Craft is the one such subject that is always known to everyone from the very young age. Its such a distinctive thing that could be seen everywhere you go because every place have own specialty- craft of that city which have own art & grandeur. There is a legacy in making of it, there is story, a reason behind that’s why it is practicing from years. It’s just not a contemporary piece of furniture that is made by a creative person.
Today while browsing one of my favorite blog I came across ‘Crafting all the way to bank’ on Design Observer. And it made me to think about craftsmen. Once I pointed out about ‘Indian & African crafts’.
I come to know about the first references to Indian handicrafts was found from the Indus Valley Civilization. This civilization is well versed in the craft of bead making, ceramics, shell etc. Other golden periods were Mughal era and the Gupta period. As the India is diverse country so there is huge diversity in Indian crafts too. Colors of Gujarat to Rajasthani puppets to Agra’s stone work and Kashmiri shawls and South Indian sarees so much with own specialty that you will fall for everything and would like to take home.
Taking about craft is not so easy as now craft is merging more into design and trends. Products that were earlier known for traditional value and have a particular pattern or color scheme, today’s have more of selling power because of abstract form or use of colors in demands. It is all about customer taste, what he will like, he would like to spend money on. And what about the creator? Who are following the trade of patola silk sari (Patan, Gujarat) from years by using the same colors & pattern. How Chinese market is grasping the years old Banarasi silk sarees market by offering the same stuff at cheaper rate. Technology overruling intricate handwork.
Spending few hours with craftsmen and understanding their problem is one issue. But how exactly you can help, your role as designer. What is Design intervention, so many things that will come to your mind. How to prevent years practiced craft, And why craftsmen would like to pursue their grandfather skills.
Some continuos effort are made like opening of International Centre for Indian Crafts (ICIC). That will conduct number of need based knowledge and skill dissemination workshops and training programmes, and also work towards developing international collaborative network of experts in various areas of crafts and provide the exchange and knowledge transfer opportunities for the craftsperson. Which is very important. Like when I was documenting Wooden lacquerware toys of Varanasi, UP, India, craftsmen told me- ‘Now noone comes here for buying wooden Kitchen set so we are more interested in export, through our knowledge about how to do is almost nil. We have to be dependent on someone & that might take the advantage of our unawareness.’
So here comes the Awareness, the solution. This is what we need to do- establishing channels, mediums and frameworks that could help them to survive in changed scenarios. As with the emergence of market it is important that there should be qualitative market intelligence flow between market- place and the Crafts person.
With the understanding on production’s quality, crafts promotion and sustainability by keeping in mind market development, IPR issues and traditions.
Well managed and formed communities and centre for crafts, conducting skill enhancement workshops for craftsmen, giving training to the new or interested craftsmen. Conducting design research, exposuring the craftsmen to different cultures and doing design interventions for the upliftment of the crafts communities and improving the networking by approaching government, other countries for the mutual social-economic growth are some of the approaches.
Such makers have a unique & genuine connection with the natural world and it manifests itself in a creative excellence to world that take the wondrous elements of this earth coming up to exceptional terms which only he can make and we can only learn and ‘redesign’.