Handicrafts make India’s ancient culture timeless. Crafting things by hand is less of a job and more of artisans’ expression of their vibrant traditions and lifestyles. These are pieces of utility as well as beauty, faith and whimsy. Taking elements straight from nature’s bounty, artisans create symbols of their tribes’ pride. When you buy their handiworks, you own slices of their rich ancestral legacy.
The Indian Industry
Over six million artisans and 60,000 export houses make up India’s handicrafts industry. Largely women hailing from villages scattered across the land, they bring to the table some of the most exotic designs – carving, spinning, weaving, shaping, engraving, dyeing and enamelling handiworks that travel around the globe.
Handloom weaving is among India’s prime livelihoods – 95% of the world’s fabric is made here. We celebrated our first National Handloom Day on the 7th of August 2015 to appreciate the artisans for the sheer magic they weave.
Fashion Celebrates Indian Roots
Handicrafts are redefining Indian fashion as designers embrace their ethnic charm. People simply can’t get enough of all the textures, layers upon layers, tribal prints, mirror work, chiming danglers, engraved metals and landscape-inspired embroidery.
Handmade accessories and textiles feature in collections ranging from traditional and romantic to bohemian, quirky and eclectic. Handloom is particularly adored – designers like Ritu Kumar, Anita Dongre, Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Rohit Bal and Wendell Rodricks are incorporating it in their creations. On the smaller scale, “green” design houses that take pride in using organic fabrics like Khadi are sprouting up all over.
Scarves are wardrobe essentials, and India’s artisans make some of the loveliest. Cotton scarves in mild colours and silk ones in brighter shades are block printed with floral, geometric, tribal and bird-and-animal patterns. Rajasthan’s popular tie-dyed bandhani dupattas feature vivid hues, bold patterns and mirror work. Kashmir’s splendid Pashmina shawls are famous for their texture and stunning threadwork. The tassels hanging from these scarves and shawls are a beautiful finishing touch.
Local artisans make much of India’s jewellery. There’s something to bedeck everything – the ears, nose, neck, fingers, toes, ankles, hair, forehead, wrists, waist and even the thighs. Meenakari earrings are results of excellent artisty, with intricate designs engraved on metal, coloured brightly and enamelled. Craftsmen enjoy studding their regions’ beloved gems and semi-precious stones on ornaments. With its unparalleled appeal, antique jewellery never grows old-fashioned. Beads crafted with material borrowed from nature, like shells, have made a huge comeback.
Traditional Indian handbags make for splendid statement wear. Artisans across the country have distinct styles of shaping, painting, detailing and embellishing bags. They feature traditional prints, patches, colourful threads, appliqué, crochet, sequins, tassels, mirrors and zaris. Artisans use various kinds of fabrics like leather in messenger bags, jute and cotton in jholas and carefully choosen fabrics like Chanderi and brocade to make ornate potlis, clutches and purses.