April 25, 2016
While studying Architecture, Abhinaya Rangarajan spent a lot of time travelling during her 4th year. During her travels, she struck conversations with people associated with crafts work and realised that much hadn’t changed.
“The artisans were unaware of the profits being made by the middlemen,” she said. Revisiting the idea a few years later, with the aim of bridging the gap between artisans and the urban folk, Abhinaya founded The Artist Project.
An important part of the process for The Artist Project is curating the collections that are marketed on the page. For Abhinaya, this is the most fun part of her work. “I went back to the people I met during my travels to see if they would be interested. Most of it is word of mouth,” she says, explaining that her aim was to provide a space for artists who aren’t already on social media, to expand their reach. Many of the artists featured on the page have also been recommendations from followers of the page via the submission form.
The surge in digital bazaars for art has made art accessible to a larger number of people while remaining convenient and customizable. For a lot of art buyers this translates to making limited edition art prints a part of their home at the click of a button, however for others it is a platform to combine their love for art with products that they can easily carry around and use everyday.
When it comes to handicrafts, Abhinaya hopes to achieve exactly this, “I want to make it relatable to the urban folk,” she said.
From the prototype to packaging, Abhinaya and her team working out of a studio at Chennai are involved in all the steps to ensure a smooth flow while allowing the artisan to have a final say on their products. “We use the product for a month before we go ahead and market the collection so during this period we give them suggestions or ideas for durability or utility,” she expressed, adding that The Artist Project maintains an inventory of all collections to make the shipping process quicker.
Different from our previous features in the Digital Bazaar series, The Artist Project is a step further and gives the artisan complete freedom in terms of pricing, “We usually don’t have anything to do with pricing because most of them are vendors in their communities and have set prices. We only ensure that they sell it at the same store price and we cross check this,” Abhinaya explained.
While working on an e-commerce platform they are currently working through social media like Facebook and Instagram. For customers, feeling and seeing is significant to the process of buying art. Currently in talks with various physical stores, Abhinaya is aware of this requirement, “We recently had a stall at Madras Market and people loved seeing the products. Many of them went home and made purchases online after hearing the stories of the artisans who made it,” she said.
Many digital bazaars focus on art prints, but Abhinaya is sure that she doesn’t want to venture into selling art on canvas through the Facebook page right now. “I feel that should be commissioned or a lot more personal where you walk into a gallery and experience it,” she expressed, adding that they’ve been getting a lot of requests from illustrators and digital artists for features on the page.
While The Artist Project primarily focuses on handmade crafts, the team tries to collaborate with these illustrators by giving them Sunday Shout Outs on the Instagram page and making their work a part of the packaging.
Textile jewellery, plethora of colours on mats, hand-stitched footwear and seashell jewellery are some of the features on the page as they continue scouting for new artisans to feature during travels. The Artist Project started as a way to act as a communicator between artisans and customers, but has also become a way to unfold the journeys of craftspeople and weave their untold stories for lovers of art and crafts.
Online bazaars are fringing an entirely new approach to the business of monetising art, making it easier for illustrators, graphic designers, typographers and artists of all kinds to quit 9 to 9 jobs to set up their own workspace. Stay tuned to the series to find out more on other such platforms.