What are the basic elements of handicraft?

With a high degree of interest in the psychedelic, eclectic world of Indian handicrafts, my thought wanders towards a key aspect of all beautiful things: Design. All the art forms that are popular today are mostly determined by artisans based on traditions that have been passed down the generations. There are traces of influences that have crept on over a period of time but largely there is a gap between modernity and an art.

I would put the design elements in three parts: a) use of raw materials: wood, paper mache, stone, bone, horn, clay, leather, metal etc b) use of patterns, colours: flowers & fauna, animals, gods, tribal art etc and c) use of shapes: boxes, animal figures, waste baskets, furniture, serving dishes, vases etc.

Now, lets see what can be done for each of these elements. Raw materials: As time has gone by, some of the raw materials are either very expensive or not easily available. There is a need for innovation in this area. There are some elements that have changed but nothing large scale. Lets take the example of the art of leather puppets that obviously need leather that is treated. Leather prices have gone up tremendously over a period of time which in turn pushes up the prices of the end products. A simple solution would be using canvas that would have more steady supply and prices. Maybe the art would not have that the same feel of leather but would be similar in terms of use and appearances.

Coming to the aspect of patterns. the world has changed tremendously over a period of time. patterns are now only subject to the imagination of the artist. Flowers can be created even if they did not exist before. Circles, brushes, swipes, ribbons and thousands of shapes exist today that can be rendered on any of the materials that have been used. I believe that it is time for Indian artisans to experiment, creating uniqueness that never existed before.

The same hold true for the shapes and its use cases. One great inspiration can be the whole animation industry. There are characters that are just a figment of imagination but they are made real and lively through animations. These in turn could be adopted by the Indian handicrafts industry to transform the art into a more global place. Similarly, shapes for utility goods have gone mammoth changes. Design elements in Ikea products is as important as the pricing. A fruit bowl made of bamboo could look dramatically different if the shapes had different edges weaves. Colour combinations could be experimented with more combinations.

Customers have a quest for uniqueness. Design elements can create that uniqueness. I feel that there is a strong case of marrying the traditional handicraft centres of orissa, jharkand, jodhpur, kashmir, uttar pradesh etc and combine them with the contemporary design of the rest of the world.

Some of the exporters of handicrafts in the country have begin the journey to make Indian pieces have a more global appeal. Unfortunately, they do not cater to the gorwing domestice segment....