Over the last year, I've been thinking on and off about how to save crafts in India from dying out. Interestingly, Subir Dutta, CEO of Apoorv.com, startled me a couple of days ago by saying that 23+ million people hand-making things from India, and that the overall market is Rs. 10,000 crores, largely for export (does this include handloom textiles ?) So what is the issue ?
- Many crafts are dying out due to (a) being substituted by factory made products, (b) becoming obsolete, (c) or simply going out of fashion
- In general, traditional craftspeople do not earn very much, peanuts actually. And its hard work. Due to the caste system, it starts from childhood.
- Children are reluctant to follow in their parents' footsteps. School takes up time. Learning crafts is hard work, and at the end of the day, working in the city as a labourer often gives better returns
- There is a strong push to try and keep the children in the community, essentially by raising the price point at which the work sells
- There have been a number of interventions by the design community to bring in fresh designs to the traditional craft. This may be as simple as recoloring, changing the patterns, or even changing the end products.
- There have been a number of interventions by supporters of crafts to rethink the marketing process for the crafts, in order to get a better price for the craftsperson
- And there have been some training initiatives also taken