At Shatter, we believe that supporting makers, artisans, and preserving traditions is an integral component of Ethical Travel. In our continuing series on entrepreneurs and start-ups that make an impact, we feature Khazana Gallery and Imports. Based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Khazana Gallery focuses on showcasing textiles, preserving weaving traditions, and educating the public about artisans and their work. For more information about Khazana Gallery, check out http://www.khazana.com/
Tell me a little bit about the history of Khazana? What is the mission and vision for the organization?
Anju Kataria grew up in India, but traveled extensively with her family from a young age, always collecting things from her travels. Anju’s passion for art and textiles has always been apart of who she is with a strong appreciation for those who make them. Khazana was born out of that passion for collecting. As a first generation immigrant family, this was also a way for her to stay connected to her Indian roots. She has spent the last twenty-five years making a home for Khazana in Minneapolis, working hard to become a platform for artisans to share their work globally. Anju has continued to add to her incredible collection, preferring to work directly with artisans and support local craftspeople, both in India and in Minneapolis. It is a space to promote the love and the hard work that goes into making each and every one of the pieces she carries.
I (Natalie) got involved with Khazana through a mutual friend who thought I would be a good fit. Anju was looking for a part-time employee and I was looking to resume working in the arts. That was 10 months ago, now I am working full-time, have traveled to India, and feel forever apart of her family.
What is the importance of preserving the stories of the global goods, and their makers?
Every piece represents a story of the place from which it came and the hands through which it passed. It is Khazana’s belief that these stories and traditions are the most important. The beauty of each object is the story of its creation and the journey we took to find it. Without the story, there is no context. Our customers are buying the story, not the object. We try to bring awareness to the hard work of the artisans we source from by sharing the history of the pieces with our customers, bringing in international artists for lectures, collaborating with art institutions, or supporting the spaces that share our mission. These traditional arts are kept alive and sustained by preserving their history, ensuring fair wages, and work longevity. We try to spread awareness of what exists beyond our borders; what it truly takes for these pieces to be created and brought here.
Is there a typical Khazana customer? Who are the folks who wander into your shop?
The customers are as diverse as the city itself, but once they come in, one thing unifies them and that is the connection made to the shop and its owner, Anju. She has mastered the art of creating a space that is open to all to explore and wander. The shop is a small, family-run business with the ability to share with it’s customers the stories of each piece. Anju encourages interaction with the art, especially textiles. When sourcing, she tries not to confine herself and have a versatile collection that will speak to many. Textiles can be appreciated by all and can also take on many forms. Finding those rare and beautifully unique pieces is her first love, and will always remain in the forefront when choosing what to carry.
How did you all come to appreciate the textiles and ethically made goods and where they come from? What is your favorite aspect of your work?
My favorite aspect of my work is knowing that Khazana is a place of pride, not just a business. It is a way of life that we get to live each and every day. We all love beautiful things. It is through beauty, we learn and grow to have a better understanding of culture and the pieces we carry. When you walk into Khazana there are not only textiles, but jewelry on display, paintings covering every inch of the walls, sculptures in every corner, and plants to keep us company. The energy of the space is undeniable. Each piece Anju carries could not exist without the touch of a human hand. It has been a blessing to me to have seen the work done by these artisans with my own eyes in India and a great source of inspiration. It creates a lifelong appreciation for the craftsmanship involved.
What was your journey to take on your current role at Khazana Gallery? What tips do you have for those who want to mix their passion with their career?
I studied Art History at University which led me to a number of art-related positions at galleries and museums. I spent four years pursuing a career in the arts, but felt disconnected to every new role I took on. I decided to take a break and work in the service industry where I was able to make personal and professional connections, one of which eventually led me to Khazana. I was working four jobs at a time, trying to get my footing in a new city. It wasn’t until I met Anju and began working at Khazana that I understood what was missing. I feel a sense of ownership, purpose, and a connection to the work I am doing now. We have the ability to share a beautiful collection of work from all over the world. We connect our community to the arts through working with the artisan and other organizations who promote ethically sourced goods and sustainability for makers. I spent many years following a career path, focused on the trajectory, but not taking a moment to focus on what made me happy. One of the harder things to achieve in life, is to do something you love and make a living off it. It is so simple, but many of us forget. Do what you love and do it with purpose.
How do you work with makers, producers, and people who are still engaged in preserving textile traditions, but also designing new and modern goods? Can there be a balance of preservation but also adapting to new ideas and design tastes? When it comes to the makers, who has the decision making power to decide when change in design, or the process might occur? What happens when Western tastes or expectations get thrown in the mix?
Khazana works with a wide range of weavers and makers who continue to create textiles and art in their traditional methods, as well as designers who have married the needs of today’s market with old textile practices. Katherine Neumann of House of the Wandering Silk and Mari Gray of KAKAW Designs Co. are just two examples of new designers collaborating with makers working to preserve these traditions.
At Khazana, we have relationships with our sources, and have the unique opportunity to have direct interactions, to work alongside the artists, and discuss new designs as they are happening. With every new collaboration, we are adopting the mission of the artisan, the maker, or the producer; weaving together to make a collective vision for the shop. Too often we see large corporations using patterns and styles derived from the traditions of the communities we work with, but telling no story. It is so important to stress that these patterns and styles belong to these communities. When they are mass produced, they not only lose their story and authenticity, but are further removed from textile traditions.
