympics in Cricket. His brother said that as it was difficult to set up a different shop altogether, they decided to launch an online one so that he can look after it from home.
|Fasih at his stall, 'Little Ummati'. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
At the Banyan Tree stall, Saba Hassan of the Hassan Trust spoke about how the weaving work is done by those who are visually impaired. The striking handwoven ‘Peacock Chair’ was the centre of attention as it added to the beauty of the stall.
|The Peacock chair. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
A home furnishing stall called Paimona was an initiative to support local ceramic artists as all products are made in Pakistan. The owner Sana Khan Niazi stressed on the need to support the handicrafts: “We support the ceramic artists, the woodworks because otherwise they’re unable to sustain themselves in a tough market because of Chinese high-end products that have really destroyed the market for them with no government support, so we aid them in gaining urban knowledge and ethics of the production.”
Akhter Channal of Danna Pe Danna fame had come all the way from Balochistan. He said that Baloch artists face difficulties in coming to Karachi because it's a long distance from the interior areas where they reside. He added that there are a lot of artists in Makran and Chaghi.
The artiste, accompanied by his young nephew, sold wall-hangings with stitches symbolising different areas of the province.
Some Baloch folk musicians also entertained the attendees and provided a nice background feel to the whole event.
|An onlooker looks at hand-drawn paintings. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
Indus Crafts Foundation and Lahore-based Ahan also presented handmade items ranging from rilli work and embroidery to terracotta items. Bags, pouches and shirt pieces of ajrak made by local crafters were also displayed at the booths.
|Ajrak items on display. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
With Lahorites in the zone, the competition was tough because it appeared that they had brought something not commonly available in the City of Lights: vintage pendents inscribed with song lyrics, band logos or just a plain ‘I <3 Khi’.
Ifrah, who displayed one of the vintage collections, said that although she didn’t go to an art school, she came up with such pendents, key chains, rings, bookmarks and even journals.
|Pendents by Ifrah's Collection. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
“I am fond of traveling so I came up with these and the reason they seem expensive is that the supplies aren’t so easily available here.”
|Assorted fridge magnets. — Photo by Zoya Anwer|
She laughed at the fact that her ‘I <3 Khi’ rings and pendents sold like hot cakes because the market had many Karachi lovers. At Prism and Paintbrushes, their tiny notepads, stationary items and fridge magnets, especially the Harry Potter themed ones, were quite rad.
|Truck art themed metallic purses. — Photo by Yumna Rafi|
A truck art-inspired artist had displayed earrings, wall hangings and purses made on metal with designs from truck art. Although the items were pricey, by the end of the day she was already out of stock.