Based in India, Asha Handicrafts is an association empowering artisans who are socially and economically underserved. (Asha means “hope” in Sanskrit.” Several of them have previously experienced poverty, and they now have access to market assistance and essential programs for development. Ranging in age from 18 to 60 years, artisans work in a safe and healthy environment and many work from home. Within craft centers, a welfare worker monitors and maintains the units, providing support to workers on location. Through this work, they have access to a sustainable income and can support their families and savings.
In addition to fair wages and skill development opportunities, Asha Handicrafts provides educational assistance and literacy programs, medical support, water filters, first aid kits, eye glasses, medical camps, awareness projects, community development workshops, finance training and microfinance opportunities, and personal development programs. With a further commitment to the community, Asha Handicrafts offers scholarships for girls seeking higher educational opportunities. Overall, Asha Handicrafts is dedicated to the development of artisan groups and to trade, train artisans, and transform the lives of artisans.
To create these durable stone handicrafts, artisans practice unique craft traditions — stone carving and inlay. These are based on the architectural heritage of Agra in India; stone carving can be found in various locations of northern India. This craft can be traced back to the Mughal empire in the 17th Century. Emperor Shah Jahan brought skilled Persian artisans to India to train local craftspeople. First, blocks of stone are cut into small pieces. Artisans will work on each piece to create the approximate size and form based on the desired design. If a round shape is desired or the piece must be hollowed out, the artisans will use an electric lathe. The pieces that have been cut and shaped will then undergo grinding, buffing, and polishing. Approximately 14 to 15 pieces are made daily with four artisans collaborating at a time.
The coir doormats are made by artisans preserving generations-old traditional techniques. Each doormat is made from coir fiber, which is available in abundance in the coconut belt of southern India. It is a sustainable material and biodegradable. First, a technology separates coir fiber from the raw coconut husk. The artisans then make the coir yarn and use hand looms to create the mats. Through a shredding machine, the surface of the door mats is finished before they are spray-painted to create the designs. Approximately four artisans collaborate on the doormats, and they can create about 32 pieces over eight hours. This technique has been local to the Kerala area for at least 200 years.