A handicraft, sometimes more precisely expressed as artisanal handicraft, is any of a wide variety of types of work where useful and decorative objects are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. It is a traditional main sector of craft, and applies to a wide range of creative and design activities that are related to making things with one's hands and skill, including work with textiles, moldable and rigid materials, paper, plant fibers, etc. Usually the term is applied to traditional techniques of creating items (whether for personal use or as products) that are both practical and aesthetic.
Collective terms for handicrafts include artisanry, handicrafting, crafting, and handicraftsmanship. The term arts and crafts is also applied, especially in the United States and mostly to hobbyists' and children's output rather than items crafted for daily use, but this distinction is not formal, and the term is easily confused with the Arts and Crafts design movement, which is in fact as practical as it is aesthetic.
Handicrafting has its roots in the rural crafts—the material-goods necessities—of ancient civilizations, and many specific crafts have been practiced for centuries, while others are modern inventions, or popularizations of crafts which were originally practiced in a limited geographic area.
Many handicrafters use natural, even entirely indigenous, materials while others may prefer modern, non-traditional materials, and even upcycle industrial materials. The individual artisanship of a handicrafted item is the paramount criterion; those made by mass production or machines are not handicraft goods.
Seen as developing the skills and creative interests of students, generally and sometimes towards a particular craft or trade, handicrafts are often integrated into educational systems, both informally and formally. Most crafts require the development of skill and the application of patience, but can be learned by virtually anyone.
Like folk art, handicraft output often has cultural and/or religious significance, and increasingly may have a political message as well, as in craftivism. Many crafts become very popular for brief periods of time (a few months, or a few years), spreading rapidly among the crafting population as everyone emulates the first examples, then their popularity wanes until a later resurgence.
- 1 History in the Indian subcontinent, 3000 BCE – 600s CE
- 2 The Arts and Crafts movement in the West
- 3 Handicrafts in modern education
- 4 Nepal Handicrafts
- 5 List of common handicrafts
- 6 External links
History in the Indian subcontinent, 3000 BCE – 600s CE
The history of handicrafts in the areas generally now comprising India and Pakistan is ancient, dating back almost 5000 years. The first surviving written references to handicrafts in the Indian subcontinent can be found from the Moen jo Daro, Sindh Indus Valley civilization (3000–1700 BCE). As in other cultures, the craft tradition in India has long involved religious beliefs, local needs of the commoners, as well as the special needs of the patrons and royalty, along with an eye for foreign and domestic trade. These craft traditions have withstood numerous foreign invasions and continue to flourish, owing to the multi-cultural, assimilative nature of Indian society and its openness to new ideas.
The Indus Valley civilization had a rich craft tradition, as well as a high degree of technical excellence in the fields of pottery making, sculpture (metal, stone and terracotta), jewelry and weaving, among others. A lot of material information from excavations at Harappa, Mohen-jo-daro, etc., substantiate the early Indus Valley craft traditions. The craftsmen not only catered to all the local needs but surplus items were sent to ancient Arabian cultures via ancient sea trade routes.
The concept of state was ushered by the rise of the Mauryan Empire in the 3rd century BCE. It is said that during the time of Ashoka, 84,000 stupas were built in India, including the world famous Sanchi Stupa, situated in Sanchi, in Madhya Pradesh which has elaborate stone carving and relief work done on it. Numerous sculptures from Bharhut, Mathura, Amravati, Vaishali, Sanchi, etc., show female figures adorned with an array of jewelry; they continue to inspire contemporary jewelry-making. The iron pillars of Vaishali (Bihar) and old Delhi, created during the time of Emperor Ashoka.
The period between the 1st century ad and the 1st century BCE was a period of political turmoil as a result of foreign invasions from central Asia. The impact of these intrusions can be seen in the Buddhist sculptures from Taxila, Begram, Bamiyan, Swat valley, etc. (all from the present day Pakistani North West Frontier province) which show a high degree of Greek influence. The depiction of Buddha, having curly hair and wearing draperies, until date is the result of this Greek influence. The sculpture of the Kushan king Kanishka from this period depicting him wearing leather boots and a heavy warm coat amply reflects the influence of the central Asian Culture on Indian craftsmanship. Jewelry, sculpture, textile making, leather products, metal working, etc. were the main handicrafts that inherited these foreign influences and assimilated them in accordance with the Indian milieu.