It is beneficial to both ourselves and the artisans to be respectful and innovate within reason; having open communication and collaborating to create pieces that fit in with modern day demands. We continue to work very hard not to take away from the integrity of the work and keep the history intact. We grow together and adapt to the times without having to let go of the original roots.
What do you wish consumers knew about fair trade and sustainably made goods? What are some of the biggest myths, and what are the key realities one should consider when wanting to show their support?
These traditional practices of art making in other countries are beautiful and require an immense amount of hard work and discipline. The amount of work is inconceivable to the consumer unless they are there to see it with their own eyes. It is important to be knowledgeable about the products you purchase – where they come from, who made them, and that the artisan is treated with respect and receiving fair wages.
The reality is we will not ethically shop our way to a better world. We must first create a world where we prioritize the wellbeing of all people in our supply chains. So many people are struggling to maintain their livelihood with respect and dignity and that is something we can work to change. Ethically shopping is the first step, but bringing awareness to these issues and moving towards a fuller, conscious way of living that can sustain entire communities and the environment is a priority.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned at Khazana Gallery, or while you were in the field?
I was blessed to spend a month in India, something I could not have done without the support of Anju and my role at Khazana. It is one thing to work at the shop and be surrounded by incredible handmade pieces, but another to be fully immersed in the culture, the families, and the artwork. I was able to experience first hand the work done by the craftsman and have a deeper appreciation for the process and labor behind every piece. Learning about other cultures and seeing the way others live fosters understanding. An understanding of different cultures and people brings us all closer. A closeness I immediately felt when I left India and returned home: to Khazana, to Anju and her family, and the beautifully handcrafted goods we have in the shop.
Can you tell us more about the programming, workshops, and artisan tours that Khazana has developed?
Khazana works to promote different cultures and traditions, with a focus on India, but is open to all kinds of art, culture, and history. We find different ways to collaborate with institutions and local artists to create a platform for learning and growth. Khazana is the connecting point for people.
In the last year, we have begun to add more classes and interactive activities in an effort to expand how we can tell our story in the community, and provide a space for others to come and tell theirs. The classes are centered around, but not limited to, Indian traditions: chai, mala making, sari tying, spices, textile production, and art making. We have donated pieces from our personal collection to numerous institutions including the Minneapolis Institute of Art; collaborated with American Swedish Institute exploring the relationship between culture and food, focusing on Indian and Scandinavian ingredients; and have brought artists and makers directly from India to share their stories with our community. Khazana is a place to engage and explore worldwide creative culture.
We just finished our first Khazana Tour in early February, where we brought eight travelers through India to explore art, culture, food, and most of all: people. Our travelers got to see a side of India that few have access to. We provided the connection and ability to meet and interact with the weavers and artisans who Anju sources from. We gave our travelers the opportunity to see the work of tribal India where artists have been creating wrought iron work, dhokra art, and kotpad textiles the way they have been for thousands of years. We hope to continue these tours as the years go on and curate each trip to a new art exploration and support the work of the artisans throughout. There are so many places to see in India with different traditions and art practices!
What is next for Khazana? How do you see yourself growing and furthering your reach in 2016?
We have a much bigger dream than the shop, Khazana has been blessed the last twenty-five years and has received so much. We have become more than a place of retail, but a cultural hub connecting people from all over.
We hope to continue curating travel tours, creating new connections and expanding upon existing relationships, and working hard to further our reach through our social media and website. We want to continue to connect and collaborate with others in Minneapolis and beyond to create and source beautiful work, increase education, and strengthen the support for the arts, the artisans, and ethically made goods. We want to continue to be a cultural force for our neighborhood and our city.
Meet the Khazana Gallery Team:
Anju Kataria is the Founder and Owner of Khazana Imported Arts and Textiles. Anju grew up in India and through her travels began an early interest for art and collecting. Renowned for her knowledge and passion for textiles, Anju has the kind of expertise that is only cultivated through years spent working with weavers and tradesmen searching the far corners of the earth for beautiful additions to her collection. She has spent the last twenty-five years making a home for Khazana in Minneapolis, working hard to become a platform for artisans to share their work globally. Anju has continued to add to her incredible collection, preferring to work directly with artisans and support local craftspeople, both in India and in Minneapolis.
Natalie Quinn Manion is the current Manager at Khazana Imported Arts and Textiles. With a background in art history and curatorial practice, it was her position at Khazana that led her to reignite her passion for the arts and handmade work. She found an ease in connecting to Indian textiles, art, and spiritual practices. She welcomes any opportunity for learning and growing. She is most at home when she is barefoot in nature and among the plants. Natalie is currently exploring the world of natural dyeing specific to Minnesota resources and branching out into the healing arts.
Kelly Moe-Rossetto is the owner of the socially conscious textile and home goods company, Cardamom Collective. She has a background in art and education and found herself teaching for over decade. Kelly has always been a student of life and loved exploring how the world is connected through art and history. She began her journey at Khazana two years ago. Khazana surrounded her with truly historical textiles and inspired her next venture in life. She was able to put her formal education into practice, travel to India, and receive the support to start her own business.
To shop, learn more, or even travel with Khazana, visit the shop or check them out on social media!