The Gundiyali crafts people hailing from Kutch are renowned for their beautiful terracotta clay work – matikam kalakari. A family pursuit of this ancient craft features clay platters which are then painted in black and white after the potters are done with their task of turning on the wheel and firing their pots in a simple kiln. If you are looking for the famous long-necked terracotta figurines of the Gora Dev (horse deity worshipped by tribesmen), head for the potter community in the tribal areas of Chhota Udaipur.
Metal work is a very ancient craft in Gujarat and features in a fabulous range of both utilitarian and highly creative art forms. Jasdan’s pataras – brass-strip encased teak chests with draws, are a big part of trousseau. Though white metal now appears to be rapidly replacing the brass, it’s still a popular item to go.
You can also pick up beautifully made boxes decorated with metallic embellishments, which are produced by the communities living around Jasdan, 60km from Rajkot. In case you are travelling around Rajkot, you might want to pick up items made in silver and gold before all the handcrafted items go the mechanised way – many artisans are being compelled to turn away from the laborious routine of hand-crafting. The furniture-making artisans have even started producing painterly versions of minakari-style workmanship. The families of the Luhar community of the Banni region of Kutch are famed for crafting beautiful hand-cast copper bells. They also produce morchang, a musical instrument made of bells akin to a Jewish harp.
Today, many initiatives are being taken for the revival of the lost crafts and arts of Gujarat.The National Craft Fair of India is an annual event organised by Gujarat’s Indext-C (Industrial Extension Cottage) and the state’s Commissioner and Secretary – Cottage and Rural Industries. A slew of NGOs and the design fraternity, driven by a collective vision to explore new possibilities in the world of craft have been vigorous in locating artisans and partnering with them to harness traditional practices and enhance design innovation – showcasing their incredible work with the locals to global audiences on various platforms.