The Gupta age (320–647 CE) is referred to as the classical period in Indian history. Its high points in the fields of crafts include the rock-cut temples of Ellora and the Ajanta murals, the carved scenes on which provide a realistic view of the lifestyle of that time. The craftsmen of this period, under royal patronage, excelled in jewelry making, woodcarving, sculpture, stone carving, metalworking and weaving.
The Medieval period of Indian history in the context of handicrafts showed a marked shift from north India to the Deccan and southern parts of the country, though the handicraftsmen under the Delhi Sultanate period flourished in the field of pottery, weaving, wood carving, metal working, jewelry, etc. The contribution of the Cholas and the Vijaynagar empire were mostly in the fields of bronze sculpture, silk weaving, jewelry, temple carving. Exemplary period stone carving from central India can be seen in the form of the Khajuraho Temples, built by the Chandelas. Rich and ornate wood and stone carving can be found in the medieval temple of Jagannath at Puri in Orissa.
The Arts and Crafts movement in the West
The Arts and Crafts movement originated as a late 19th-century design reform and social movement principally in Europe, North America and Australia, and continues today. Its proponents are motivated by the ideals of movement founders such as William Morris and John Ruskin, who proposed that in pre-industrial societies, such as the European Middle Ages, people had achieved fulfillment through the creative process of handicrafts. This was held up in contrast to what was perceived to be the alienating effects of industrial labor.
These activities were called crafts because originally many of them were professions under the guild system. Adolescents were apprenticed to a master craftsman, and refined their skills over a period of years in exchange for low wages. By the time their training was complete, they were well-equipped to set up in trade for themselves, earning their living with the skill that could be traded directly within the community, often for goods and services. The Industrial Revolution and the increasing mechanisation of production processes gradually reduced or eliminated many of the roles professional craftspeople played, and today many handicrafts are increasingly seen, especially when no longer the mainstay of a formal vocational trade, as a form of hobby, folk art and sometimes even fine art.
The term handicrafts can also refer to the products themselves of such artisanal efforts, that require specialized knowledge, may be highly technical in their execution, require specialized equipment and/or facilities to produce, involve manual labor or a blue-collar work ethic, are accessible to the general public, and are constructed from materials with histories that exceed the boundaries of Western "fine art" tradition, such as ceramics, glass, textiles, metal and wood. These products are produced within a specific community of practice, and while they mostly differ from the products produced within the communities of art and design, the boundaries often overlap, resulting in hybrid objects. Additionally, as the interpretation and validation of art is frequently a matter of context, an audience may perceive handicrafted objects as art objects when these objects are viewed within an art context, such as in a museum or in a position of prominence in one's home.
Handicrafts in modern education
Simple "arts and crafts" projects are a common elementary and middle school activity in both mainstream and alternative education systems around the world.
In some of the Scandinavian countries, more advanced handicrafts form part of the formal, compulsory school curriculum, and are collectively referred to as sloyd in Swedish, and käsityö or veisto in Finnish. Students learn how to work with mainly metal, textile and wood, not for professional training purposes as in American vocational–technical schools, but with the aim to develop children's and teens' practical skills, such as everyday problem-solving ability, tool use, and understanding of the materials that surround us for economical, cultural and environmental purposes.
Secondary schools and college and university art departments increasingly provide elective options for more handicraft-based arts, in addition to formal "fine arts", a distinction that continues to blur, especially with the rise of studio craft, i.e. the use of traditional handicrafting techniques by professional fine artists.
Many community centers and schools run evening or day classes and workshops, for adults and children, offering to teach basic craft skills in a short period of time.
Nepalese handicraft history can be traced back to the stone age when human beings were inadequate of tools of any kind. The history of artistic handicrafts only began during the 5th century AD, when different religions began to form their bases among the people of Nepal. Hence we see a lot of religious influence on Nepalese handicrafts. Introduced by the Nordic Aryans, mixed with different groups of Mongolians, nurtured by Buddhist and Hindu concepts adapted the taste of market. The historical development of Nepalese handicraft industry is very old although has its rise and falls. According to the reference found in Kautilya's Economics about various productions and exports from Nepal, during the time of Chandra Gupta Mouriya, in fourth century, Nepal was known for quality rainproof woollen blankets. The blankets were made of eight pieces joined together of black colour known as "bhiringisi" as well as "apasaraka". Similarly the good quality blankets are mentioned in the epics of Jain religion "Brihatakalpasutra Vhashya". Various famous Chinese travellers like Wanghunshe and Huansang in 648 AD have appreciated Nepalese arts and crafts and the skills of Nepalese craftsmen and artisans in their travelogues.
