Updated: Sep 16
Craft practise is a #vernacular knowledge that is bundled with technique and innovation. Similar to #art, #craft cannot exist in singularity without mind and soul being part of the making. Crafts are mostly relevant in a local geographical context but with time they started addressing expanded markets. The artisan had always stayed connected with the user and his needs and likings. The evolution of craft in expanded market brought in various cultural influences and foreign sensibilities, that distanced the artisan from the very innate essence of creating for someone known.
An instinctive solution to support contemporary artisan would be to create a medium of awareness or a process of understanding the unknown.
Since generations this artisan awareness has not been addressed and they have got termed as highly skilled hand worker that at times are casually called labourers. This equates our custodian of vernacular knowledge to unskilled person. This crafting for an unknown person could have probably created the stream of design. In simple terms design is understanding the user, his needs and creating something that answers his them better than what's available. Seemingly simple but equally complex and design thus evolved into a profession that has distanced itself from maker or artisan with time. From being a provocateur for the artisan to interpret the user it became too complex for him to associate with. A designer occasionally becomes an agent of exploitation or languishing of craft skills.
Bridging the gap between profession of craft and design has been attempted through multiple engagement by revivalist and institutions but here I will confine to discussion on the specialisation, that I have been closely associated for more than a decade: #design #education of artisan. Design education of artisan is a means of bringing them closer to process of interpreting the unknown person's needs, so he could use his hand skills and knowledge to his prosperity. Few designers at times have treated this as threat, many welcoming its contribution, while others rule out possibility of long-term impact. Paradigm of craft and design needs to be viewed with openness. Artisan's design education should not be under normal circumstances, be confused with replacing the need of a designer by an artisan, rather reinforces the relationship of designer as a provocateur and artisan as a creator. This symbiotic relation requires mutual understanding and respect and here sharing of design thinking process acts catalyst. it might eventually lead to changes in economics of supply chain with as this relationship consolidates. this also signals sustenance of crafts and its contemporising.
The point here is that acceptance of change or enhancement knowledge of artisan will be a sudden and drastic change. We are just adding a catalyst to support change but undoing what has been created over ages will be a slow curation.
It's not about design community accepting the artisan's role in creation rather also about artisan becoming confident and worthy of contributing.
Changes is not singular in this situation and would need working on various aspects in phases and with a long-term commitment. Being in design education of artisan my realisation has been that design thinking is very personal and is volatile too, it needs constant replenishment in crafts so that its always relevant. This need of constant evolution and contemporizing makes balancing of this equation very important.
Having said this design education of artisan in isolation, without working on ecosystem of engagement and opportunity is irrelevant. Design education may create better skilled artisan for the manufacturing organisation's betterment, but not necessarily leading to improvement in the role and recognition of artisan. There has to be an opportunity and willingness to involve artisans in creative and artistic expression, which could have its own challenges, but is worthy of a trial. Surely there could be failures in Initiation phase and at times artisan may not seem worthy of the responsibility or execution, but it's undoing what's ingrained for ages.
Old habits die hard but they do die.
Another challenge which becomes cause of many such failures is lack of formal education amongst artisan communities, especially in India. This handicap at times proves detrimental in enhancing their roles.
To sum it up its a paradox whether to create artisan designers first or create ecosystem. With vision missing in many organisations or lack of individuals to view holistic perspective of the processes this may remain a standing question for very long. The complexity of missing vision, narrowing approach to only one aspect, misuse of funds and resources, duration of commitment, eagerness of scaling are issues that evened out through intervention or support may be a State level for the future relationship of craft and design to evolve towards a better sunrise.
Will continue sharing my experience on this aspect and my engagement at both the ends of the system, challenges and milestones over the series of post and research on sequel of this paradox of design and craft. A single paper or journal would be a narrow approach to magnanimity of the scale and legacy of hand and mind.