A Rendezvous with Rajasthan's Local Handicrafts

Rajasthan Studio's Founder Kartik Gaggar on his platform and how it brings together artists and travellers
A potter shows off his ceramic works
A potter shows off his ceramic works

Founded in 2019 by Kartik Gaggar and based out of Jaipur, India, Rajasthan Studio has connected over 10000 artists and art lovers with their desired audience.

The organisation takes care of curation, technology and execution, while connecting artists to an audience from around the world. With a team that pushes constantly for the growth of its community, Rajasthan Studio promotes artist-to-people connections, community growth and mutual trust throughout.

We caught up with Gaggar to know about the initiatives and how it brings art and travel together.

Here are excerpts from the interview.

When did you think of starting Rajasthan Studio and what was the vision behind it
Rajasthan Studio is the culmination of so many things, ideas, and even my startups. To share it in brief, I am a CA and I truly love numbers. After passing 12th grade, I was continuously engaged in gaining professional experiences, conceptualising a few things here and there, alongside my articleship. After becoming a CA, I ventured into principal consultancy for many growing companies in various sectors.

Their exponential growth and a sense of accomplishment led me to establish my own investment company, Kamaai Capital, aimed at identifying and providing seed funding to startups in the travel and experiences domain as my research made me realise the immense potential in this industry. However, my failure to find creative and innovative startups working in the space I was looking for further motivated me to start my own travel and experiences company.

After extensive research and in fact scraping off my early idea of creating travel experiences for the &lsquoelite,&rsquo I came up with the concept and vision which I call Rajasthan Studio. It aims at reviving, promoting, and flourishing Rajasthan&rsquos and then the country&rsquos dying artforms by extending its learning amongst art lovers, enthusiasts, and travelers.

The objective is to create a free-flowing, easily accessible physical and virtual marketplace where one can engage in art-making with master artisans who bring with them not just the lineage of the artform but of the geographies, cultures, and values of where they belong, helping people create art souvenirs that they can cherish for a lifetime.

Tell us about your connection with Rajasthan and why it is so special to you
A small town near Nagaur, Rajasthan is my hometown. My dad came to Mumbai looking for better opportunities. We used to make frequent trips to our hometown and neighboring places in Rajasthan every year. Even as a kid, I was mesmerised and fascinated with the eye-catching colours, the beauty of the desert areas, the culture, and traditions. This enchantment with Rajasthan only grew with time.

When I decided to explore Rajasthan from the perspective of shaping Rajasthan Studio, I traveled across villages, twins, and cities in the state. My research stretched for a little over two years of compiling information. No matter how cliched it sounds, Rajasthan is truly an art lover&rsquos paradise. It&rsquos like every inch of the fabric of Rajasthan is dipped into the myriad of artforms reflecting the rich histories, the passionate artisans, and the indulgent kingdoms who for generations built, preserved and passed on the gift of art for people to cherish.

How does Rajasthan Studio connects art/artists with travel/travellers
We have curated over 30 hands-on art workshops by master artisans that can be booked by travellers visiting Rajasthan. The artists host these art experiences in their work studio itself, allowing travelers to soak in the authentic ambiance of the artist&rsquos workplace. Usually the art sessions are two to five hours long depending on experience to experience. Creating art along the coveted artist, helps travelers not only understand the artform better but also helps them connect with the cultural, geographical, and traditional value system of the destination.

Tell us about the art trips that you create for travellers.
Rajasthan Studio create art experiences for travelers and aims at making it the highlight if their travel itinerary, helping them create and take back a souvenir that symbolises their experiences, learning, and so much more. We encourage travelers to interact with us so that we can suggest them the most suitable masterclass workshops as per preferences, tastes, interests, etc. However, there is nothing like an art trip for us as we believe in making people understand that art should be a pivotal part of all their vacations, holidays, and trips.

Do you also conduct art workshops at Rajasthan Studio
Yes, we do but they are for &lsquoThe Circle&rsquo members as for the hands-on art experiences with master artisans, we do not want to take away the authenticity and the vibrancy of their own workstudio away by holding experiences in a different setting.

