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NOVICA Artisan Una Gupta

Una Gupta

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Hi, I'm Una from the beautiful city of Delhi and since childhood, I always wanted to create my own designs. I never wanted to look like everyone else. After finishing college I took a one year course in designing as I was really keen on following this as my career, despite much opposition from my father. He wanted me to follow the family tradition of going into the academic field. This discussion was perhaps one of my most difficult ones, but I was convinced about becoming a designer and I went ahead with my plan. When my father saw my potential and success, he was so proud of me!

Starting on my own wasn't easy even though I had the required training and work experience. I was ready to venture on my own so I started by setting up a workshop in my own house. However like many young women entrepreneurs, I faced the challenge of balancing family life and raising funds. On top of that was the fact that it takes time to get the right team, and finding the clients. Having a supportive partner and my own perseverance ensured that I was operationally profitable within the first year.

"I have always been quite fascinated by the rich traditional arts of India, which perhaps also made me take up designing. I love block printing, using natural dyes and natural fabrics such as cotton and silk, and the beautiful art of embroidery.

"I learned from my mother the art of sewing and embroidery, which has helped me a lot to create something different. I look at the practical aspect of designing, for example when I was a student I had to use public transport to go to college, and it was easier to keep change in your pocket. So I started sewing hidden but accessible pockets in all my clothes. I still do that and most of my customers love the idea.

"I have always wanted to make reasonably priced yet fashionable clothes that are accessible to women that suits their personalities and body types.

"My dream is to help preserve the art of block printing, the use of natural vegetable dyes and India's traditional embroidery. I would love to see that Indian style clothing becomes part of the world of fashion, and that I am part of this revolution.

"It is so unfortunate that these days, the traditional block prints are being copied by cotton mills and are available at cheap prices. It is difficult to explain to customers why they should buy handmade block prints when the ones from the mills are cheaper and seemingly do not have any flaws. This has also meant that there are fewer artists who are willing to continue with this practice since the demand is diminishing and they are barely able to make enough to survive. I generally buy material from the local markets but I do travel to different cities to source materials not available. I try and minimize my day-to-day wastage of fabric by re-using smaller pieces to make clothes for children, bags and even experiment by combining textures and prints.

"I get my inspiration from the women in the countryside who are struggling to keep the traditional arts alive. I strongly believe that it’s important to showcase their work, and style it for a modern India so that our fabrics and embroidery continue to be relevant in a modern and globalized world, and I think my job is to work as the change agent.

"I feel very strongly about empowering women and I take pride in working with the local community. I employ only women to do embroidery work. They are economically deprived working class women with limited education. This job brings income to their family, which many have used to further educate their children. One of those women has been with me for over twenty years and has been able to send her daughter to college. Her daughter graduated with English honors from Delhi University last year.

"I have also been involved with a few NGOs where I had the opportunity of interacting and teaching women the art of hand embroidery and stitching. My work place is truly multi-religious: there are Hindu, Muslim and Christian men and women so we celebrate all the festivals and they are all able to take days off to celebrate their religious holiday."