It was when we reached the Jodhpur Railway station, in the morning, everyone was ready for the experience ahead. Even after the long overnight train journey, there was no glimpse of fatigue on our faces. Breakfast in Jodhpur was on our minda a soo as we got down on the land on Rajasthan, yet again.
The city is known as the ,’sun city’ for the bright and sunny weather it enjoys round the year. It is also referred to as the ,’blue city’, due to blue houses around the Maharanghar fort (The fort in Jodhpur). It is set in the stark landscape of the Thar desert, previously known as Marwar.
Jodhpur being a colour rich city, has craft culture as one of key source of Income other than tourism. Blue painted houses give a very fascinated feeling along with historical monuments and motifs, seeking attention. The handicraft industry has in recent years eclipsed all the other industries in the city. Other items manufactured includes textiles, metal utensils, bone inlay and leather bags and mojries.
Peeli Dori Here attempts to naraate its experience and the tale of Jodhpuri leather craft. Approximately 1300 families are directly or indirectly dependent on leather craft for their livelihood. More than 5 lakh pairs of Jodhpuri jooties are manufactured every year. The bigger enterprises dealing with this craft are engaged in export of the same and hardly any fine product reaches the urban market of India. Maximum it reaches is the local market which is supplied by independent artisans with limited resources. They lack enough exposure to realise the value of their product and hence the exporting giants are minting money with their hard work. What they receive in turn is merely enough for them to sustain their living.
It is said that camel leather is used for bags and mojries here, but our research opened up that due to quality reasons, artisans have switched to cow and goat leather. They have the perfect tanned looking products. Natural oils are used for the unprocessed animal leather and are used in their raw form. Various techniques like, kashida embriodery, stamping, embossing are used to create intricate patterns and designs on leather. The process is completely done and by hands which give i an edge to the other leather products in the market. It’s a complete natural sustainable process using ethically sourced leather.
Suraj ji and his family has been into this craft for years now. He considers himself to have a god gift of craft and miniature products. Working since he was 12 in age, his enthusiasm of exploring in his own field of handcrafting has not been affected by the growing age and increasing responsibility of his family. As all the other craftsman, he also wants his next generation to pursue corporate jobs as carrier and not the craft. He does not wish to have the same lifestyle for then since he realise that this work does not fetch him enough as compared to the hard work and the amount of time he puts into his profession. The industrialization is taking their business away which once used to the priority for the royals.
The process of developing a product in this craft cluster starts with sourcing of leather from local vendors in Jodhpur to cleaning to leather with a tool called Rapi, which smoothes the surface and removes skin hair and uneven texture. Before this the leather is left to be soaked in water for a night to lower the salt content of leather which accumulates on its surface during the processing stage.
when the leather is ready all dried in sunlight, it becomes ad crisp and shinny. The patter required is cut out of it. Intricate kashida embroidery with silk thread is done the leather by females of the house. Other processes to give design detail to the product includes, hand embossing, hand stamping using metal dyes.
Stitched together now the product is ready to be used. To give darker shade to the product oil is used as a enhancer and for natural aroma.
Peeli Dori attempts to make these small independent artisans to stand for their work and compete with industries along with earning revenue that they deserve.