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words//ideas

craft new narratives new narratives new narratives new narratives new narratives interviews//experiments


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On Border&Fall: “When Border and Fall started off, it was very much looking at really mapping members of the design community who we felt were adding to the design language, which is an entirely subjective way of communicating and curating a point of view. Craft has been spoken about ad nauseum, in public domain and private, and personally I’m never interested in narratives that have already been shared, simply because they’ve already been shared. Indirectly or directly, our engagement with craft is very very deep, but at the same time, I would say that it came from a desire to amplify not just deserving voices and processes, but also help shift the gaze within the current narrative. One of the things is to transcend current marketing conventions, to not look at this visual narrative of hands on a loom and the exotification of craft, the western gaze on craft. We are very intentional in the way we communicate. For me, I’m not interested in semantics changing unless they are mapped to actual changes. That being said, I’m very interested in semantics. Anthropologists are so important to our work. The idea here is how can we as a community pledge to use these words. I’ll give you two examples. One is - Craftsman, Artisan or Karigar. We all use them all interchangeably. Can we decide on one and stick to it? I am interested in changing narratives, I think it’s very important to change it, but I think on two fronts- change it to become more aptly representative of what’s actually happening.”

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“How do we make that conversation broader and not just stick within the 10,000 people interested or 50,000, or even 100,000 in the world? That is a very privileged conversation. And impact rarely happens at that level, especially when you are talking about impact that needs to really happen.”

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On using 3D printing with traditional craft “(Becca Rosen) is at the residency here that we booked her on and we had here for 3 months. And this block printing project was one of my greatest joys in terms of an initial experiment. She was just completely immersed in it and how we could do this with craft. She went to Tharangini and she looked at block prints and she looked at the lead time of replicating the process, the outcome of it and then she said “Is this about taking the two men out who carved the block print and putting the machine there? Certainly not. Something doesn’t feel right for me to suggest that as an alternative.” However, what they realized at the end of this, is that the there is already certain skill in block printing including the fineness of carving that is an obsolete skill. So, there are blocks that are 80+ years old which cannot be re-carved again. Now that is an interesting area for the 3D printer to add value to something that a human can’t do but is still very much a part of that. So, for me, that sits well with me, that makes sense. I also met guys in Bhuj who were using drill machines to carve blocks because they say, “Why would I spend 2 days carving a block when I can spend 2 hours?”. I think it’s certainly worth experimenting”

On the skills and mindsets designers need to work with craft in a radical way “Be really open and not have an ego [.....] in order to look at things to be really truly open, to be open to learning, to be open to discovering, to be open to be learning together and both be vulnerable and kind of explore the unknown - those are the things that are dependent not just on mindset but long-term engagement and finding the right partner. I think those are the most beautiful things.” On the broad visions for craft in India “Much more supply chain transparency, many more opportunities for connectivity and I see digital being a large potential driver of that, in terms of a more connected economy. I think a lot of it has to do with the right stakeholders, right mindsets. We need more business minds in the space to be able to look at it and create connectivity.”

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//how can craft be resilient in the present?// //but more importantly, how can craft be relevant for the future?// 11


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On the Crafts Council’s work in innovation and craft “We have a wide definition of crafts, where we work with makers in the full range, from fine art to the intersection of the contemporary and we cover loads of disciplines, materials and technologies across the craft practice- metal, wood, textiles and then newer technologies like 3D printing and digital fabrication in terms of the types of makers we work with. I find when you say ‘making’, people tend to get it a bit more, whereas when you say craft, people either think heritage craft like the nostalgic element of craft, or they are thinking about studio craft - pottery, baskets, more traditional craft techniques. There is a lot that the Craft Council has done challenging the perception, more specifically with our research and innovation work. We have been looking into taking a step further beyond craft as a practice or looking at craft as just as a business, but approaching craft in terms of the unique characteristics that it has and how those can contribute to other sectors and where we find craft outside of “craft”- in terms of prop making for the theatre, in terms of fashion and all the craft skills that might be used and in terms of even the automotive industry. I’ve done some work with Bentley for example, where there are craft techniques or craft strategies - someone might consider those as well in the development of products and ideas of craft. It is really interesting to challenge that because it promotes the importance of craft as a sector, as a set of skills, beyond it being a business.” On technology, craft and sustainable fashion systems “Personalization - I think there’s something there in terms of the new digital tools and interfaces that when more people are familiar with then they can get involved in the production of the object. You only produce and make what the consumer orders and something they designed, so chances are that they value it more. I feel there is a real opportunity there for the consumer to become more aware of the processes and materials that go into the built environment, into the designs. With a company like Unmade, for example, I believe through the processes of ordering, it’s simplified for the consumer- they are let into the design process and that raises awareness of how knitting works, where the material comes from, how much material is going to be needed. I think there is real potential there.

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If we look back into this idea of craft strategies and craft approaches, you can argue that craft has always been dealing with provenance and knowing where your material comes from. In many cases a craft may be combined with the production of the resources. With basketry weaving, for example, you may have someone growing their own willow and managing that resource. Usually makers are aware of the provenance of the material and it’s almost as if you are letting the people in this strategy- asking them to think how a maker would think.”

