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The Comeback of the Crafts


Over the last couple of decades we have seen the rise of digital technology. Like every thing that becomes popular, it replaced [temporarily] everything that was analog. Email replaced letters and postcards, digital SLR camera’s replaced film cameras, kindle and tablets replaced books, and so on.

With everything becoming digital and virtual, hand crafted things bring a sense of nostalgia. After being bombarded with all that is created on the computer and machine made, handmade things have a personal touch. Digital seems generic. This has led to analog gaining more popularity.  Rob Walker, an American author and journalist recently wrote, “An increasingly digital world enhances the appeal, the sincerity, and the romance of the analog.”

Letterpress Wedding Invitation

More people are turning to hand-crafted items as gifts on special occasions. We can see a rise in old-age crafts like screen-printing, sewing, quilting and letterpress printing. The sheer rise in the number of letterpress printing co-ops are enough to inform us how popular letterpress printing has become, especially for wedding invites, baby showers, and business cards. But this comeback is so much stronger. It has the uniqueness of being hand crafted and is supported by the power of technology. For example, letterpress printing is no longer restricted to using wooden or metal letters and blocks. One can easily design the letterforms of choice, cast a plate of the same and still maintain the uniqueness of being printed by hand. With easy to use design programs and software now readily being available, the technologically-advanced artist makes it even better because he has the freedom to design before crafting.

The availability of computers and internet has further caused popularization of these crafts in many different ways. There has been a tremendous rise in the number of DIY (Do-It-Yourself) blogs/bloggers, craft-experts, and virtual instructors, who are ever-willing to share tips, techniques, and processes.  There are numerous blogs on decoupage, quilting and sewing, and paper crafts. Martha Stewart is the mother of all that is hand-crafted. She has given it the glamour quotient that no one has ever given before. With a little help from her website, anyone can polish their meager skills of crafting. The number of such resources that are readily available are empowering people across the globe to do the same. Add to all this, the power of e-commerce. Sites like eBay and Etsy not only help in spreading the word about local crafts but provide these craftsmen with opportunities to market their craft. For someone with no exposure beyond the local community, now, suddenly there are buyers with similar interests on another continent. For most times it resembles an old-fashioned market in providing space and services to different merchants.

This resurgence of the crafts can be described as the ‘post-industrial nostalgia for the pre industrial’. On some subconscious level we still are doubtful of mass-produced, industrial goods. And having associated the ‘hand-crafted’ with quality, this resurgence may just be an expression of us yearning for the same.

4 Responses to “The Comeback of the Crafts”

  1. Hi
    I found out there is only one letterpress remaining in Mumbai. And he too is planning to shut it down to and give the space to his son’s accounting office. Sad. Here I worry the crafts are dying and nothing is really replacing it.

  2. Radhika Ganorkar says:

    Hey, I should probably explained the context of this article. I think this applies more to the western countries who have seen more than their share of industrialized products and take the basic goods for granted. In the case of India, our craftsmen and their arts are struggling because they aspire to industrialized products. Again, an e-commerce venture for these craftsmen could change the scene for the better. What do you think?

  3. sanjay says:

    some organised effort is needed to revive it but it can be one of the products offered for sheer sustainability of the enterprise

  4. Akshat Rathi says:

    Given the rate at which the number of rich and upper middle class is growing, I don’t think that our public is aspiring for ‘industrialized’ goods. I think what is lacking, if anything, is that those who can afford handmade items are not aware of how beautiful they can be, where to find the, how to show them off… In short it’s a marketing problem not an economic one.

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