Roundtable–the need to get the story straight

In Delhi last year, Sangam – the Australia India Design Platformhosted a roundtable and forum to share concepts and issues in global craft and design partnerships. There are many opportunities to link artisans to foreign markets through designers. What are new models for this transnational product development? What are the ethical issues and how might we resolve them?

Twenty-nine people looked through the draft standards for ethical labelling in craft products. This included a mix of Australians, Indians, designers, artisans, writers and managers. This group confirmed the standard that the information about producers should be included on the label, though in some cases it might be more appropriate to mention the village or family name, rather the individual artisan.

The most contentious issue was about transparency. Opinion was divided about whether designers should give artisans information about the pricing structure. While most agreed that this was good in principle, there were doubts about whether artisans would understand the kind of mark ups necessary to get product to the shops. This was left as a challenge to see how such information could be presented in a way that was easily understood by those without experience in retail.

Two elements were seen as important to the success of a code. The first is that it should not come at a cost to participants. It should be something that added overall value to the products. And second, that it should be open to verification. To keep costs down, this can be enabled by a system of consumer feedback.

Generally, it was felt that a code was important to increase the value of handmade products by offering consumers more reliable information about their origins.

Glimpses of the Roundtable:

One of the highlights of the Roundtable was an evocative talk by the venerable Indian craft writer Jasleen Dhamija, where she discussed the time-honoured tradition of innovation in Indian craft, and its close association with rites of passage.

For a full report on the Roundtable, go here.

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