The True Spirit of Craft

Kalia, Anjali is a design graduate from NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology), New Delhi. Her graduate collection in 1995 was awarded the CMAI (Clothing Manufacturers Association of India) Award for the Most Creative Collection; she is also a recipient of the Smirnoff Fashion Awards, 1994.

Subsequently Anjali worked for Walter Johnson India Pvt. Ltd, followed by a stint of 5 yrs with Rohit Bal. She was also the founder designer for Maya, a label catering to the contemporary Indian women - her fashion shows for this label received critical acclaim.

Currently Anjali is working for her own design label ‘Divine Design’ Besides being a consultant to various NGO’s she has conducted a series of Design Development Workshops for traditional artisans to make their products suitable for contemporary markets.

Anjali is actively involved with the Tuesday Collective to give voice to the weavers. She is also a trustee of the Pranam Foundation.

April, 2007 Update

Creation, it is said, happened when Brahma wished to become many. This desire perhaps embedded itself in the subtle nature of all matter and being to manifest time and again, in the never-ending cycle of creation, perfection and destruction. Driven by the modes of nature, creativity expresses itself in myriad forms. Nature is the eternal craftsperson creating, moulding and crafting spectacular beauty and wondrous forms through a perfect combination of the five elements.

So, what is craft, but an expression of this basic need to replicate? Humans, like all other beings have been blessed with the highest from of creativity, the ability to procreate, to become mediums of inviting another soul to manifest in human form. On a more rudimentary level, craft becomes a physically apparent form of spirituality, a soulful union of the craftsperson with the supreme creator through a material medium. Craft, therefore is a simple expression made by deft hands that are eternally connected to the umbilical chord of Mother Nature, highlighting a deep bond of familiarity that can exist only between intensely familiar souls. The sight, the smell, and the touch of the mother…how beautifully only a child can respond to!

Craft, therefore, is like a seed carried in the womb. As the seed grows irrespective of its worldly circumstances, craft too can be perpetuated by extraneous needs. It is natural law, that when manifestation is to happen, it automatically attracts an environment suitable for its growth, which may or may not be conducive according to human minds. Much like beautiful flowers growing in the wild, popping their innocent heads from beneath hard rocks and deep crevasses, or for that matter, attractive flora growing in dry arid landscapes! The entire approach is natural and spontaneous, not chosen by profound analysis or technical, scientific methodology. The same goes for craft. Even the most humble and modest object when created to suit a particular purpose, need or time requirement yields magnificent results. May it be the simplicity of the modest earthen pot or a clay toy made to amuse a cantankerous child. It is the beauty of the 'honesty of the connection' that appeals to the senses.

Just as an expectant mother thinks of nothing else but providing nourishment and care for the enhancement of the young embryo embedded deep within, similarly a craftsperson is possessed to manifest his yet unborn idea. As the mother feels the child grow from her flesh and blood, giving it structure through hereditary, similarly the craftsperson creates, inspired by the tradition handed over to him since centuries. So strong is this cultural connect that sometimes even minor alterations seem like sacrilege. So delicate is this balance that he can scarcely think of changing, varying or moving away from his established tradition. It is this strength of creation that is called heritage and has flowed uninterrupted and untarnished through the ages. Even a trivial, thoughtless interference can result in disaster, much like the far-reaching effects of genetic engineering. A small gene here and there can change an entire bloodline!

The laws of Craft are based on the Laws of Nature, and this seemingly insignificant arrangement has been tested time and again since centuries. Nature and Craft, both involve interplay of the five elements, a transformation of form to suit a particular function and above all represent the evolution of consciousness in a specific society. Just how colour, form or lines have been used in a certain culture signify its spiritual growth and consequently its ability to know the unknowable. For the enlightened, Nature and craft have a truly symbiotic relationship.

Infused with soul energy, and nurtured by intense concentration, the artifact comes to life. The outcome of such a meditative act is bound to be spectacular. All crafts, made by hand are therefore spiritual, since they involve a certain degree of meditation and skill. When the craftsperson is disturbed or unsettled, he is unable to create. There has to be complete self-giving to achieve perfection, the entire energy of the artist needs to be channeled towards the act of creation. This intense connection might be an outcome of pain, grief, anger or just plain awe. The point to be noted is that there has to be a true connection with the craft, almost to a state of mindlessness, so that the purity from above can flow through. When true craft manifests, it is unique and special. Just like any baby is the most perfect child in the world to its doting mother, similarly craft, which may not be perfect according to worldly norms, has a certain liveliness that is all attractive and compelling.

Craft is a source of divine energy, the way it enhances the life of the craftsperson, by creating exquisiteness that gives joy to all who view it. This energy is addictive, natural, and like Nature comes with an inherent characteristic of trying to better itself! There is constant evolution. Craft can therefore be a thriving profession only for a chosen few, for the rest it was and will always be for self-fulfillment. A craftsperson lives two lives simultaneously; one as an ordinary human being, striving for livelihood either as a farm hand or at home and it is only the leisure time that is devoted to craft. It is essential to understand the word leisure with respect to craft. For these simple Karm-yogis, leisure is not 'free time' but time that is devoted to an activity that is different to the one performed during the rest of the day. It denotes a change of occupation from one to the other. Craft may also act as an offering to a higher force to get peace and bliss, as recreation or as a medium of communication with their progeny. This satisfies their inner creative urge and also gives them energy to cope with the demands of their daily livelihood, for they do not run here and there looking for external means to find happiness, they find solace in their creativity.

How leisure is utilized, that becomes culture. Hence it is imperative that the relationship between craft and craftsperson be respected and enhanced by providing them with a congenial environment and appreciation that is not only based on monetary parameters but is conducive to their overall growth and evolution. As 'cultured' do-gooders' from the cities take up craft for peace and deliverance, it is important to protect, nurture and safeguard those who represent culture itself.

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