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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Fahd Khatri: Pioneering Terracotta Artisanship and Sustainable Living in Dubai

In the bustling metropolis of Dubai, Fahd Khatri, the founder of ARK Naturals, is redefining luxury with a touch of the earth’s oldest crafts. Through ARK Naturals, Fahd introduces the rich heritage of Terracotta craftsmanship to a global audience, empowering artisans from remote Indian villages while preserving ancient techniques. With a background as a fashion designer and a deep passion for authentic natural products, Fahd’s journey into the world of Terracotta artisanship is a testament to his commitment to sustainability and cultural preservation. His approach brings unique, handcrafted creations to discerning customers in Dubai, blending traditional techniques with modern elegance and promoting a more sustainable and culturally rich lifestyle.

Let’s delve deeper into his inspiring journey through this exclusive interview.

What inspired you to start ARK Naturals and focus on sourcing authentic natural products from different parts of India?
I am a fashion designer and used to travel across villages in India in search of authentic works on fabrics. From Kolkata to Tamil Nadu, I traveled across many villages to find ideal fabrics, printing styles, and embroidery techniques that are rare in today’s fast fashion, where machine work and cheap materials dominate. During my travels, I encountered several unique products that piqued my interest. That’s when I started experimenting with Terracotta. I was fascinated by this ancient crafts uniqueness and learning the different techniques involved in making the product.

Can you tell us about the artisans you work with and how their craftsmanship contributes to the uniqueness of your products?
Yes, I work with seven artisans across India. Let me tell you about an artisan I met during my travels to Gujarat. He comes from a village once renowned for Terracotta products across India. Today, his family is the only one in the village still practicing this art. He has recently started training a few youngsters in this craft. I asked him why he remains committed to this art while others in the village have shifted professions. He smiled and said, “This is our heritage, our art, our bread and butter. I can’t imagine leaving this profession.” I also asked if he could make a living from terracotta, given the low prices. He responded that he tries his best to provide for his family and is glad that the art is still preserved today. He will continue the tradition and teach his kids and other young people interested in learning.

How do you ensure that the products you offer are truly natural and beneficial for health?
First, I visit all my artisans, no matter where they are, to personally meet and greet besides understand their process and the raw materials they use. We strictly avoid using lead in our clay. Second, I use these products in my daily life. Visiting the artisans helps me learn more about the products and their uses. Third, we send our products to a lab to ensure no heavy metals are present in the clay.

Tell us more about how you support and improve the lifestyles of the artisans you collaborate with?
We don’t bargain with our artisans. If an artisan demands a certain price for a product they have worked hard on, we respect that unless it’s overpriced. We believe artisans have the right to receive the most financial benefit from their craftsmanship. We also encourage our artisans to distribute the workload to other artisans in their area while the primary artisan remains responsible for quality and standards. While fair compensation improves their lifestyles, we  constantly aim in giving back to their community as well in some way or the other. Be it sponsoring school books or taking part in their school or village activities gives us immense joy in knowing we can participate in one way or the other to help uplift their living conditions.

Can you share any specific stories or experiences that highlight the impact your partnership with artisans has had on their lives?
I remember visiting an artisan for the first time because I liked his work but was unsure about the quality of the clay and coating he used. I asked him to make some changes. He was amazed when his customers preferred the new products after showing them the updated versions. He called me and said, “When I show customers your products, they don’t want my old ones anymore; they only want these.” That itself brought a smile to my face thinking that I had contributed to his welfare in a small way.

How do you select the materials and ingredients used in your products to ensure their authenticity and quality?
This comes with experience, not just mine but also the artisans I work with who share their knowledge of materials and processes. I’ve met many studio potters well-versed in ceramics and craftsmanship. We make mistakes, but that’s how we learn. As someone experienced in sourcing products, I don’t interfere much with the artisan’s local art unless changes are necessary or customization is requested. I prefer the products to be made with love by the artisans and retain their original art form as much as possible.

What sets ARK Naturals apart from other stores that offer similar natural products?
We aren’t studio potters. We pride ourselves on showcasing the work of rural artisans. They are our REAL heroes.

Can you describe the process of sourcing and curating the products available in your store?
Sourcing is done through traveling and meeting artisans, understanding their work and the quality of their products. Curating is a bit tricky. I immediately place orders for some products I like, while others require careful thought regarding customer needs, product usage, durability, and shape. I also let the artisan choose 1-3 products close to their heart because if they believe in the product, I respect that. At times they want to showcase their creativity, I am only a means to help support that creativity.

How do you educate consumers about the health benefits of using natural products offered by ARK Naturals?
We try to educate customers in-store and through social media / reading material in store. Our website will soon feature detailed information about the health benefits of terracotta, seasoning, and product care.

What are your future plans for ARK Naturals, and how do you envision continuing to support artisans and promote healthy living through your products?
The future of ARK Naturals will always involve supporting artisans from India as well as other parts of the world in the long run, the foundation upon which I created ARK Naturals. We seek consumer support to expand partnerships with more artisans. The more they embrace our product use in their daily lives, they will also know they have touched someone’s life in a rural village ensuring a better livelihood for them and their society.

I humbly look forward to your support in not only empowering the artisanal community but also in helping create a brighter future for them, their families and their community.


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