In our fast-paced world that’s so focused on instant gratification, Manvee Vaid started a business that embraces slow, meaningful and deliberate. During her Fine Arts studies she discovered a vast abundance of art being crafted across the many regions of her native country, India. She tells me “I was surprised to discover that I was completely unaware of the many different ethnic arts and crafts that originated in India, despite being able to rattle off all of the western arts I had been taught. (Yes, the effects of colonization can still be felt in our educational system.) It made me ashamed of my ignorance and inspired me to read, learn, and understand the vast cultural heritage of the land on my own.” Her curiosity led her to create TerraKlay, a Chicago-based lifestyle brand specializing in home goods, textiles and art made by hand in India.
Vaid launched TerraKlay in 2016 featuring handmade black clay pottery from a community of artisans in Northern India. In India, the craft business, the second largest source of income after agriculture, is dominated historically by men. Part of TerraKlay’s mission is to empower women, elevating their voices in their communities and giving them an opportunity to “shape the future of their craft”. Through email outreach, and pre-pandemic visits, Vaid built a network of artisans across India, most with which she’s developed personal connections. The pandemic deepened these relationships, Manvee recollects, “In retrospect, I believe our relationship was more symbiotic, with both parties supporting one another during these difficult times.” TerraKlay’s online shop features the work of numerous artisan groups from across India.
“Crafts are intertwined with everyday life and are deeply woven into the social fabric of a community.”
Through TerraKlay, Manvee is giving us the opportunity to change the way we consume. Indigenous arts and crafts are original, handmade pieces infused with the culture, tradition and energy from where they come. These traditions, like stories, are passed down from generation to generation. Each piece TerraKlay offers carries a piece of the region, tribe and person who made it. They are pieces to be cherished and passed down in our own families, along with their accompanying stories.
Vaid’s “one-on-one” relationships with each artist collective gives her the unique opportunity to infuse something personal with each purchase. “Whether it’s the centuries-old textile making tradition that sends cotton all over the world, or the time-consuming metal crafting practiced in southern India, known as “Bidriware,” it would be a disservice to the preservation of culture for artisans to abandon their craft for industrial work.” TerraKlay pieces an investment in preserving generations old art forms. Vaid’s mission make the beauty of handmade to accessible to consumers while elevating the people and behind the work and preserving the art form.
The environment has a prominent role in TerraKlay’s business practices and sustainability infused in its model. Vaid is meticulous about sourcing, ensuring products are made sustainably and with fair-trade labor. She prioritizes products made with sustainable and renewable resources like organic cotton and banana fibers. The dyes used in textile production are all natural and non-toxic. She’s also invested in conserving natural resources at home, including employing creative ways to reduce waste and TerraKlay’s carbon footprint.
“Craft-based production has a clear pro-nature and pro-people ethos. The artisan economy is innately capable of driving socioeconomic accessibility, conscious production, and mindful consumption.”
TerraKlay is a business that embraces sustainability, encourages conscious consumerism and works actively to preserve traditional crafts while providing income to artisan communities across India. As consumers, we can use our buying power to vote for a different type of world by supporting slow business models like Vaid’s.