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Auroville Adventure

September 2004

Creative links

- by Sunaura

A studio of artistic creation opens in Auroville to help promote local products

EstelleAn increasing number of units in Auroville have started in the recent years. However, it is clear to many that in Auroville there is a growing need to work together on promotion and marketing as well as on creation. Some Aurovilians have embarked on marketing a selected range of products from Auroville units but the majority of units market independently. With the recent reformation of the Auroville Business Council (ABC) and the increasing demand for Auroville products from outside, it is evident that a higher level of collaboration is needed and possible.

L'etoile du Sud Studio was recently opened by an inspiring young woman, Estelle, who works towards carrying her dreams of a united Auroville production into reality. Four years ago, at the age of 26, Estelle found her home in Auroville. I had always had a strong desire to go to India , explained Estelle, but I knew little of Auroville, or of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo. But when I landed in Auroville with my two sons, I knew it was the place for us. In time Estelle found herself involved in Papyrus, an Auroville unit which produces a wide variety of paper products for inside and outside markets. While working on the creative side of the business, Estelle began establishing contacts both within and outside Auroville concerning products being made by unit holders in Auroville.

The creation of L'etoile du Sud Studio was the result of many conversations as well as her own desire to use her creative abilities in collaboration with others which would benefit Auroville. It came to my mind because having worked for the past three years with different units, I found that the unit holders are often busy with production and do not have the needed free time to go into creation. Also I could see very clearly that more and more people from India and abroad are looking for products coming from Auroville. They can feel through those products the unique qualities of Auroville as an international city. So putting all that together, it came to me that something had to be done to make a bridge between Auroville and the outside, especially with India , because India is a huge country, it's a huge market and many possibilities are here.

As a service unit of Auroville, L'etoile du Sud Studio has two main goals: to enhance the range of creative products being made by Auroville units and to help promote and market these products. The team of artists and designers of L'etoile du Sud Studio offer free advice to the production units of Auroville about aesthetics, which may then adapted to the unit's already existing market, explained Estelle. We also organize exhibitions such as with Amethyst in Chennai and Microsoft in Bangalore and markets for festivals such as Christmas, Diwali, and Pongal in those places. We invite the units to represent themselves or we select people to represent them.

The products that are sold through the studio have a margin of 100% over cost price which, depending on the quantity, is divided between the unit holders, the artist of the studio who created the product, and a small percentage goes to the studio to cover running expenses. Also, 5% goes to education in Auroville and 2% to the arts in Auroville. This is a very strong point for Estelle who states, I find that the largest inspiration in Auroville is the children. When I look at the children of Auroville, there is no doubt that something special is going on here. Also, when you work like crazy in a business, you need to take a break, go to see a play, a dance performance or what not. Our artists in Auroville are creating that for us. It has a cost and we have to pay for it.

L'etoile du Sud Studio, being relatively new, is still getting known and understood by the community. But what have been the responses from unit holders so far? I think people know there is a need for more creation and design. They feel also that some designers are there to create for themselves and they are not so much helping the unit to grow. But as the aim of the studio is to enhance the range for the units and benefit Auroville as a whole, it is easier for the unit holders to understand what we are doing and maybe think OK, we can give them a space, doing two or three prototypes.'

Estelle already has contacts to exhibit Auroville products in Chennai, in Bangalore (with Microsoft, IBM and Dell showrooms), as well as with Himatzingka Seide Limited who have showrooms called Atmosphere throughout India .

She is also working on a website which will present the products designed by the studio as well as having links to the individual websites of the Auroville units with whom she is working. If a buyer wants a product that is already made in any unit, they can go straight to them, they order and we won't take anything for the studio. If they want something customized, then they will come to the studio to get something special from and produced by those units but designed by the studio.

The enthusiasm and energy behind the creation of L'etoile du Sud Studio has given it enough momentum to lift it off the ground. Estelle hopes that in time more artistic individuals and unit holders will join in its collaboration so that Auroville as one can move more efficiently and with high quality into the international world it represents.

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