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Essay On Indian Craftsman Style

The Arts and Crafts movement emerged during the late Victorian period in England, the most industrialized country in the world at that time. Anxieties about industrial life fueled a positive revaluation of handcraftsmanship and precapitalist forms of culture and society. Arts and Crafts designers sought to improve standards of decorative design, believed to have been debased by mechanization, and to create environments in which beautiful and fine workmanship governed. The Arts and Crafts movement did not promote a particular style, but it did advocate reform as part of its philosophy and instigated a critique of industrial labor; as modern machines replaced workers, Arts and Crafts proponents called for an end to the division of labor and advanced the designer as craftsman.

The British movement derived its philosophical underpinnings from two important sources: first, the designer A. W. N. Pugin (1812–1852), whose early writings promoting the Gothic Revival presaged English apprehension about industrialization, and second, theorist and art critic John Ruskin (1819–1900), who advocated medieval architecture as a model for honest craftsmanship and quality materials. Ruskin’s persuasive rhetoric influenced the movement’s figurehead (and ardent socialist) William Morris (1834–1896), who believed that industrialization alienated labor and created a dehumanizing distance between the designer and manufacturer. Morris strove to unite all the arts within the decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity of form.

The American Arts and Crafts movement was inextricably linked to the British movement and closely aligned with the work of William Morris and the second generation of architect-designers, including Charles Robert Ashbee (1863–1942), who toured the United States, and Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857–1941), whose work was known through important publications such as The Studio. British ideals were disseminated in America through journal and newspaper writing, as well as through societies that sponsored lectures and programs. The U.S. movement was multicentered, with societies forming nationwide. Boston, historically linked to English culture, was the first city to feature a Society of Arts and Crafts, founded in June 1897. Chicago’s Arts and Crafts Society began at Hull House, one of the first American settlement houses for social reform, in October 1897. Numerous societies followed in cities such as Minneapolis and New York, as well as rural towns, including Deerfield, Massachusetts.

Unlike in England, the undercurrent of socialism of the Arts and Crafts movement in the United States did not spread much beyond the formation of a few Utopian communities. Rose Valley was one of these artistic and social experiments. William Lightfoot Price (1861–1916), a Philadelphia architect, founded Rose Valley in 1901 near Moylan, Pennsylvania. The Rose Valley shops, like other Arts and Crafts communities, were committed to producing artistic handicraft, which included furnishings (1991.145), pottery, metalwork, and bookbinding. The Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony was another Utopian Arts and Crafts community. Outside of Woodstock, New York, Englishman Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead (1854–1929) and his wife Jane Byrd McCall Whitehead (1861–1955) founded Byrdcliffe, which was completed and operating by 1903. There craftspeople worked in various media, including woodwork, pottery, textiles, and metalwork. In harmony with the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement, Byrdcliffe furniture (1991.311.1) is a study in rectilinearity, simply treated materials, and minimal decoration.

In urban centers, socialist experiments were undertaken on a community level, frequently in the form of educating young women. Ideas of craftwork and simplicity manifested themselves in decorative work, including the metalwork and pottery of the Arts and Crafts movement. Schools and training programs taught quality design, a cornerstone of the Arts and Crafts movement. In Boston, the Saturday Evening Girls Club, established in 1899 as a reading group for immigrant girls, founded the Paul Revere Pottery, which began producing pottery (2000.31) in 1908 and offered the girls the ability to earn good wages within the community. Newcomb Pottery was formed in New Orleans in the winter of 1894–95 under the auspices of the H. Sophie Newcomb Memorial College, an educational institution for women. Using local Southern flora and fauna as inspiration, the female designers at Newcomb made pottery (1983.26) and later also produced metalwork and textiles (2004.334).

