NayantaraToy Maker

Inspired by mischief
and memories

It has taken years for Nayantara Biswas’s husband to allow her to venture into the city and participate in craft melas to sell her wares, ranging from jute baskets and coasters to doormats, table mats and even children’s toys. I watched Nayantara, as she sat, coyly weaving. Her deft fingers seemed to move of their own accord, plaiting the threads in the blink of an eye, before swiftly turning them into circles and spirals using a needle. A jute carry bag featuring several fish motifs was ready in an hour.

With her years of experience, weaving requires little effort today. The tedious part of her job is the preparatory stage—sifting through the fibre of the plant, plaiting and dyeing it. Also known as ‘the golden fibre’, jute is the cheapest natural fibre available and has long been used by artisans to create both functional and recreational products.

“Designing products is the easy bit,” Nayantara said. Many women in her village have also taken to this art form, with the aid of centres that have begun teaching craft-making to help women gain financial independence and supplement their household income.

Nayantara’s designs are inspired by daily life, her chats with other women and nuanced observations of how her children play and interact. For instance, watching her daughter’s mischievous nature and the joy she receives from playing pranks on others inspired Nayantara to weave a fake lizard out of jute.

Her daughter too seems to be slowly picking up the art. Using her smartphone, Nayantara typed a few words in Bengali into Youtube and pulled up a video that details how to make a jute doll. “My daughter showed me. My daughter and I craft these together sometimes,” she said.


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