Every Sunday, Sumita Dasgupta’s house in Chittaranjan Park’s block A is abuzz with activity. Children surround Dasgupta as she guides them how to work with glittering pieces of fabric and craft material. The 44-year-old homemaker, an expert artist, is teaching them the unique art of doll making.
Dasgupta can recreate human figures of different origins and ethnicity to perfection. Her personal collection consists of dolls that look like Japanese women wearing a kimono, a tea garden worker from the North-East region, a British lady, a mermaid, a Bhutanese couple, a Bengali bride and groom, Radha and Krishna and Meera Bai playing a Veena. Her passion for doll making began early in life. Born and brought up in Bandel, of Hooghly district in West Bengal, Dasgupta grew up watching dolls in her house.
“Those were the times when dolls were used for decoration. Also, I grew up in a locality of renowned artist Shree Dasgupta. She had learnt doll making from Shanti Niketan and I learnt the craft from her,” said Dasgupta.
It took her four years to master the technique. She chooses her subjects based on her daily observations and surroundings. A graduate in Arts, Dasgupta is also an accomplished fabric painter. She began teaching the craft after shifting to Chittaranjan Park in 2003. Children are first taught elementary stitching and can learn basic doll making within a year.
The biggest challenge she faces is procuring the material. She says shops in south Delhi markets do not stock the face mould made of plaster of Paris and wooden base required for doll making.
“Doll making is a dying art, thus it gets difficult to find the basic material. I source most of the raw material from West Bengal, ” she said.
Dasgupta says it can take up to seven days to make a simple doll, depending on the speed and number of hours spent. The cost of making a single doll ranges between Rs 250 and Rs 300. These dolls can be used for decorating one’s house or can be given away as gifts to relatives and friends.
She laments that though the number of students showing interest in doll making has gone up, this art is no more popular among children or parents. “Nowadays both boys and girls are showing interest in learning the craft. But opportunities are very few. Schools do not teach this art. Parents send their children to music and dance classes, but how many of them would be willing to send their children to doll making classes?” she said.
As summer vacations have started, Dasgupta has started taking classes at C block’s Chittaranjan Bhavan. Dasgupta thinks there is a need to revive the craft which is possible only when educational institutes start organising doll making classes. “Today doll making is done only in rural areas. Urban areas do not provide much scope to doll makers,” she said.