Handicraft is that act of ‘hand-crafting’ an object to suffice a daily chore ; to pacify a need of faith ; it could just be a personal expression or just something that hones the dexterity of a pair of hands. This act of crafting is but the most potent proof of the civil-ness within any civilization. Our crafts represent beauty, dignity , form and style.
So then why does a country so rich in heritage needs a constant nudge to provoke a revival of its traditional design practices? Artisans think of their work as labour rather than skilled craftsmanship, much less, art. Generations of artisans were robbed of their self-esteem and creative freedom and they do not want their children to follow them. They were pushed in the process of making identical work for markets they have no direct understanding of, at a pace dictated by trends.
Artisans feel development schemes such as MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) have led to a large number of skilled workers look elsewhere for higher wages, taking to construction work, lake-digging and building roads
Weavers are grappling with issues such as mechanization, low wages, varying quality of yarn, weaving dexterity and fakes.
Understanding how something is made, why it’s made that way, is more vital to modern life than ever. Sure, handmade, well-made things aren’t cheap but their value isn’t solely monetary. It’s political and social – to know how and where something came into being makes us more invested in it, so much so we become more responsible consumers.
By buying local crafts we support artisans, and therefore their local economy and community. Buying handmade (especially really locally) can greatly reduce your carbon footprint on the world. There is originality and authenticity found in handmade goods. Someone’s hands touched that product, and put their time, attention, and love into it. It wasn’t mass-produced in some factory where several people attached one item to create the whole over and over and over again.
Handmade encourages traditions: how many happy hours have I spent learning how to knit with my mom and grandmom? There will never exist a knitting machine that can tell so many interesting stories!
Somewhere out there in the world, you are helping sustain someone while fulfilling their DREAMS of being a painter, sculptor, , printmaker, etc. Because you are not just buying an item, you are buying a piece of the artist. You are supporting the love, sweat, tears, future, family, confidence, mind, body and soul of that person. It creates an amazing relationship between 2 people: the buyer and seller. You are not just a customer, you are a supporter, a fan, a collector of art.
To say that we don’t need handmade because we have machine made is really absurd. To take the chulha analogy, it’s like saying that because we have microwave ovens, we don’t need tandoors! Each serves its own unique purpose, and it’s the Indian tandoor, not the microwave, that creates our unique Indian cuisine and draws tourists and foodies.
So how do we sustain our traditions,crafts and handmade ? We have to use something which is handmade everyday. Whether it is in the clothes and accessories we wear , in our homes, offices or even schools.
First we need to innovate the designs so they are still relevant and they withstand competition from mechanized processes, differentiation in terms of design and intricacy are to be brought in by artisans through innovation.
Have you heard of Mud Mirror work – Lippan ka Kaam : The recent redesign of The Crafts Museum of New Delhi included the museum’s “Cafe Lota; which incorporated a stunning display of rural craft forms, including mud mirror work murals adorning the walls of the museum cafeteria and shop by artists from the Meghwal community of Kutch. We could also do it in our own homes.
Or How about a chanderi handloom sarees with a digitalised Pac Man print on it. Or this sari which has a Punjabi folk wedding song all over it.
Technology and hand craft, to mix them together is the ultimate thing to do. and that’s what I guess we should do.
Look how this Spiro terracotta speaker dock explores the idea of combining sustainable handcrafts and evolving technology. The designers worked with traditional hand potters of the region to make this two-part speaker dock in which a wireless speaker fits onto a round base and is encased by a cylindrical dome-headed cover.. Spiro is a playful reflection on the times in which we live.
Second lets get our own kids work with the hands – sewing , embroidery knitting , carpentry , pottery or papier mache. They need to get away from the phones and tablets . Get them make you a new Laptop bag with grandma’s vintage phulkari dupatta. Because deep within anything handmade holds dear the myths , legends , and faiths that lent its form , these stories desperately need to be shared with the onlooking audience specially the younger generations . These stories not only help them appreciate the craft righteously but also offer many a lessons in humble living.
Whether traditional or innovative, art or science, on show in a gallery window or hidden away in unexpected places, making has the power to deeply satisfy. And all it needs from us is a little patience and appreciation. In technological dreams, we should not forget the power and creativity of the human hand. It is India’s strength that we have hand skills while successfully being part of an industrial age and its time to play on that strength.
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