Every piece of craft is an extension of its maker’s life work to master a skill encompassing their own unique signature. When we know the care that goes into a product that takes 120 days to make, passing through more than 10 steps and 20 people in its journey, we understand the love that has gone into it. Understanding the process behind the final product brings to light the value chain of creation and the multiple forms of value to assess, a sustainability concept often used in discussions around closed loop or circular production models. The more we understand the interconnected pieces of the supply chain behind a product, the better choices we can make around our consumption choices.
Here are 2 reasons why craft takes time:
Weather and Festivities
Incorporating natural time cycles of printing and weaving of the artisans means having a longer buffer period to take into account serendipities of weather and harvest cycles. During the winter and across monsoon season, humidity and lack of sunlight slows the process down. As the nights last longer, the dye take more time to dry because light comes slowly and leaves quicker still, leading to colour runs. To speed up the drying process and stay on track of their timeline, the artisans would often dry the fabric by running it over a stovetop fire. Sunshine, rain, humidity, and weddings are key factors in the fabrics’ final colour and the availability of certain yarn.
Celebrations in India like weddings can halt the schedule of rural villagers. Even though the actual wedding lasts from 3 days to a week, preparations and events with the family and relatives can take up almost a month. What this means is that all production and work stops until the celebrations end. Understanding how something is the result of multiple interactions and relationships with its environment reminds us that how we do something is as important as what we do.
After visiting our partners in India, we learned that their process is structured in a way so that each artisan partner holds ownership over a certain print. In the blockprinting workshop in Jaipur for example, Dharmendra blockprints our signature Mobi motif. At one point, there were a couple of months where he was down with a severe migraine, so he took a break from being in the workshop. Since he was the only blockprinter comfortable with the Mobi block, printing for that motif was put on pause.
When we learn about the context in which something is made and the lives of those who made it, a connection is made between people who otherwise might have little in common. Which is why in the inconsistency of each piece created or appreciated, we embrace the philosophy of wabi sabi and the reality of transience and imperfection. When we explain that the banding (also called ‘patta’) and colour gradience often seen on handloom fabrics are actually signals of rest pauses where the weaver has taken a break from the loom, something which otherwise is an industrial defect becomes a detail we empathise with.
The purpose of craft is to tell a story. From technique to the final product, each step requires the skills our artisans have spent their lives learning, and it brings life into the craft as it passes through each hand. All this teaches us to value the journey. After all, the value of craft is in its making.
Watch the video below to see why craft takes time: