A Hundred Hands is a non-profit organization based in Bangalore whose mission is to “help those directly involved in the creation of handmade art, crafts and homemade foods, to earn a fair and sustainable livelihood from their work”.
During my time here, various Srishti faculty and students have suggested a number of shops and towns in and around Bangalore that focus on producing and selling handmade goods. A few weeks ago, I was telling a colleague here that I was interested in purchasing some handmade gifts for friends and coworkers in the states. She suggested that I check out the Handmade Collective fair taking place in the city from December 3 -7 on Cubbon Road.
The Handmade Collective fair is one of many events A Hundred Hands organizes each year to provide a visible market for local artisans and craftspeople. Yesterday I stopped into the fair, taking place in the parking lot of St. Andrew’s Church, just a short walk from my place. Each year, the fair has a broad theme – this year it was poetry, meaning many of of products on sale were inspired by prose. The entrance fee was a mere 30 rupees – or just under 50 US cents. The fair space was small but the vendors were packed in. Each stand was manned by the makers and their staff or helpers. I spoke with every craftsperson and artisan whose goods I purchased that day. The spread was incredible – leather and hand sewn bags, products made from repurposed materials, hand paintings, homemade soaps, hand carved wooden toys, and of course hand made weavings and clothes. The variety was expansive and the vendors were friendly and enthusiastic to talk with each customer – and I should mention it was quite busy.
There are many market-like spaces in the city and you can’t really turn a corner without seeing someone selling their wares on the sidewalk but this fair was different in some keys ways. A Hundred Hands organized the funding, space, marketing, and venue for the event. Funders included for-profit businesses that sold some of these goods in their retail spaces, foundations, and a real estate group.
Most significantly, the prices for items were largely fixed – meaning there was no bargaining for goods. Price bargaining is almost an art in India – tourists from the west are often startled and uncomfortable with this practice – and local vendors often take advantage of this discomfort by inflating their normal prices by 2, 3 or even 10 times the usual cost. At the fair, this element of valuing goods was removed – offering a pleasant experience for consumers and a fair market price for vendors on every sale.
In addition to the fair, A Hundred Hands offers a range of other vital services to its members including connections with retailers, workshops and seminars, online and onsite venues for sales, and networking opportunities for makers to share resources and skills with each other. Since they say it best, I’ll end this post with the values that drive this organization and hope that you’ll consider supporting their work from where ever you are reading this.
A Hundred Hands is driven by what they call the four “l”s:
- Innovate: Evolve and reinvent products, designs, mediums and experiences
- Interact: Participate! Encourage young people to develop a love of working with their hands and older ones to develop or reignite a hobby.
- Inform: Build sensitivity and appreciation not only for the end result of handmade work but also the process and effort involved.
- Include: Transcend social and economic barriers to build community of artists and like-minded individuals