In addition to pottery, women fashioned jewelry in the Arts and Crafts mode. Stones were chosen for their inherent artistic qualities, resulting in jewelry that promoted truth to materials. Florence Koehler (1861–1944), a charter member of the Chicago Arts and Crafts Society, taught china painting, jewelry, and metalsmithing. After studying jewelry and enamelwork in London, she referenced historic design, especially Renaissance sources (52.43.1; 52.43.2; 52.43.3). Marie Zimmermann (1879–1972) began her artistic career as a jewelry designer and later expanded her metalsmithing to include ornamental garden and home objects. An idiosyncratic designer, Zimmermann studied foreign cultures for inspiration, including Egypt (2005.464), Greece, and China.

Without a singular philosophy, diversity persevered within the Arts and Crafts movement as a mixture of individuals worked in diverse locations. There were regional differences due to the geographical distribution from the East Coast, to the Midwest, to California. Craftsmen used a wide range of source material to produce handwrought objects. Arthur J. Stone (1847–1938), a dedicated member of the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts, produced silver objects that were conservative in design. An Englishman who emigrated to the United States, Stone opened his silver shop in Gardner, Massachusetts, where he initially executed all pieces himself. When the business expanded, he hired additional craftsmen to make individual works (1990.49). There were also creative designers with unique vision, such as Charles Rohlfs (1853–1936), who worked in Buffalo, New York. Rohlfs eschewed industrial production methods, preferring to craft individual pieces of furniture (1985.261) utilizing a myriad of foreign sources, including Moorish, Chinese, and Scandinavian design. Gustav Stickley (1858–1942), founder of The United Crafts (later known as the Craftsman Workshops), was a proselytizer of the craftsman ideal. Emulating William Morris’s production through guild manufacture of his furniture, Stickley believed that mass-produced furniture was poorly constructed and overly complicated in design. Stickley set out to improve American taste through “craftsman” or “mission” furniture with designs governed by honest construction, simple lines, and quality material (1976.389.1). He also published the highly influential The Craftsman (1901–16), a beacon for the American Arts and Crafts movement.

Publications, including The Craftsman, House Beautiful, and Ladies Home Journal, disseminated ideas about design and interiors. The ideal home that emerged had an open-planned interior shaped by a color palette that reflected the natural environment. Articles and illustrations presented decorating suggestions, including the use of colors, type of furniture, and decorative accessories, such as rugs and pottery. Period sources embraced Grueby Pottery for its innovative interpretation of nature and craftsmanship. Founded by William Grueby (1867–1925), the pottery was known for naturally shaped vessels with matte green glaze (69.91.2). In addition to pottery, lighting was also an important element that contributed to the ideal Arts and Crafts interior. The copper electric table lamp (1989.129) was the archetypal object crafted by the Dirk Van Erp Studio. Additionally, a Native American undercurrent developed during the Arts and Crafts movement, as evidenced by fashionable Indian-style baskets and textiles featured in Arts and Crafts exhibitions and publications. Many collected baskets to display in their Indian corners, which may have inspired Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) to design a hanging shade in an Indian basket motif (69.150).

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867–1959) shaped a new way of living through his completely designed environments, encompassing architecture and all elements of interiors. He ushered in a style of architecture that became known as the Prairie School, characterized by low-pitched roofs, open interiors, and horizontal lines that reflected the prairie landscape. This architecture, which utilized natural materials such as wood, clay, and stone, sparked a revolutionary shift in the American interior (1972.60.1). Wright’s “organic” architecture was indebted to nature. However, plain surfaces with minimal decorative embellishments were suited to incorporating the machine, resulting in furniture with intense rectilinearity and natural surfaces. In addition to Wright, popular Prairie School architects William Gray Purcell (1880–1965) and George Grant Elmslie (1871–1952) directed offices in Minneapolis and Chicago. Purcell, Feick and Elmslie (as the firm was known between 1910 and 1913 with the addition of George Feick Jr. [1881–1945]) remodeled the J. G. Cross House in Minneapolis in 1911 (1972.20.2). The firm specialized in residences with artistic interiors (especially for a middle-class clientele, although they certainly worked for wealthy patrons as well) using organic decorative elements. Like Wright and Purcell, Feick and Elmslie, Charles Sumner Greene (1869–1957) and Henry Mather Greene (1870–1954), California architect-designers of the period, were interested in domestic architecture incorporating the interior as a total work of art. The brothers Greene initially worked in all the popular revival styles, but after examining English and American design periodicals and Charles Greene’s formative trip abroad, their style shifted by the early 1900s. They fashioned a distinctive style, heavily influenced by Asian design, that reached its zenith with the bungalow, the quintessential Arts and Crafts architectural form, characterized by broad overhanging eaves, articulated woodwork, and an open plan. For the Blacker House (1907) in Pasadena, Greene and Greene used Japanese design to meticulously craft elements in their comprehensive schemes, inside and out (1986.445; 1992.127).

