LailaTyabji is a designer, writer, and founder member/Chairperson of Dastkar, a Society for Crafts & Craftspeople. She has worked in the craft and development sector since 1978. She received the Padma Shri for her work in 2012. In 2003, Laila was the recipient of the AID TO ARTISANS Preservation of Craft Award in New York, the second ever recipient and first Asian.
Her organization, Dastkar, is a national NGO providing support services to traditional artisans including training, credit, product development, design and marketing platforms. Established in 1981, its objective is to help craftspeople (India’s second largest employment sector) regain their place in the economic mainstream.
Laila Tyabji studied art at the Faculty of Fine Arts, MS University, Baroda, India; and the Toshi Yoshida Studio in Japan. Returning to India she worked as a free-lance designer in textiles, graphics and theatre prior to Dastkar. Her work with artisans over the last four decades includes the Chikan workers of Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Lucknow, Kasuti and Lambani, and Kantha embroiderers in Karnataka and Bengal, Madhubani painters and Sujni quilters in Bihar, Regurs in Rajasthan, and Banjara and Rabari mirror work craftswomen in Gujarat and Maharashtra. Other major projects are with pastoral communities displaced by the Tiger Reserve in Ranthambhore, and women victims of terrorist insurgency in Kashmir.
Laila speaks and writes regularly on craft, design, and social issues at both national and international forums. Her book Threads & Voices – Behind the Indian Textile Tradition was published by Marg in 2007. She has documented and written on a variety of Indian embroidery, textile and craft traditions.