“The question is not -what does a man get for his work but; what does a man get by working?”- Brian Keeble.
If an artist is asked why they paint, I imagine the answer will be “I paint because I have something to say, but not the words to say it”. But when our craftsmen were asked this very same question they said “I create because I have never known anything but to create, to use my hands, and to better my skill.” The truth is that our craftsmen say very much through what they create. Their work speaks of centuries of tradition, of trade secrets passed down only from father to son and mother to daughter, and of a history of a community that never recorded it any other way.
The world seemed to have forgotten the artisans. Over 20 crafts have been recorded as either extinct or nearly extinct due to the insatiable need that consumers have had for faster and cheaper products. Industrialization has indulged this need and resulted in significant damage to the environment which many of these craft communities depend on for the creation of their products.
The truth is that many of these artisans have suffered as a result of only knowing this one skill. When the demand for craft products dwindled, the craftsmen had nowhere to go, and no education to depend on. Craftsmen who work with jewelry often spend many years as an apprentice before they are able to work on their own. These long apprenticeships and the low pay are not inducements for the younger generation to want to learn this skill. Much like the consumers of recent times, they want to progress faster and with much less effort, leading them to take up jobs in factories. As craft communities traditionally pass down the skill only to their family members, many of these trade secrets end up dying out.
So, in a world that is predominantly mechanized and digitized, why is craft important? The truth remains that artisan development will always be the first step in any kind of industrial development. The relationship that a craftsman has with his material and his ability to understand exactly how it works can never be replicated by a machine. A prototype can only be made by hand and that particular human experience goes beyond the visual, the auditory, and the cerebral. More than all of this, craft serves as a reminder of what the world has been able to create and perhaps as inspiration for what more it could. In a society overcome with redundancy, these objects remind us of the passage of time.
Somehow, consumers still seem to be hungry for the craft. They seem to find refuge in working with their hands or even in knowing that their product has been handmade. As a result, several brands have taken to using craft elements in their collections. The potential for the resurgence of craft feeds even into environmental sustainability and ethical production.
Ivar by Ritika Ravi has always considered sustainability as a constant goal. One of the most essential ways of ensuring sustainability is in the fact that the jewelry is made by artisans who have honed their skills for generations. Handmade jewelry has always been a key element of the brand, which serves as a tangible connection between the heritage of the past, the knowledge of the present, and hope for the future. As consumers have started to reassign the value of goods, Ivar by Ritika Ravi too values its jewelry as much for the quality of the craftsmanship as for the stories that are attached to it. These products serve not only as beautiful accessories but also as memories of a loved one, an exciting moment, or as a marker of an important event.
Many strategies have been discussed for bringing these crafts to life. Financial incentives, intellectual property copyrights, crafts workshops, and craft-specific markets are some of the few ways these traditional crafts could be introduced to the mainstream consumer. However, the most important thing is to bring awareness to the consumer of what craft is and why it is important. They need to know that only craft can satisfy the maker with the joy of the original rather than the press of a button for the copycat and that it can serve as a link to their ancestors in a way that most history books cannot. Perhaps it is even more important for them to know that in a world filled with machines, humans are not obsolete.