Reviving Traditions, Crafting Futures

Direct Create
7 min readJan 20, 2024

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DirectCreate’s Artistic Journey in Raghurajpur

In the verdant heartland of Odisha, India, lies Raghurajpur, a village that breathes art in its every alley and home. This heritage crafts village, known for its master Pattachitra and Tal Pattachitra painters, stands as a bastion of traditional Indian art forms, dating back to 5 BC. Its palm leaf engravings, stone and wood carvings, and Tussar paintings are not just artworks; they are stories woven in colors and etched in time.

Enter DirectCreate, a visionary platform that seeks to blend the boundaries between age-old artistry and contemporary design. Under the guidance of founders Rajeev and Sheela Lunkad, and with the collaborative efforts of contemporary designers like Seventy Roy and Nikheel Aphale, DirectCreate embarked on a unique project. Their mission was ambitious yet profound — to revitalize the Pattachitra art form of Raghurajpur by infusing it into the fabric of modern life: wedding invitations.

The project was not just about creating invitations; it was about reimagining them as keepsake pieces of art, breaking away from the transient nature of paper-based invites. Each of the 3,500 handcrafted invites was to be a unique testament to the skill and creativity of Raghurajpur’s artists, a blend of tradition and modernity, a symbol of sustainability, and a celebration of cultural heritage.

Raghurajpur’s Artistic Legacy

For centuries, Raghurajpur has been a living museum of traditional Indian arts. Each family in this village has been passing down the art of Pattachitra through generations. Pattachitra, which translates to ‘cloth picture’, is more than just a style of painting; it is a narrative form that captures the essence of epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the myriad forms of nature and mythology.

The village itself is a canvas, with murals and paintings adorning the walls of homes. This art form, characterized by its intricate details, vibrant colors, and mythological narratives, has been a source of livelihood and pride for the villagers. However, as times changed, the challenge to keep this traditional art form relevant in the modern world grew.

DirectCreate’s Vision and Collaboration

DirectCreate’s intervention in Raghurajpur was not just about preservation; it was about evolution. The platform, conceived by Rajeev and Sheela Lunkad, has always strived to create a harmonious blend of traditional skills and contemporary designs. By engaging with the Pattachitra artist community of Raghurajpur, they aimed to introduce a new creative vigor into the traditional art form.

“Our aim was to create something that wasn’t just thrown away after the wedding but cherished as a piece of art,” says Sheela Lunkad, co-founder of DirectCreate.

The collaboration was unique. It brought together the classic Tal Pattachitra technique and the contemporary design sensibilities of Seventy Roy and Nikheel Aphale. While Roy brought in a fresh perspective with her London-based textile design experience, Aphale, a Delhi-based calligrapher, infused a modern aesthetic into the ancient art form.

The Creation of the Wedding Invites

The making of the wedding invites was an intricate process that involved months of research, design, and craftsmanship. Each invite was a canvas where the traditional met the contemporary. The Pattachitra artists, under the direction of Rajeev Lunkad, worked meticulously to ensure that every piece was not just an invite but a piece of art that could be cherished for years.

The design of the invites was revolutionary in its concept. It allowed for the artwork to be appreciated beyond the event, unlike traditional paper invitations that often found their way into waste bins post the event. This sustainable approach not only reduced waste but also introduced a higher level of patronage to the idea of the invitation, reminiscent of the times when invites were seen as valuable tokens of a family’s heritage.

The Artistic Process and Techniques: The artistic process of creating the wedding invites was meticulous and steeped in tradition. The artists used natural colors and materials, adhering to the centuries-old techniques of Pattachitra. Each invite was crafted on palm leaves, a medium that is both durable and sustainable. The intricate designs were first sketched and then etched onto the leaves with an iron stylus, a technique that requires skill and precision. This was followed by an elaborate process of painting and detailing, with each artist adding their unique touch to the design.

Cultural and Economic Impact and The Future of Handcrafted Art in India

The project transcended the mere creation of wedding invites. It became a catalyst for cultural preservation and economic upliftment in Raghurajpur. The involvement of the village in the creation of the invitations meant that these traditional artists could find new relevance and application for their skills in the contemporary world. It was a step towards ensuring that these age-old art traditions were not just remembered but actively incorporated into modern life.

