Bringing Handmade To The Masses And Putting Artisans First

Ankita Jaiswal
Lucknow is well known for its rich culture, heritage, art and architecture. “I was always intrigued by the beauty and art of the city,” says Ankita Jaiswal. She is the owner of Brio Art House and Cafe in Ramada Lucknow and gives all the credit for her growing business to the artisans she works with. Jaiswal with her cafe promotes local artworks and helps the craftsmen get the value of their work.

The entrepreneur says she has grown as an artist while working at her venture. She works with hundreds of artisans across Uttar Pradesh; they provide handmade marble and statue creations, embroideries, cushions and many other such items. In a conversation with SheThePeople, Ankita Jaiswal shared how her café came to be and how she ensures its growth with the help of India’s artisans.

What’s been the most exciting part about building Brio?

Hailing from the city of Lucknow which speaks of rich culture, heritage, art and architecture; I was always intrigued by the beauty and art of the city. I started this journey to know more about this art and the people who were creating it. After working closely with the artisans, I realised this is where my passion lies. The most exciting part of this journey has been my growth as an artist and a responsible and conscious consumer.

You are working with local artisans to bring handmade to the masses – why is that such an important link in your growth story?

I am an artist who believes in creating sustainable eco-friendly creations that will bring joy to the consumer as much as it brings happiness to me. It is through sustainable art that I hope to not only change how my work is done, but to inspire social and cultural change.

India has more than 3000 craft forms to offer from all the states. Each state offers its own ethnic product. In this fast age of “buy more”, I firmly believe in responsible consumption and production. My aim as an artist is to bring back these craft forms to people and provide a bigger platform for artisans to showcase their work, all this being done responsibly. We work closely with about 200 artisans currently from across the state. With my work, I not only support the art of this beautiful state but also get to support the artisans and their unique handwork. Supporting artisans translates to preserving cultures at risk of erasure. By passing on this handicraft culture we are passing on an intimate understanding of material and creativity, rooted in a sense of place and shared history.

It is through sustainable art that I hope to not only change how my work is done, but to inspire social and cultural change as well.

While “artisanal” has become a new “status symbol” it also is helping in attracting the shift towards reviving artisan supply chains. Artisans provide a sustainable alternative to problematic industries, like fast fashion. It is through sustainable art that I hope to not only change how my work is done, but to inspire social and cultural change.

Given the evolution of consumer preferences, the pressing environmental dangers of current production norms and the inherent value of artisan work, we would be short-sighted to overlook the power of artisans in the new economy. Whether as a sound investment or entrepreneurial venture, artisans represent the future, while, quite profoundly, reconnecting us to our roots.

What kind of advice would you give to entrepreneurs working with artists and what milestones were the most important for you?

“Know who you are and what you want and why you want to do this” is my only advice. Don’t get into it just because it is a “New trend”. Artists are the actual creators behind the products. It has to be a “teamwork” of your vision and their craft. Artists should know and feel they are working WITH your company and not working FOR you. The biggest milestone was the launch of the Brio Art House & Cafe.

Ankita Jaiswal Brio Art house and cafe

Brio Art House and Cafe, Picture credit: Ankita Jaiswal

In order to bring out sustainable products, what hurdles were faced by you?

Sourcing sustainable materials, challenges in supply-chain management, etc. A few people understand the uniqueness of the product and its commitment of true impact by reducing waste and carbon print. I think awareness and education early on in schools and various media platforms will definitely help in bridging this gap and making consumers more responsible and conscious.

What challenges did the pandemic throw at you? How important was that pivot for you ?

Like all other businesses the pandemic has impacted our business as well. The supply chain was impacted because of travel bans and resources falling sick. We have moved from face-to-face interaction with the artisans, to Zoom and video meetings as much as possible. We have slowed down our production to help the families of affected artisans.

How do you make sure to give the due credit to the artisans financially and otherwise?

Establishing a brand doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort & time of numerous people involved in organically creating and growing the brand. The centre of our business is the artisan. We provide employment and support and recognise their talent by focusing them and their work on all our social media platforms besides awards and monetary compensations.

Ankita Jaiswal brio cafe

Craftswomen at work, Picture credit: Ankita Jaiswal

Suggested Reading: Nushaura Candles Are Lighting Up The Future Of Women Artisans

According to your experience, what skill set should new-age entrepreneurs inculcate in order to be successful?

Patience, diligence and purpose is all you need. If you have a purpose you work towards it. “Brio” means “Life”. As a brand our purpose is to give “life” to forgotten art culture and technique and help them grow and pass them on to generations to come. We believe in continuity and shared history.

How have you leveraged the power of digital in your journey?

We are educating our artisans on the power of digital communication. All Brio Art House products are shared on social media channels with the story of the particular artisan who worked on the product. Each product is unique and is symbolic of the talent of the craftsman who has created the product. Instagram has been a great platform to showcase our products and artisans’ stories.

We have a long way to go and will get there slowly.

Ankita Jaiswal Brio art house and cafe

Artoworks at Brio Art House and Cafe, Picture credit: Ankita Jaiswal

Do tell us about your future plans with your café

As an artist and a sculptor, I see myself creating more beautiful and sustainable art by providing employment to more women and local artisans. I encourage them to be a part of my journey in reviving the dying art of the state and bringing it to the world.

The Brio Art Cafe boasts of a selection of endless delicacies immersed in natural flavours. Our in-house chef uses organically grown vegetables and herbs from our own kitchen garden. We believe in the concept of farm to fork where guests can pick their own vegetables and herbs for their own meals. We are working on expansion of the inhouse garden where the consumer will have more access to organically grown food, free of pesticides and other toxins. We want Brio art house to be your escape into nature and a toxin free world!