Meet the maker: Coppre

Founded in 2011, Coppre is a Pune-based brand run by Rashmi Ranade (Founder and Lead Designer), Chhanda Bihar (Management and Finance Head), Sudakshina Sinha Banerjee (Marketing Outreach), and Seemantini Mihir (Social Media Marketing and E-commerce) that creates a stunning range of every day and gifting products. Engrave spoke to the team of the fascinating brand to delve deeper and learn more about the wonderful work that goes on behind the scenes.

Soft, malleable, ductile, and a great conductor of electricity. Copper has been in use for centuries (its earliest uses can be traced back to 9000 BC), but we doubt it has ever been described as a ‘politically correct’ metal before! Founded in 2011, Coppre is a Pune-based brand run by Rashmi Ranade (Founder and Lead Designer), Chhanda Bihar (Management and Finance Head), Sudakshina Sinha Banerjee (Marketing Outreach), and Seemantini Mihir (Social Media Marketing and E-commerce) that creates a stunning range of every day and gifting products. The brands aims to help you invoke nostalgia and relive tradition by working closely with skilled artisans and creating its products using the same ‘politically correct’ metal. For a brand to work with metals isn’t exactly unheard of, but to solely rely on one is indeed unique. Engrave spoke to the team of the fascinating brand to delve deeper and learn more about the wonderful work that goes on behind the scenes.

Team Coppre (L-R): Seemantini, Sudakshina, Chhanda and Rashmi

Tell us a little about Coppre. What does the brand stand for?

Coppre was formally launched in March 2011 as Founder and Chief Designer Rashmi Ranade’s quest for exploring and preserving a heritage craft. It started as an organic process and has since evolved over the last decade. Over the last three years, Coppre has developed seven new collections with new designs in tune with the aesthetic and utilitarian requirements of today. This is, of course, done in collaboration with our skilled, talented artisans which helps make the craft relevant and appealing. Furthermore, we work to help the artisans sustain their livelihood through marketing and design intervention. Coppre has also impacted the lives of artisans in many ways. A significant change we have brought about is in that manner in which we remunerate our artisans. We pay them for each handcrafted piece, unlike the conventional method in which the artisans are either paid daily wages or for the weight of a piece. We aspire to bring about a change in perception; to make people see that the work done by the artisans is a piece of art. The brand stands for reviving the beauty and use of handmade ware in everyday living. We love metal and materials that are close to nature and true to the environment.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

The story of Coppre is linked in many ways to what Pune city used to be in the mid to late nineties: a provincial town just 200 kms from Bombay, yet so uninfluenced by it. Rashmi Ranade would take her friends to visit local heritage sites — her favourite being Tambat Aali, one of the precincts of the copper artisans we now work with. This was perhaps one of the only craft traditions that the city boasted of. What started as a penchant for craft heritage, slowly fuelled her product design expertise to craft traditional products for the new-age home. The craft itself was mesmerising, because shaping copper and the hand beaten ornamentation (called mathaar work) with machine-like precision is not something everyone can do. Our design inspirations are from copper and brass heirloom pieces that copper lovers own, have experienced, or have a memory of. These are the stories we want to bring to life and keep alive. Our attempts are to constantly resurrect vintage pieces: a blend of keepsake and utility.

Since it’s so unique, what’s your favourite part about working with a metal like copper? Could you describe the process?

Copper is a material with inherent paradoxes. It is soft, yet can be hardened to a shape. It shines to a mirror finish, yet develops a rich tarnish with time. It is one hundred percent recyclable. In fact our team at Coppre often refers to it as a ‘politically correct’ material. Our products are time-consuming and tedious to make because metalworking demands incredible stamina and physical strength. Products go through anywhere between 30 to 50 steps in the making process — cutting, sanding, cleaning, heating, cooling, spinning, washing, beating, filing, and buffing are the basic processes. A complicated piece would need an additional 10 steps or more. Each plate-sized platter would have about 2500 strokes of the hammer — no mean feat, and achieved only after years and years of skill honing. The process of lacquering a product happens right at the end, after the buffing. There are no variations in the making of the products, only the product care is different, because all the non-lacquered products tend to oxidise quickly.

Working with skilled Artisans must be an enriching experience too. Tell us a little about that.

Working with artisans is both a privilege and a rewarding experience. However, ensuring quality and timely supplies of orders is pretty much a nightmare. There are daily uncertainties involved around our work. Largely an unorganised sector, there is almost a complete absence of systems. From raw material procurement to planning and production and finishing, the complete product life cycle constantly needs to be optimised for better outputs. Artisanal daily life patterns in India are seamless between work and family — and so is the case with our artisans too. Yet, it’s inspiring to see how they merge these two lives effortlessly, especially as most of their workshops are in the same precincts as their home. We are pretty much family to our group of artisans. We maintain complete transparency with them in terms of monetary dealings and end-pricing, which we think has helped forge a close bond amongst us. We have an open access to their homes and are a part of their celebrations on all special days including births, weddings, festivals, and community events.

What kind of products do you sell? Which is the most popular one?

Broadly, our portfolio of products comprises of décor and utility items. We ensure that every product stands for traditional values fused with a contemporary international design language. Our best sellers are our Water Bearers as drinking water from copper has health benefits. People love the designs and the way the age-old practice of drinking copper water has been reinterpreted. The Bedside Carafe, especially, is greatly loved. It’s the novelty factor of a two-in-one lid and glass for the carafe that appeals to people. Apart from being a great addition for personal use at home and office, it even works great as a gifting item. Copper is light-friendly, and so, it’s natural that the other best-selling item is our Tea-light Holder. The demand for our Flower-Floater series spikes around festivals as these add a touch of warmth to home décor during celebrations. Our new Kansa series, that is traditionally healthy to eat out of, has been extremely popular since we launched it in 2015. All our products come in ready-to-gift packaging so that is an added advantage for the busy festive seasons.

What do you think is the hardest bit about running a business that’s so peculiar? Do you hit snags along the way, and if yes, how do you deal with it?

Since our products are handcrafted, we need to give the artisans the required time to produce the products. This is unlike mass-produced items, and that means we have to carry inventories to meet market demands. Snags are part and parcel of every business, but since ours is artisan-crafted, we need to cater to the creative blocks of our artisans. We also have to then find solutions to keep them creatively inspired and interested in producing a large number of the same goods for Coppre.

Any advice for someone who’s looking to start their own business?

Patience, perseverance, and perfection should do the trick!

What immediate goals do you have for Coppre? And also, where do you see yourself in ten years?

Studio Coppre has been instrumental in reviving the Tambat Craft of Maharashtra. Over the last four years, we have dedicated our resources to improve the standards of this craft by way of upgrading craft processes, cost streamlining, material procurement and testing, setting quality control norms, and marketing outreach. Having achieved this, our immediate goals are to meet artisans’ expectations in terms of continuous orders. A craft enterprise has to ensure that a steady stream of orders goes out to the artisan community all year round, so that they remain motivated. In the coming years, we would like to have the best designers experiment and work alongside Coppre so that the craft becomes a household name around the world. And most importantly, so that the artisans are both honoured and rewarded financially for their skills.

Visit the Coppre Shop on Engrave.

To read stories about all our makers click here.

Rameez Shaikh

Rameez Shaikh is a twenty-three year old writer. With a degree in journalism to his name, he's an aspiring author with an absolutely astounding admiration for alliteration. Leisure propels him to read, dance, pen fiction and gloat about himself in third person. On weekdays, he works as a features writer. On weekends, he's a Manchester United fan.

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