Tell us about your initiatives like Aathun and The Circle.
So, let me discuss &lsquoThe Circle&rsquo first. When we began Rajasthan Studio, I was determined to create a free-flowing community of artists where they could share their artforms, connect, andfeel belonged. Hence, &lsquoThe Circle.&rsquo It is a free-for-artists platform where artists can connect for learning, leisure, and networking. Aathun is an initiative we undertook during the lockdown and subsequent travel ban to help the folk artists in Rajasthan to rekindle the spirit of performing for people and earning with dignity.

Being in constant touch with the artists around Rajasthan, we were dismayed by the dire stateof the folk artists for whom their livelihood depended upon tourists. So, with Aathum our ideawas to host live streaming performances on our YouTube channel with the folk artists&rsquo personal Google Pay and UPI number flashing during their performance on which the audiences couldpay-as-per-their-will for the authentic Rajasthani folk music experiences.

Which are some of your personal favourite art experiences that your studio has curated
If I had to choose I would choose, papier mache and sculpting. The entire organic and somewhat messy process of creating it is worth an experience.

Another must-do is phad painting, the 700-year-old artform dedicated to storytelling. Isn&rsquot that fascinating It&rsquos like a scroll painting that is minimal yet intricate and so expressive. Then there's sea foam carving. You probably wouldn&rsquot have heard of it because there is absolutely no one else who is doing this. The insides of sea froth were used for cleaning windows of heritage buildings, but the artist started carving on it and invented this art form. Amazing find and a must-try.

Given that the pandemic has restricted people from travelling to their favorite destinations, how do you think your platform can help the armchair traveller
So, the pandemic totally took us by surprise and led us to rethink and extend our knowledge and experiences virtually. From maybe day 10 of the lockdown, what started out as a team-only art experiences session became like an everyday thing with &lsquothe circle&rsquo members, the Insta and Facebook families, corporates, and other art enthusiasts.

So, while pandemic really paused our physical operations and offerings, it opened a new door for us, enabling us to create meaningful experiences in these stressful times for the armchair traveller who in spite of being stuck at one place would be thrilled to indulge in geography-specific art experiences.

How did you decide on the different art forms to invest upon Do you plan to add more art forms to your platform Tell us about some of the arts forms you promote.
As mentioned earlier, I travelled to numerous cities, towns, and villages in the state and compiled like a manual of over 223 experiences. After more extensive research, market analysis, customer inclinations, etc, I shortlisted around 27. Yes, we have added three more with a few more being worked on. Hand engrave metal, gold emboss painting, bonafide horn and bonework, Pichwai painting, the art of making Juttis, stone carving, and metal wire inlay on wood, are amongst the many artforms that we are promoting.

How can Rajasthan Studio help artists who are facing tough times due to the pandemic
Rajasthan Studio encourages all the artists from the world to connect with us through &lsquoThe Circle&rsquo membership which is absolutely free of cost and can help in greater networking and seeking collaboration opportunities. Along with that, we are constantly promoting the artists through our social media channels which have a considerable following, helping them showcase their art to wider audience.

Given that your startup is pretty young, how did you manage to sustain the pandemic-induced lockdowns Did it allow you to think out of the box and come up with new ideas for the changing times
Honestly, we were prepping for the big releases and going for full-swing promotions. But God had different plans and while we were dismayed initially, we slowly saw it as an opportunity to broaden our horizons and tap into the yet unexplored spaces. It definitely forced us to realign our strategies and shift our focus on building virtual art experiences portfolio, becoming like a blessing in disguise, as we are now conducting personalized corporate virtual art experiences for their teams.

What according to you are some of the emerging travel trends in the post-pandemic world and how do you plan to leverage on these
Longer domestic trips definitely. International travel will take much more time to open up, and even then many people will be avoiding it till things are absolutely normal. So I expect people will take longer domestic trips.

Road travel will still be very active until things are completely normal and people will like to explore small towns and indulge in local experiences during the road journeys.

Domestic unique / premium offerings like experiences/luxury stays would definitely have an edge over others.

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