The rise of urban centers and the inevitability of technology presaged the end of the Arts and Crafts movement. The search for nature and an idealist medieval era was no longer a valid approach to living. By the 1920s, machine-age modernity and the pursuit of a national identity had captured the attention of designers and consumers, bringing an end to the handcrafted nature of the Arts and Crafts movement in America.

Monica Obniski
Independent Scholar

June 2008

The crafts of India are diverse, rich in history and religion. The craft of each state in India reflect the influence of different empires. Throughout centuries, crafts have been embedded as a culture and tradition within rural communities.


Metal Crafts includes metal work using Zinc, Copper, Brass, Silver, Gold. Some of the traditional ancient handicraft styles are Bidriware, Pembarthi Metal Craft, Dhokra, Kamrupi

Bidriware The term 'Bidriware' originates from the township of Bidar, which is still the chief centre for the manufacture of the unique metalware. Due to its striking inlay artwork, Bidriware is an important export handicraft of India and is prized as a symbol of wealth. The metal used is a blackened alloy of zinc and copper inlaid with thin sheets of pure silver.
Pembarthi Metal Craft Pembarthi Metal Craft is a metal handicraft made in Pembarthi, Warangal district, Telangana State, India. They are popular for their exquisite sheet metal art works. This meticulous brass work art flourished during the reign of Kakatiyas empire. Kakatiyas extensively used sheet metal art to adorn chariots and temples.
Dhokra is non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax casting technique. This sort of metal casting has been used in India for over 4,000 years and is still used. One of the earliest known lost wax artefacts is the dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro.[1] The product of dhokra artisans are in great demand in domestic and foreign markets because of primitive simplicity, enchanting folk motifs and forceful form. Dhokra horses, elephants, peacocks, owls, religious images, measuring bowls, and lamp caskets etc., are highly appreciated.
Kamrupi Brass and Bell Metal products of Kamrup are famous for their beauty and strength of form and utility. Brass is an important cottage industry, with highest concentration in Hajo, while Sarthebari is well known for its bell metal craft. The principal items of brass are the kalah (water pot), sarai (a platter or tray mounted on a base), kahi (dish), bati (bowl), lota (water pot with a long neck) and tal (cymbals). Gold, silver and copper too have formed part of traditional metalcraft in Kamrup, and the State Museum in Guwahati has a rich collection of items made of these metals. Gold is generally used in ornaments.

Crafts of Bihar[edit]

Bihar , recognised by its Madhubani painting, Bhagalpur painting which is also known as Manjusha Art & extra ordinary delicacy of quilting.

Crafts of Rajasthan[edit]

