The use of traditionally made baskets has long since left modern Indian kitchens, now populated with silicone and plastic products. POONAM SHETH’s brand DAROONJINISH is working hard to keep this craft from slipping through the cracks. KETKI GADRE finds out more.
On one of her trips to rural West Bengal, Poonam Sheth came across a community who were busy preparing mats and baskets. A heart-to-heart conversation later, she knew she had to help the artisans market their products better. While the craft of basket weaving has existed throughout the Indian subcontinent as a form of livelihood for the ethnic communities for generations, there have been few takers over the years. Daroonjinish aims to reform the products to suit the taste of modern customers while keeping the vitality of the craft alive. The brand’s name is actually a Bengali term for ‘wonderful things’, which describes perfectly the qualities of their products – sustainable, cruelty-free and vegan.
How Are They Made
Quietly growing in the forest fringes of West Bengal, the Sabai grass is now part of a global artisanal revolution. This humble grass serves as the raw material for the vast range of products by Daroonjinish. The process is a long yet fruitful one. The grass is harvested in the months of September and October, then sun-dried and stored in bundles. These bundles are then dyed and sun-dried again. The dyed grass is now used to make ropes by twisting the stalks in patterns. Artisans hand-braid the grass to make different patterns and the products start taking a shape here. A vast variety of products such as baskets, mats, table runners, planters and coasters are made.
Benefits of Sabai products
- Sabai grass made baskets and mats are good for serving dry food, such as fruit and roti.
- Mats and table runners are good insulators for hot vessels or plates and even serve as the base of planters and candles.
- Bags, purses, and totes can store electronics well, allowing a good flow of air.
- All products are recyclable and chemical-friendly, making for great gift options.
Brand Impact and Edge
The team at Daroonjinish understands and acknowledges the knowledge local craftsmen and artisans have in relation to the raw materials used. As such, products are designed as a collaborative endeavour with the artisans in question. With their help, the Sabai grass is well utilised, and products are designed keeping in mind utility as well as style fit for the modern consumer. Ultimately, the team at Daroonjinish aims to make this craft diverse while giving it an edge over traditional designs. Prices for products are settled to ensure fair pay to all artisans and craftsmen, without a hike in selling price for the customer. The brand is able to build a loyal base of workers and customers through their ethical practices. This can be seen in the impact the brand has had in various parts of West Bengal, participating in boosting in the overall economy and by incorporating women in their workforce. The products have been hailed internationally, with Daroonjinish now shipping to Australia and Germany alongside India.