Ibrahim Beevi was the first to receive the award in 1993. This was the awakening of the public to the wonders of this craft. This was followed by the Geographic Indicator (GI) registration and the Pattamadai mat weavers became popular not only in Tamil Nadu but in other parts of India as well.
CCI has been working continuously with the Pattamadai weavers to help them excel in their work. CCI had earlier conducted a week-long dye workshop to introduce a new colour palette. “During the pandemic, there was a general surge in online retail. While craft entrepreneurs managed online reach, many artisans and weavers struggled.
Some of the established artisans with the help of their younger generation reached out to customers via Instagram and WhatsApp. Pattamadai mat weaving is a traditional craft practiced by Muslim women weavers from the Lebbai community in Pattamadai, Tirunelveli district. The mat weavers at Pattamadai are a highly skilled community with mat weaving as the only source of income and livelihood. They too were struck by the pandemic and could not reach out to customers. CCI felt a skill-building workshop was the need of the hour and managed to impart training to 40 women.
The 100- hour workshop involved training in digital literacy, financial literacy, design intervention and tailoring. CCI roped in a NID design graduate to facilitate the design intervention apart from training them in marketing and entrepreneurial concepts. The idea was to give them a complete exposure so they are self-sustained for the future,” says Jayasri Samyukta Iyer, Joint Secretary of The Crafts Council of India. The skill-building workshop at Pattamadai was organised in collaboration with the Government of Tamil Nadu.
“It was designed by the Tamilnadu Skill Development Corporation (TNSDC) under SANKALP (Skills Acquisition and Knowledge Awareness for Livelihood Programme) funded by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and World Bank, and implemented by The Crafts Council of India. CCI hopes that this workshop has enhanced their skills and capacities to reach out and respond to the contemporary evolving market,” she adds. Many of the weavers are regular suppliers to CCI’s craft shop Kamala in Chennai and New Delhi.
“CCI has also been running the Educate to Sustain programme for artisans’ children at Pattamadai. The programme aims to ensure a value-added education for the children. Apart from the stipend they are paid for completing their schooling, weekend classes are held in their family craft (mat weaving) to ensure they retain their traditional skills,” remarks Jayasri.