Our identity, our past as a community and as individuals is deeply rooted in craft forms that came into being out of necessity and the culture of the region. From their inception, these crafts have also taken on an aesthetic appeal, ever-changing to the array of skills developed by the artisans.
Function began to take on the undeniable charm of the handcrafted and new techniques, patterns and weaves were developed. We see this in the many weaves of rattan and the many shades of bamboo baskets.
However with the shift from slow and sustainable production to the mass manufacturing of goods with the onset of the industrial era, traditional craft forms have been on the verge of extinction.
A lot of the weaving patterns, the techniques that were common practice began to fade away and some have even been lost. A number of factors played a role in this:
- Artisans could no longer sustain a stable livelihood with traditional crafts as the pace of mass production was absolutely unmatchable.
- With the focus shifted to machine-made, younger generations moved to the cities to take up such jobs in search of financial stability.
- Another one being that, most of these techniques and skills now only remain with the older generation with no one to pass them on to.
Let’s take the example of this impressively unique weave we unearthed at our Tripura cluster. It’s sad to think that this was almost lost..but we’re glad we were able to document it, show it to you, and know what our audience on Instagram thought about it.
So, you must be wondering how You help keep these craft forms alive. This is how! Once we share our documentation of such crafts with you, that lets us and the artisans access how it can be adapted to the modern market and how it can most efficiently put to use.
We then further looked into another cluster of artisans in Idukki to document 38 different weaving patterns they know that are almost no longer seen anymore. Now that we have that documentation and can share them with you, we can get input from you and the artisans now have a direction and new purpose to restore their heritage craft forms.
With that, we see old products and designs being adapted to the needs of the urban market while instilling generations worth of culture into each weave. This is also further fueled by the slow shift we have seen in the market in the past few years for the desire to bring in more handcrafted and sustainably made products into our homes. After all, craft is about connection – to nature, to one’s place, and to oneself.
Such is the case with these two products as well:
1)Traditionally this bag was used to carry tea leaves plucked on the slopes of Arunachal Pradesh. They came with a headband, so it could easily be rested upon the back leaving the hands completely free. Now, this design has been slightly adapted so it can be used as a tote bag that rests on your shoulder. That’s years of tradition you’re carrying with you on a normal day out. Isn’t that absolutely amazing to think about? The artisans feel so as well, seeing their products being utilized in new ways and by the modern market. It keeps them going, on their mission to bring you handcrafted goodness.
2)This basket is traditionally used for catching fish in small canals and paddy fields. We decided to put our own spin on this product, giving it a modern utilitarian function by turning it into a lampshade with a few design changes. Now, this lampshade finds its place in many of your homes! Something that probably would’ve been replaced with plastic or metal now lives on in a new form, illuminating the craftsmanship of the artisan.
Check out our post to see how we transform it
https://www.instagram.com/p/CmBa-q9ScKU/ (Link to instagram post)
It is difficult to quantify the absolute value of both the techniques and the lore of the community of craft but it is vital to keep it going because once lost, it is very difficult to recover. It also generates great pride and rightly so for the community of artisans that strive to keep their heritage alive and for their livelihoods to thrive with the skills that have been passed on from one generation to the next.
Hence, we go on to document and collaborate with you through the process as your input, and your passion for the handcrafted is absolutely vital to bring back and sustain the beautiful eco-system of the handcrafted.