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On skills and mindsets “It “It’s this idea of material knowledge, problem solving approach and the combination of all these skills. We have developed this visual that represents this idea of what the crafts are, the unique characteristics of craft and how craft is applied in industries and includes things like quality, ingenuity, problem solving, materials experimentation, intuition and this approach of, “I will have a go and try different things”. We have run a few projects where we enable makers to collaborate with other disciplines. They are experts in their craft, they are quite thorough in their approach and they usually master a technique and they master a material. I find that when they approach a new thing they haven’t worked with before, they always stick to approaching it in the same way - they want to be experts. It is just the way they do it may not be a more academic way that a scientist might have and it’s a much more hands - on approach. They will go “I will take a bit of that” and try different things and see how they behave, but within that lies some embodied knowledge of how materials behave, so it’s not an uninformed experimentation. It’s informed by this understanding of how materials behave and then almost guessing how it will go and doing the actual experimentation to make it work.”

On drivers of future craft “The is a lot to be said about raising awareness about the impact craft can have. Craft will “There happen, because it is basic human activity. We make and we will always make and we will always look to adapt and shape our environment and the resources we have and create new types of material and designs. But at the moment our approach to it is slightly at a risk, because of lack of education. There is still a lot to be done in terms of the perspective around craft and what’s considered craft, what’s considered making, the importance of it. So, it is a continuing argument that we have to make and repeat. We have definitely noticed that there is an increased interest in craft and the hand-made. Part of it comes from people becoming more and more aware and considerate about the environmental impact. By default, they turn to more local solutions or smaller-scale solutions that bring them back to the handmade or small batch manufacturing rather than mass manufacturing. In a way, the climate crisis and the increased unavoidable interest in environmental issues can be seen or considered as a driver for a new interest in craft. It makes us rethink our relationship, because by default the environmental issues makes us think about our relationship with the environment. The environment in many cases is the natural resources - how we adapt, how we shape, how we produce and manage the resources is part of craft - and that is why we are we are looking into new ways of producing. Not necessarily new ways, just how and we start to become more aware of how we produce and what we are using to produce and that has driven a new interest in craft.”

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On her research and making process “I am not an engineer and I am not a material expert. But I am fashion designer and also, I am a printer. So, I understand how you change something to make it look convincing enough, and I worked out how to make lace look like real lace through a 3D printer, which no one has really done. The 3D printer is still in its early stages. This machine really needs to be sorted out, it’s not very good at doing those kind of things. I am forcing a machine that’s used for 3-Dimensional products to develop something that’s flat on a fabric basically, that it is not designed to do. This is where I have to get together with an engineer and the material expert. You cannot move forward with technology if you don’t know about the traditional craft. I did my research in lace. I started using 3D printing from the research I had done on traditional lace and how it had changed from the time Heathcoat had produced a net machine producing that. In the same way, I used the basis of how you would recreate sampling and prototyping in lace. So, you would not be using the mass of energy for massive looms just to create a small sample for a customer. It’s just a chipping away of that. If I didn’t know and didn’t go and do my research on lace and where that comes from and how it developed, I wouldn’t know how to treat the new 3D printing concept and how that would help a manufacturer. These are things you cannot cancel out, craft as not a key aspect of what we are going to have to be a part of, in the future. Engineers, artists, fine artists, product designers, that’s your new team. Manufacturers, material specialists, that’s your new team in the manufacturing arena.”

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Screens pop up on screen with more information, on the device. As the user moves the device acros used- Kanchipuram Silk, Jamdani, Kantha- an screen and disappear when its corresp Kanchipuram Silk when the border is scanned

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Jamdani for the main fabric used


when the device recognizes the area scanned ss the artefact, screens explaining the crafts nd the signiďŹ cance of the motifs appear on ponding target moves out of focus. Kantha for the embroidery

Information about the signiďŹ cance

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As the user scans each element, moving the d screens appear. A screen translates the letteri letters are scanned. When the full lake is scan sustainability and satellite images of the lake explaining the water crisis and the history of t Explains the Tamil lettering of Puzhal lake

Satellite images o Sustainability

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device slowly across the length of the artefact, ing of the lake in Tamil, when the embroidered nned, screens showing the various aspects of es appear, and over the empty lake, screens the productâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s components, the saris, pop up.

of the lake

Information about the water crisis

A brief exploration behind the journey of each of the components of the product

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The planet is in a peculiarly precarious situation today. The science states that we have a limited amount of time to make revolutionary changes in every aspect of how we function as a species- this includes how the fashion industry makes and will continue to make. Activism is no longer a niche concept but is very much embodied in every action we take as consumers and producers. All our decisions have imp impacts and to be conscious of it and have our voices heard through it is truly powerful. Engaging with sustainability is complex. People, cultures, histories, economies- they all form part of the puzzle as well. An understanding of how turning to unique, indigenous design legacies, built upon sustainable practice and slower, more mindful engagement, can provide answers to the future, both in terms of how we make in the fashion industry and of how we consume in the 21st Century. There is no greater time than the present to engage with traditional gr craft and no greater time for a voice that can be heard. Eco-literacy, co-design and engaged collaboration with artisans can help holistic sustainability become established practice, further aiding to the transformation that we seek desperately in the fashion system.

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Profile for Nayanika Bharadwaj

Craft – New Narratives  

A practice-based inquiry aimed at exploring the role of craft and its links with the concepts of activism and innovation within the larger...

Craft – New Narratives  

A practice-based inquiry aimed at exploring the role of craft and its links with the concepts of activism and innovation within the larger...

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