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DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
THE twenty-first century has brought with it accelerated change in every sphere of life, dependency on machines and excessive consumption of natural resources in a manner that is no longer sustainable. In the past the crafts sector had been rejected by many as an unviable economic activity for the twenty-first century. Artisans still mak e up tw enty million of India’s working population. Therefore this sector has to be developed in such a way so as to offer sustainable employmen t to millio ns of skilled artisan s. Crafts producers cannot be economically viable unless their p ro d u c t i s m a rk e t a b l e . T h e p ro d u c t c a n o n l y b e marketable if it is attractive to the consumer, i.e., if the traditional skill is adapted and designed to suit contemporary consumer tastes and needs. Design does not mean making pretty patterns—it lies in matching a technique with a function.
In the field of traditional craft these two aspects of design and development are not always synonymous; design can lead to development, and development should b e d e s ig n e d . H o w ev e r in th e fie ld o f d e si g n an d development a conflict may arise between function and responsibility. Whose creativity will be expressed—the developer’s, the designer’s or the craftsperson’s? Who is the client—the consumer, who wants an unusual andexciting product at the most competitive price; or the crafts community who needs a market for its products as similar to the traditional one as possible, so that it does not need constant alien design interventions, or is at conflict with the social, aesthetic and cultural roots from which it has grown? The crafts community has several priorities such as food, clothing, shelter, education, health and economic stability. The craft development sector needs to b sensitive to these very real con cerns of the craftscommunity.
Therefore, craftspeople must be involved in every aspect of design and production and understand the u sag e o f th e pro d u ct they are makin g . V o lun tary agencies or designers must also understand and study the craft, the product and the market they are trying to enter.
CHANGING PROFILE OF THE CRAFTSPERSON
In Ancient India, every individual had an implicitly defined role in society, ordained by birth. Craftsmanship was a heritage that evolved over centuries of arduous apprenticeship in chhandomaya (the rules of rhythm, balance, proportion, harmony and skill), controlled and protected by the structure and laws of the guild. In the guild the master craftsman, the raw apprentice and the skilled but uninspired jobsman all had a place and purpose. Today’s craftsperson has to be all things in one, including his/her own entrepreneur. The craftsperson had the status of an artist. As a member of a society with strict rules and hierarchies, b o th w ith in th e g u ild an d th e o u tsid e w o rld , th e community and its products were protected, and the quality was controlled. Patrons were well known to the artists, customers were close at hand, their lifestyles not too markedly different from the artists’. Whether the craftsperson’s skills provided simple village wares or jewelled artefacts for the temple or sultan, it was asupportive inter-dependency based on a mutual need, understanding and appreciation. The craftsperson was his/her ow n designer and the embellishments came only after the shape was p e rfe c t e d t o t h e fu n c t i o n . T h e a e s t h e t i c a n d t h e practical blended in a natural rather than artificially imposed harmony.
WHY DESIGN INPUTS ARE NEEDED
Today most craftspeople practising traditional skills are vy in g w ith mach ines, comp etitive mark ets, massp ro d u ce d o b ject s o r co n s umers’ craze fo r fo re ig n fashions, and are no longer protected by guilds or the enlightened, hands-on patronage of courts or religious institutions. Crafts communities are increasingly faced w ith th e p ro b lems o f d imin i sh in g o rd ers an d th e debasement of their craft. Crafts communities are making products for lifestyles remote from their own, and selling them in alien and highly competitive markets. Their own lives and tastes have suffered major transformations alienating them further from their skills and products. A traditional jootimaker may still embroider golden peacocks on a pair of shoes, but he himself will probably be wearing pink plastic sandals! Consequently, craft has degenerated today. For instance, the metal diya, a traditional ritual object of worship has been turned into an ash tray that sells on the pavement for just ten rupees.
1. Develop an integrated plan to raise the standard of living of a particular crafts community in your area.
2. Why are design and development so important for the survival of the crafts sector?
3. Develop a strategy to promote craft products for the growing ‘Bollywood’ industry.
4. Enterprising entrepreneurs are reaching out to global markets through innovations. For example, three shops in Chennai supply Bharatanatyam dance accessories to the growing number of dancers around the world. As an entrepreneur o a craft production and marketing unit, outline your dreamproject.
5. Research ‘Needs and Requirements of Contemporary Life’. How can crafts products be designed and marketed to meet those requirements?
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