From the beginning up to the mid-nineteenth century, the rulers of the country promoted national industries and trade to various measures of production, promotion and encouragement. Saving national industry only imported commodities which were not produced locally. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Nepalese arts and crafts industry and the entire home based industries in general suffered a great deal due to the general liberal import policy of the government. Prior to the establishment of British regime over India and entering a peace treaty with Tibet in 1904 AD, Nepal was interpreted as the main route to Tibet for external trade with other countries. But the treaty of 1904 AD facilitated the British to open a new route between India and Tibet through Chumbic Valley and the trade route treaty of 1923 AD between Nepal and British India, which was not in favour of Nepal and had very unfavourable effects both on industries and on flourishing trade of the country.
In Nepal, the production of handicraft is an age-old practise. Novel handicraft is also developed in harmony with changing market taste. For the last 25–30 years, export of handicrafts has been growing. The development of handicraft helps the conservation of national heritage and culture of country; which in return contributes to appease poverty by creating job opportunities. The handicrafts of Nepal is produced in a traditional way, from generations to generations leading the footpath of ancestors or from forefather to grandfather to father and to son and this continuity has given the survival to Nepalese handicrafts, preserving their heritage, cultural values, aspects and tradition. More recently, these arts and crafts is one of the major exporting industry of Nepal, earning foreign exchange and providing employment to thousands of Nepalese craftsmen, artisans, promoters and businessmen generating revenue to government.
Handicrafts in Nepal are classified mainly in two types. they are Textile products and Non- textile products. Textile products includes the following: Pashmina Products Woollen Goods Felt Products Silk Products Cotton Goods Hemp Goods Allo Goods Dhaka Products Misc.Textile Products The Non textile products includes the following products: Silver Jewellery Metal Craft Handmade Paper Products Wood Craft Glass Products Bone & Horn Products Crystal Products Ceramics Products Leather Goods Incense Plastic Items Paubha (Thanka) Beads Items Stone Craft Bamboo Products Miscellaneous Goods Handicraft has become the major source of foreign revenue and foreign currency today. in the slagging export economy, it is the only good source of revenue that has good international market. Government of Nepal has also put this sector as the competitive product of Nepal.Many entrepreneurs locally and internationally are emerging in this sector to make international trade. There are many online websites on Nepalese handicrafts, which are used by international customers for ordering products to their home country.
- Source : Nepalese handicrafts
List of common handicrafts
There are almost as many variations on the theme of handicrafts as there are crafter with time on their hands, but they can be broken down into a number of categories:
Using textiles or leather
- Canvas work
- Embossing leather
- Millinery (hat making)
- Needlework generally
- Ribbon embroidery
- Rug making
- Sewing generally
- Shoe making (cobblery)
- Spinning (textiles)
- String art
- T-shirt art
Using wood, metal, clay, bone, horn, glass, or stone
- Bead work
- Bone carving (buffalo, camel, etc., as well as horn and
- Bone carving (Made of Camel Bones
- Ceramic art generally
- Chip carving
- Dollhouse construction and furnishing
- Doll making
- Glass etching
- Jewelry design
- Lath art
- Puppet making
- Repoussé and chasing (embossing metal)
- Scale modeling
- Stained glass
- Toy making
- Wood burning (pyrography)
- Wood carving
- Wood turning
- Woodworking generally
Using paper or canvas
- Altered books
- Artist trading cards
- Assemblage – collage in three dimensions
- Card making
- De collage
- Embossing paper
- Iris folding
- Origami or paper folding
- Paper craft generally
- Paper making
- Paper marbling
- Paper modeling, paper craft or card modeling
- Parchment craft
- Pop-up books
- Quilling or paper filigree
- Rubber/acrylic stamping
- Scrap booking
Using plants other than wood