Rajasthan, recognized by its Royal heritage is a prominent and well-established craft industry. Craft remains a tradition in Rajasthan, preserved over centuries by the stronghold of the Royal Rajput family.[1] Within the craft industry are smaller occupations. These include, fabric colouration and embellishment, decorative painting and puppetry. Craft workers see this not as an occupation, but rather a mark of respect to their heritage. In the process of fabric colouration, woven fabrics are treated by methods such as tie-dyeing, resist dyeing and direct application. The dupatta worn by women show the popularity of dyeing. In 2008, traditional Jodhpur garments inspired designer Raghavendra Rathore's collection, Rathore Jodhpur.[2] Fabric dyeing belongs to the Chippa caste of Rajasthan. Fabrics are embellished with mirror embroidery, symbolic to Rajasthan and wooden beading once dyed. The trend of mirror embroidery is also visible on dupattas in Punjab, known as the phulkari. Decorative patterns adorn all surfaces in Rajasthan. Interiors of homes are painted with floral motifs; similar bindi (dotted) designs are seen on garments. The clipped camel is unique to Rajasthan. In this, patterns are imprinted on the hide of the camel, taken place during the Pushkar and Nagaur festivals by the Rabari caste.[3] Puppetry and theatre has remained a popular form of entertainment in Rajasthan. Recently, its popularity has reduced with increased interest in film and television amongst rural communities. The nat bhat caste produces these marionette style puppets.[4] Facial expressions are painted on a mango wood head and the body is covered in decorative, Rajasthani clothing. The strings loosely bind the arms and torso together to give flexibility for movement. These puppets usually perform in legends and mythology conveying a moral message. The Rajasthani craft industry is iconic to the identity of India with many of its styles reaching the international market. Tie-dyeing is an example of how international fashion aesthetics have rooted from simple crafts methods of Rajasthan.

Crafts of Gujarat[edit]

Gujarat is renowned for its textile production methods. Bordering Rajasthan, the two states share similarities in culture and identity. The ancient Indus Valley Civilization inhabited the entire region, including Rajasthan and Punjab during Medieval India.[5] They embarked on this textile industry in Gujarat. Within textile production, each caste is assigned to an occupation of its own. These are, weaving, dyeing and printing. For example, the Salvi caste is assigned to weaving.[6] Garment producers bring these elements together to form the identity of Gujarati textiles. Direct application is a method also symbolic to Gujarati garments. Paint and other applicants are used to form patterns on fabric for dupattas, ghagras (long skirt) and turbans. Block printing is a widely used form of direct application. In Bandhani, a unique Gujarati craft, fabric is tied at different sections before dyeing to create patterns.[7] This foundation of forming patterns through dyeing has emerged from the rural communities of this state. Along with the complete image of a Gujarati woman are large bangles made of ivory and plastic, these are symbols of a married woman. Conch shell and shellac bangles are the most common. Conch shell bangles are plain white with a light shade of a brighter colour where as shellac bangles are shaped as a shell, painted and decorated with glitter.[8] These have in recent years become an accessory in both domestic and international markets..

Crafts of Assam[edit]

To the far eastern region of India is Assam. A state recognized for its creative use of raw materials in textiles and crafts. Assam was one of the states whose craftwork was exhibited in the National Handicrafts and Handborn Museum in 2010, showcased to first lady, Michelle Obama.[9] Production of silk fabrics is iconic of Assamese textiles. Silk is the most valued raw material of Assam, with the Antheraea assama worm producing the unique muga silk.[10] It is mostly the duty of women to construct silk fabrics, using a domestic backstrap loom.[11] Mahatma Gandhi had noted ‘Assamese women are born weavers, they weave fairy-tales in their cloth’.[11] Domestic weaving is an important craft for Assamese women, their marriage and future is seen as reliant upon this skill. At some stage, an unmarried girl would present a hand made bihuan to her beloved.[12] Weaving holds a significant moral and cultural value in Assam. The silk and textile industry is also an economic resource to the state with over 25000 families associated with this craft.[10] Cane and bamboo crafts are also unique to Assam, the result of heavy physical work. Ridang, suli, lezai and long cane are a natural resource to the state.[13] The finest cane is chopped and reduced to thin strips then woven into sheets. It is attached to the frame of a furniture piece, usually made out of bamboo sticks. They are also used as mats, providing comfort in summer.[13] The trend of this sitalpati[13] mat is also seen in Punjab in which a woven mat attached to a frame becomes a charpai. The crafts of Assam are reliant upon the raw materials of the state also making them unique.

