Commerce Of Crafts
Insite|October 2016

Conserve, curate, collaborate and create

Chandrashekhar Bheda

Socio-cultural aspects of any society are always best represented by its traditional crafts. We as Indians have been, are and will be proud of an extremely large variety of beautiful craft forms being practised by the fine skills of crafts people in India. Awareness of these crafts has largely increased in the past many years as its visibility has grown due to its presence on the internet, social media, e-commerce, museums, art and design schools, and growing number of outlets all over the country and through a variety of retail exhibitions happening with or without the support of the government of India. Varied new and modified applications and usages of these crafts at home, business, institutional and cultural environments have ensured earnings although irregular livelihoods for artisans. At the same time, many crafts have vanished or are in the process of becoming extinct due to reduced patronage.

There are some points to be considered in assessing the very status in terms existence of crafts and its survival through the changing times.

Traditional crafts are here to stay on as long as all of us ensure their relevance

Many traditional crafts have survived changing times and continue to do well even today. Kashmiri embroideries, Bhujodi weaves, Kanjivaram sarees, marble stone carving of Rajasthan and carpet weaving of Bhadohi to name a few. Besides, at the same time many craftsmen are probably the last generation in their practice as children have moved away to alternative professions for better livelihood. Purist traditional crafts have a set of buyers, but not enough to hold the craft in its glory and ensure a livelihood for the practitioner. It is important to attract younger customers to traditional crafts and to make sustainable and commercial sense for artisans while reintroduction with novelty and utility is essential. I think it is important to understand why a craft skill is becoming extinct. It is primarily because it loses its commercial relevance especially for artisans and patrons fail to take notice of the decline of craft. Hence, the revival has to be based on commercial relevance, or it will only be there on the crutches of aid or government funding or will be created for museums. The new generation can grow respect for tradition only if it is well explained and made relevant to them. Designers also can and must contribute to creating and supporting craft practises that respond to current needs that attract patronage.

Designers have an important role to play in ensuring survival of crafts

Designers should be better equipped to be aware of the changes happening in the society in terms of lifestyles, trends and choices of people as these are the basic triggers for them to be active in their profession. So, this market intelligence acquired by designers needs to be passed on to craftsmen by collaborating or any other suitable means to create directions to which artisans can respond by creating a product or services relevant to the changing needs. Moreover, sensitively created and economically viable collaborations with artisans can warrant far-reaching impact for the survival of crafts.

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