Report on Delhi Roundtable 2011


Report on Roundtable: The Best of Both Worlds: New Models in Craft Product Development and Transnational Collaborations (Friday 21 October 10am-4pm, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi)

Below are comments in response to the Draft Standards of Ethical Labelling.


Information about the packaging and means of sale of the artefact should be shared between participants in product development.

This was a particularly contentious standard. Comments included:

  • Craftspersons should be privy to mark ups and that there should be nothing to hide.
  • Artisans do understand the expenses involved in getting product to market
  • The profit margin should be clear, and artisans free to determine if they were happy with it
  • Designers invested much time and money building up their reputation, which is difficult to identify as a monetary value in the mark ups.
  • Artisans will be encouraged to ask for more next time.
  • It is normally the way for an artisan to ask ‘five times more than what they are expecting’; that this is a normal part of the negotiation
  • It is not just the labour which the artisan is providing, but also a set of skills—‘He is giving that knowledge in form of that product’.
  • Consent could operate like a mark.
  • It is important to educate those working in the shop about this; extra labelling helps.
  • It will fail if it came at a cost to the designers.


All meaningful contributions to bringing an artefact into existence should receive recognition.

  • If a tag recognised everyone, then it would be too long; putting this information in a website might be a better option.
  • E-labels using smart phones is an alternative.
  • Rather than credit individuals, it would be more relevant to credit the village. This offers longer term value, particularly for export markets.
  • This could be reduced to family if you wanted a smaller unit.
  • A stamp would be more economical than a label.
  • This would be particularly important for the high end environment.


The label should include relevant information about elements involved in production, such as natural materials, cultural traditions and specialist craft skills

  • Information about materials is quite important, particularly how they were sourced. This especially concerned sustainability issues. In many cases, products are source from a variety of places. For instance, when working with bone, the raw materials can come from China, arrive in Mumbai and then end up for sale in Rajasthan.
  • Only information should be included that increased value.
  • ‘In India people won’t pay more for extra information. India is a price sensitive country’.
  • In India people will pay for extra design, but not for its story.
  • There needs to be an element of newness that design can bring to products.
  • Innovation is the key.
  • There is often resistance to innovation.
  • A code can play a productive role in facilitating engagement with artisans.
  • A label might offer instructions for use of the product.
  • This can be compared to the value of Japanese ceramics as employed in the tea ceremony.
  • This is quite relevant to the Indian context, where much craft does have a sacred origin: a label ‘could let them be re-contextualised.’


There should be a means of verifying the information on the label.

  • If a third-party system intervenes in the supply chain, then this can cost more money, leaving less for those involved.
  • This could be justified if it adds value. Organisations could be used to verify labels.
  • Who is going to verify the organisation?
  • ‘In this country, it’s just greasing more palms.’ There could be false feedback: how do you control this?
  • Resources are needed for verification. These could include surprise checks. ‘People who are registered but don’t send in correct information should be blacklisted.’
  • Craftspersons know their rights. ‘I am an artisan myself. You give them a chance, they’ll exploit you just as much. They are street smart.’
  • In villages where their only livelihood was craft, they are not equal.

What’s missing from this list?

  • Rights pertaining to designers that need to be considered too, such as intellectual property. ‘It’s a double-edged sword.’ There is a design issue itself in finding efficient ways of including information.
  • We should also think about potential to include feedback into the label. This is particularly relevant to online systems. Social media and blogs can give artisans a stronger voice.
  • One limit to this in India was a low level of literacy,
  • It would still be relevant at the level of consumer.
  • What is the status of non-disclosure agreements?
  • In India relationships depend on trust. ‘If you had a legal document, they would probably not want to work with you, because of the legal system in this country.’
  • The problem of copying could be dealt with if trust is build up with the artisan.


  • Transparency is ideal, but extra effort is needed to ensure clear understanding of issues such as price mark ups
  • Attribution is important, but this can be at level of village or family, as well as individual
  • Ingredients were important to acknowledge, though within limits depending on medium of label
  • Verification remains an issue, though consumer feedback offers a cost-effective alternative
  • Trust is very important, but this cannot be guaranteed purely by paperwork


  1. Kanu Agrawal, Indian designer
  2. Sandra Bowkett, Australian ceramicist
  3. Rahul Barua, CEO South Asia Foundation
  4. Lauren Bennett, Australian textile designer
  5. Shipra Bose, Indian textile designer
  6. Matthew Butler, Australian designer
  7. Jasleen Dhamija, Indian craft historian
  8. Genevieve Fennel, Australian textile designer
  9. S.S. Gupta, Development Commissioner Handicrafts, Ministry of Textiles
  10. Swati Jain, Indian textile historian
  11. Rishav Jain, Research Assistant Design Innovation and Craft Resource Center (DICRC)
  12. Naina Jain, Indian designer
  13. Trent Jansen, Australian designer
  14. Ishan Khosla, Indian designer
  15. Sanjeev Kumar, Associate professor NIFT
  16. Manohal-Lal, potter
  17. Julie Lantry, Australian textile designer
  18. Minhazz Majumdar, Indian craft entrepreneur
  19. Kevin Murray, Australian craft writer and curator
  20. K. Murugan, Assistant Professor NIFT
  21. Bakula Nayak, Indian brand strategist Bangalore
  22. Manjari Nirula, General Manager, Delhi Crafts Council
  23. Patram Prajapati, potter
  24. Sutopa Parrab, Indian jeweller
  25. Anshoo Rajvanshi, NIFT
  26. Kajor Ram, potter
  27. Shakti Sagar Katre, Assistant Professor NIFT
  28. Liz Williamson, Head Design Studies University NSW
  29. Sharmila Wood, Australian-Indian craft worker

Also see post on the roundtable with video.

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