Crafts of South India[edit]

The diversity of religious beliefs has had a great impact on the crafts of Southern India. The region has seen the rule of various empires such as the Mughal, Portuguese, Dutch, French and British.[14] Each has left their mark of style on traditional crafts. The craft industry of South India has established itself commercially in the nation, whilst reflecting a long history of foreign rule. Dravidian style, stone carved temples reflect the influence of Hinduism whilst Roman Catholic churches echo the impact of the British rule.[14] Temple carvings are symbolic of the craft skills in the Tamil Nadu region. The Meenakshi temple of Madurai typifies the skills and devotion put into this craftwork.[15] Each section of the temple is a sacred shrine to a deity. North of Tamil Nadu is Karnataka, a region renowned for its wood and stone craftwork. The forests of this region provide extensive supplies of raw materials, mostly rosewood. For wood workers, crafting statues for large temples is a major source of income. The forms of characters from Hindu mythology are carefully shaped with a chisel. Soapstone is also commonly used to carve statues giving them a unique textural quality and smooth finish.[16]

Crafts today[edit]

The crafts of India have been valued throughout time; their existence today proves the efforts put into their preservation. Contemporary designers such as Ritu Kumar and Ritu Virani are constantly embedding traditional crafts into their designs. Also, there is a complete educational institute, Indian Institute of Crafts and Design (IICD) which is established in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which mainly educates for the crafts and their existence with design. Despite these efforts, the roots of these crafts, which are the rural craftsmen, are in decline. This argued by the India Foundation for the Arts organisation.[17] Rising costs of materials and supplies have placed many of these craft communities in financial struggle. A recent article in the Times of India predicts the price of steel to rise between Rs 600 and 1000 per tonne.[18] On the other hand, statistics from the All India Handicrafts Board show that craft export has risen from 23 crores to over 9000 crores since the past 50 years.[19] With rising economic and political issues in India, the craft sector is struggling to uphold. Although an interest to retain the culture of crafts is seen in designers and institutions.


External links[edit]

Mohammed Khatri working of traditional Woodblock Printing Craft of Bagh, Madhya Pradesh, India.
Artisan producing marble stone inlays, Agra
  1. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. p. 14. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  2. ^"Rajasthan is now on the world ramp". The Times of India. Jun 19, 2008. 
  3. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. p. 16. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  4. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. pp. 182–183. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  5. ^Edwards, Eiluned (2011). Textiles and Dress of Gujarat. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. pp. 10–13. ISBN 978-81-89995-52-2. 
  6. ^Edwards, Eiluned (2011). Textiles and Dress of Gujarat. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-81-89995-52-2. 
  7. ^Edwards, Eiluned (2011). Textiles and Dress of Gujarat. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing Pvt. Ltd. pp. 116–119. ISBN 978-81-89995-52-2. 
  8. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Craft of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. pp. 104–105. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  9. ^Basu, Indrani (7/11/2010). "Crafts village waits for Michelle". The Times of India. Retrieved 3/10/2011. 
  10. ^ abBhandari, Dhingra, Dr. Vandana, Sudha (1998). Textiles and Crafts of India. New Delhi: Prakash Book Depot. p. 105. ISBN 81-7234-021-4. 
  11. ^ abGillow, Barnard, John, Nicholas (1991). Indian Textiles. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-500-51432-0. 
  12. ^Bhandari, Dhingra, Dr. Vandana, Sudha (1998). Textiles and Crafts of India. New Delhi: Prakash Book Depot. p. 108. ISBN 81-7234-021-4. 
  13. ^ abcBhandari, Dhingra, Dr. Vandana, Sudha (1998). Textiles and Crafts of India. New Delhi: Prakash Book Depot. pp. 118–119. ISBN 81-7234-021-4. 
  14. ^ abBarnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. p. 36. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  15. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. p. 34. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  16. ^Barnard, Nicholas (1993). Arts and Crafts of India. London: Conran Octopus Limited. pp. 41–43, 46–49, 54–55. ISBN 1-85029-504-2. 
  17. ^Vellani, Anmol. "Sustaining Crafts Development in India". India Foundation for the Arts. Icarus Design Consultants. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  18. ^Pandey, Piyush (Jun 1, 2011). "Steel cos to raise prices on rising input costs". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 October 2011. 
  19. ^Dhamija, Jasleen. "From then till Now". India Together. Civil Society Information Exchange Pvt. Ltd. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 

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