Jaya Jaitly

Founder & President, Dastkari Haat Samiti New Delhi

Jaya Jaitly studied in Japan, Burma, Belgium, UK, and graduated from Smith College, USA in 1963.

She has an intimate knowledge of the craft traditions of the country having worked in the field for over 40 years. She is considered a leader and expert in this field.

In 1986, she founded an association of crafts people called the Dastkari Haat Samiti, which enables traditional workers to gain confidence in the marketplace through many innovative strategies.

She served as Design and Marketing Consultant to the Gujarat government for 11 years and the Uttar Pradesh Govt for 3 years.

She conceptualized and established Dilli Haat, a greatly popular crafts marketplace in Delhi.

Her work in bringing together crafts people of India and Pakistan, Vietnam, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Iran, Eygpt, Israel and Indonesia apart from South Asian and African countries. It is seen as a major contribution towards ‘soft power diplomacy’.

She is a prolific writer and has published books on the Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, the Craft Traditions of India, Viswakarma's Children, a socio-economic study of crafts people, and Crafting Nature, The Artistry of Handwork, and Woven Textiles of Varanasi and a seminal work called Crafts Atlas of India.

She created a vast documentation of the arts, crafts and textiles of India through 24 highly artistic and unique maps of all the states of India, she has written a number of short stories on crafts children that were first published by Penguin and now widely distributed in many regional languages by Pratham.

Her recent publication Crafting Indian Scripts, is based on a major project called Akshara, combining literacy, craft and calligraphy. The exhibition created and curated by her on this subject has been shown in Delhi, Cairo, the UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Mumbai and Singapore.

A Podium on the Pavement is a selection of her writings on a variety of subjects including politics, foreign affairs, craft livelihoods, women and social issues. Her latest book is Life among the Scorpions – a memoir of a woman in Indian politics which was published in November 2018.

She serves on Advisory bodies related to Crafts and Livelihoods, Social Science studies, and other public causes. She has been deeply involved in heritage and livelihood issues at all levels and has received awards for her work in culture and the arts and as a role model for women leaders.

Her three decades in active politics has widened her knowledge and appreciation of the socio-economic milieu of India’s craftspeople.