Let us tell you a story of a seed called 'Beeja' that grew into a humble tree which now provides shelter with abundance to many a craftsmen, artisans and designers.
For us, it all started when in 2005 we at UCMA(now Project Beeja) design studio felt the pressing need of design intervention to be a continual and inclusive process in community development. We wished to see the process from the beginning till the end and started with a spirited approach, passionate and convinced with the fact that design process can bear the desired fruits.
With our environment friendly philosophy and belief in Bamboo as the material of the future we adopted a small region in Pilakhua near Ghaziabad and at Ranipokhri, Uttarakhand. This was just the beginning of the journey which now bears wonderful fruits. We felt blessed as we saw and worked with a community of gifted and hardworking locals and groups of craftsperson with the skills to produce Indian traditional crafts. These were not only everyday use materials but more emphatically, were also environment friendly techniques. Much to our dismay did we see that these skilled artisans had to resort to employment from industrial work for survival even though it did not nourish their skills and talent. This became the impetus for us, as designers, to bring together a community that could nourish, sustain and revive the receding Indian traditional crafts, craftsmen and groom the livelihood options that supports the environment and people.
In the beginning it was all about bringing in environment friendly materials and practices into the immediate ecosystem. A series of explorations were conducted on how Bamboo, local fiber and other local natural materials can support the existing skills, traditional crafts and people of the region. This gave way to a culture that was self-sustained and coexisted with nature. Much to our delight, though our initial approach was not craft centric, one of the rewarding outcomes of our work process was that we ended up realizing the potential and relevance of traditional crafts. The realization life cycle of every skill and craft just humbled us further.
Soon we decided to live and work amidst the rural communities so that we are no longer outsiders to the design process, which draws back to the roots as it revives traditional and forgotten crafts.
At Beeja, we aim to create opportunities where what the artisans and trained craftsperson create is made relevant to the context of making functional and extensively researched products. Each product is developed based on their respective strength, weakness and circumstances so that the design intervention channelizes skills to concrete outcomes. A sustained livelihood encourages the involved artisan community to provide an environment friendly solution as simple products of everyday use.
As designers we constantly strive to sustain, revive and reform the existing skills and products of the craftsperson by being in continuous dialogue with them, which then acts as a contemporary method of design intervention.
As the story goes, Beeja is now a family of a whole lot of people in the community where the tiny seed grew up to be a tree. Social activity such as medical camps, education or workshops with kids, and craft tours flower under 'Beeja trust'.
Today the tree has spread its branches towards reaching out far and wide as it brings urban crowds closer to natural and environment friendly products and reflects our rich Indian tradition in its crafts.
This is how UCMA Design Studio gradually evolved into a magnificent tree called 'Project Beeja'.
And may this story be told ever after!