The tradition of marble work in India dates back almost 5000 years. Home of the stunning Taj Mahal, the city of Agra has become famous for the intricate and quality craftsmanship of its artisans. For centuries, the artisans of the region have developed a wide variety of skills that have been passed down through the generations. By carving, cutting, inlay and polishing, they transform raw blocks of marble into the unparalleled designs you see today.
In the autumn of 2021, we had the opportunity to visit our artisan partners at the Fair Trade certified atelier where they work in Agra. We had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with a few of them, learning about their journey of working with marble, and getting a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes experience of creating our marble and wood collection. Here are their faces and stories.
Naresh Kumar is 35 years old and lived and worked in the city of Agra all his life. His father, Shri Sanjeev Kumar Sharma was an artisan before him, passing down the trade of marble work to his son.
“I used to see him take a piece of marble, give it a finishing touch, sculpt it into another shape” he shared with us. “I also got interested in it because I really liked it. I liked the way he turned a simple piece of marble into a whole new design. Later, it became a hobby of mine. I got into it. I loved my hobby. Drawing was also an interest and so I developed it. It became my job. My hobby became my job.”
During our visit, it was evident that Naresh takes great pride in his work and has built on the skills his father passed down to him, refined his craftsmanship and expanded his skillset through the years. He shared with us a bit about the process of polishing marble, and the techniques that go into creating the perfect finish for each item. “When we polish these products, we first make sure what type of product it is. Is it something we are going to eat or serve food on? Or is it a decorative item? Depending on that, we do a different polish. For items that we serve food on, we use organic wax, for other decorative items, we use gloss or resin.”
Within the atelier, Naresh works closely with the other artisans to create the beautiful collection of marble and wood products available at Le Tattva. Each of them works together on different parts of the process to create each piece by hand. “This is the machine”, artisan Praveen Sharma showed us. “It is used to make the product and after that, the worked piece will be in the polishing process. All the waste that is collected here because of the cutting or grinding of the marble, we give it to someone who needs it for construction or to people who use it to fill in land. So we help them.”
By working in a Fair Trade certified atelier the artisans are taught sustainable solutions to working with materials, ensured a safe work environment and paid a fair wage that helps them and pays forward to their communities. “Since I’ve been in fair trade, it’s given me a lot’” Naresh explains. “Before, my house was a temporary house, now it is a house with a structure, it is permanent.”
He shares that it means a lot to all of them that the products they put so much care into are destined for homes around the world. “If the products we make go out of the country, what could be better than that? The work we do should be exposed outside, should be exported. People should know our name in foreign countries, know that whatever craft we do, it sells outside. Because this money supports our families. Our friends who work here, their families, live on that money. And that’s why I love this job even more!”
From their hands to your homes, thank you for your support of Le Tattva and the work we are doing to ensure that artisans worldwide can create and sustain themselves and their families while keeping craft and tradition alive.