Economically, the project was a boon for the artisans. The creation of 3,500 unique invites provided substantial work and income, supporting the local economy and showcasing the potential of traditional art in modern markets. It opened up new vistas for these artists, demonstrating that traditional art could find a place in even the most modern of contexts.

The potential market for handcrafted wedding cards in India is vast, with the wedding industry booming at an unprecedented scale. With a market size of Rs 4.74 lakh crore, even a fraction of this directed towards handcrafted invites could mean a seismic shift in the fortunes of artisan communities like Raghurajpur. If DirectCreate taps into just 10% of this market, it could revolutionize the industry, bringing traditional art into the mainstream and providing sustainable livelihoods to thousands of artists.

This vision goes beyond mere financial gains. It is about fostering an appreciation for India’s rich cultural heritage and ensuring that the country’s traditional arts do not just survive but thrive in the modern era. It’s about creating a future where art is not just seen as a relic of the past but as a living, breathing part of the present.

As Rajeev Lunkad aptly puts it, “This is not just about creating products; it’s about nurturing an ecosystem where tradition meets innovation.” In the hands of DirectCreate, wedding invites are transformed into keepsakes, symbols of a family’s heritage, and messengers of a sustainable future.

  • Fact: Each family in Raghurajpur could potentially earn INR 100,000 a year from this initiative, a significant increase from their usual earnings.
  • “We’re not just preserving art; we’re creating a new narrative for it in the 21st century,” says an artist from Raghurajpur.

Sustainability and Environmental Impact

A key aspect of this project was its focus on sustainability. In a world increasingly conscious of environmental impact, the use of natural materials and traditional techniques was a significant step towards eco-friendly practices. The handmade nature of the invites meant that each piece was produced with minimal environmental impact, a stark contrast to the mass-produced, paper-based invitations that dominate the market.

The Role of DirectCreate in Empowering Artisans

DirectCreate’s role extended beyond just commissioning the artists; it was about empowering them. The platform provided the artists with not just employment but also exposure to new markets and audiences. By bringing their work to the forefront of a modern industry like the wedding market, DirectCreate helped these artisans gain recognition and respect for their skills, opening up new opportunities for them.

The Economic Ripple Effect

The economic impact of the project was far-reaching. It wasn’t just the artists who benefited; the entire community saw a ripple effect. Local suppliers, vendors, and other craftsmen involved in ancillary services also saw increased business. This influx of income and opportunity had a profound effect on the village, boosting the local economy and providing a model for other communities to follow.

Challenges and Overcoming Them

Like any ambitious project, this initiative had its share of challenges. One significant challenge was the integration of contemporary design with traditional techniques. It required careful planning, experimentation, and a willingness to adapt and learn from each other. The logistics of coordinating between different artists and designers across various locations was another hurdle that was skillfully managed by the DirectCreate team.

The Impact Beyond Raghurajpur

The success of this project has implications far beyond Raghurajpur. It serves as a beacon of hope for other traditional art forms and communities across India and globally. It demonstrates how traditional arts can be revitalized and made relevant in today’s world, providing a sustainable model of economic development and cultural preservation.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Traditional Arts in the Modern World

As we look to the future, projects like these highlight the potential of traditional arts in the modern world. They show how innovation, when rooted in tradition, can lead to sustainable and meaningful growth. The success in Raghurajpur is just the beginning, a blueprint that can be replicated and adapted to other art forms and communities.

Final Thoughts and Vision

In conclusion, DirectCreate’s initiative in Raghurajpur is more than just a case study in cultural preservation and economic empowerment. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration, innovation, and respect for tradition. It paves the way for a future where traditional arts are not just remembered but are a vibrant and integral part of contemporary life.

As Rajeev Lunkad eloquently states, “We are weaving a new story for traditional arts, one where they are not just seen as artifacts of the past but as living, evolving expressions of our rich heritage.”

Conclusion

The journey of DirectCreate in Raghurajpur is a compelling narrative of how tradition can be reimagined for the modern age. It is a testament to the power of collaborative efforts in preserving and revitalizing cultural heritage. This project is more than just an artistic endeavor; it is a model for sustainable development, a beacon of hope for artisan communities, and a blueprint for the future of traditional arts.

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