Updated: Sep 28, 2020
#Craft has been part of Indian #heritage since thousands of year, from the times of Indus Valley civilization. Crafts are a luxury owing to the #handskill that goes into the creation of the product. But more than that its the relationship that an artisan has with it which makes it unique. Each product that originates out of this relationship has an #identity which defies the sameness of manufactured products. This relationship of artisan with craft is ingrained in him/her through the traditional learning systems that have existed for centuries. #Guru-Shishya parampara and Mother to daughter learning starts at a tender age when the tool associated with the craft is handed over. The tool which could be as simple as a needle or a pair of scissors becomes a priced possession of the craft practitioner. A gift to remember the years of learning and #endurance. Care of tools speaks of artisans skill more than his/ her skills as its not just a mechanics made of some material but a memory of learning.
Under a Guru or #Usttad the apprenticeship starts at a young age. It may seem child labour, but what we fail to realise is that this is an informal mode of learning. Craft is still not acknowledged as #conventional knowledge, even though India has craft as its strong #creative #expression. Seldom do we realise that the craft is not just about skills to print or weave or embroider, its just a #technique like any other profession. A holistic view is the relationship the soul has with the skill and the tool. There is science to every craft, a thinking, a story, skill, tools, technique, process to name a few, and our artisans are #custodians of the same. But modern age of Industrial design has separated them from it to suit the new found definition of design that suits manufacturing. #Art and creativity were the soul of making but design for market has taken predominance. Subsequently the artisan has been only acknowledged like a working hand and is equated to an industrial labourer. Sans his #soul and association with tools his position has degraded lower than that of an unskilled labourer both #socially and #economically. With lost dignity of relationship with craft, he ends up abandoning craft to sell vegetables or become a sanitation workerh These are important and have dignity but the point of discussion is that this leaves craft with loss of confidence in the relationship.
Craft #interventions or modern day design #studios have accepted a division between designer and artisan. There is a discomfort in acknowledging the artisan as co-creator; and the artisans have never claimed for any recognition. The artisan is mostly handed down a printed layout, with colours and precise detail to copy in embroidery. He is supposed to use his mind only to read and replicate without error. #Replication a word that applies to industrial setup or to days of learning. #Copying is a means for cognitive learning. Writing an alphabet is copying, learning to embroider is copying, and its not a bad word. There has to be a line drawn for where copy ends and to make ones own meaning, own association and relationship begins. Employing an artisan to copy is a declaration that he is still learning and yet to evolve out of this phase. Sans confidence of having a knowledge of craft, he is just a skilled hand that earns meagerly to sustain and finally abandon craft. Is the depletion of craft or most artisans being middle aged actually a problem or a situation created by us as a design fraternity by not making a meaning from #co-working as a way forward?
Soul is the creative association with skill and material, and modern society with cognitive learning is scared of out of the box thinking as it has no application in the education system. With creative thinking and learning by doing curbed at a tender age the artisan community has grown into an era where they have no respect. Making, thinking, creativity, material are all alien to each other. This has led to an age of stagnation. Craft and #artisans are custodians of heritage and a ray of hope and we see them blooming in many clusters. They could be the torchbearers for those artisans who hope to adjust to modern society and have lost the soul of craft. With the soul or thinking of an artisan that goes into craft it will remain confined to tradition and will not adapt to contemporary needs. What's needed is to instill confidence in artisans whom we as a society have degraded and empower them to reclaim life by establishing the relationship with craft skills and tool. If they don't innovate with tools and technique for their craft they would be like the unskilled labourers who just uses a vessel to transfer sand from one place to another.
#Cowork is the means to start a journey, involve and appreciate. Let the faith in craft and self grow.