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INK CRAFT FAIR (article first published : 2006-03-19)

During the second half of 2005, the eThekwini Municipality’s INK ABM Programme in conjunction with Business Support Unit commissioned a training project for Arts and Craft as part of the programme to support the development of co-operatives in the INK areas.

A budget of R720,000 was made available by the INK ABM programme and the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) approved R1.5m funding to be spent over three years on this project.

The areas of competence of the training included beadwork, pottery and ceramics, grass basketry, wirework, leatherwork, needlework and embroidery. The brief required that over and above training of the recruited crafters, all groups were registered as co-operatives to aid them to become business entities.

Strong focus was placed on the upgrade and refinement of the skills of those who are already involved in the arts and crafts so that the products can sell and compete in the international market. The aims were to provide crafters with modules on business management skills and marketing as well as to introduce them to the various raw material outlets and link them with markets.

The selection of service providers targeted experienced services who were crafters in their own rights. In certain cases - such as beadwork - jewellery designers who had graduated from the Durban Institute of Technology (DIT) were used to introduce design and development. The aim is to assist with diversifying the beadwork product which is one of the challenges experienced in this sector, posing enormous limitations in terms of access to markets.

Update of the work so far has seen two beadwork co-operatives given opportunities to link up with DIT fashion design organisers for provision of accessories and to sell products at the Hazelmere Jazz festival and the COSATU organised exhibition. Three leatherwork co-operatives were linked with an opportunity to sell products in Italy while one pottery and ceramics co-operative is making ceramic key holders for Mercedes Benz. Six needlework and embroidery co-operatives were commissioned to make bags for a conference held in Pretoria and will be assisted to showcase their products in different exhibitions.

At the inception of the project, it was decided that a launch cum exhibition should be hosted at the end of the project in order to expose the crafters to the markets by enabling them to showcase their products over a period of time. There would also be further opportunity to effect business linkages between crafters and buyers. Certificates will be awarded on the day of the launch.

In view of the reality that one of the main problems experienced by crafters in the whole of KZN is that they produce the same kind of products with no variations. The cause of this is that they produce crafts in a vacuum with little or no knowledge of consumer preferences and demands or general market trends. The opportunity to exhibit will assist in linking emerging crafters with the market which will then sensitise them on the market needs.

The INK Craft Fair will take place from March 23 to April 7 at the Kwa Mashu Shopping Centre. It is free and open to all. More information from Sohana Singh, eThekwini Municipality Communications Department, on 031 311 2044 or fax 306 4603.




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