Endangered Handicrafts

India is home to more than 6 million artisans involved in an array of crafts ranging from basketry and painting to earthenware. However, this breed of traditional artisans has long been endangered due to a lack of proper remuneration. Many news articles that feature traditional craftsmen, as well as one of our old blog post entitled Pondering Pottery, state that surviving artisans are struggling to make ends meet. Many are surviving day-to-day by taking up loans from moneylenders. This is the reason why many from the younger generation are leaving their ancestral trades, in search of more financially rewarding jobs elsewhere. While the government plays its part in terms of creating a more supportive infrastructure for these craftsmen, a good demand for their works can also help keep these art forms alive. Hence, it is vital that we, as consumers, educate ourselves on the hard work that goes behind these lovely handicrafts, to better appreciate them. We came across two articles that detailed the struggles of artisans in India- one looked at the Kashmiri Pashmina weavers, while the other looked at the Thanjavur doll-makers.

The article about the Pashmina weavers was featured in THE STAR (a leading English newspaper in Malaysia), while the article on the Thanjavur doll-makers was featured in THE HINDU (a leading English newspaper in India).

THE STAR article details the plight of the Kashmiri weavers, from both the Pakistani and Indian sides of the state. It talks about the hard work that goes behind the production of the exquisite shawls- from the rearing of the Pashmina goats, the backbreaking hours of manual labour that goes in to the weaving, to how the counterfeit pashmina industry is eating away at the livelihoods of these artisans .


THE HINDU article looks at the struggles of the Thanjavur doll-makers. The Thanjavur ‘thalai-aatti’ (bobble head) and uruttu (round rocking) dolls have long been a hallmark of this region in Tamil Nadu. The article provides interesting information on the history of these dolls, as well as the time consuming doll-making process. It also mentions how the growth of the modern toy industry has caused a slowdown in this traditional toy-making sector, pushing a once popular household object to become a tourist keepsake. The article also details the struggles of these toymakers (most of whom believe themselves to be the last of their kind) and the ways in which they are trying to improve their sales.



1.Gupta, S. (2009, 06 22). Indian artisans-crafting a way of life. Retrieved 04 08, 2015, from SME TIMES: http://www.smetimes.in/smetimes/in-depth/2009/Jun/22/indian-artisans-crafting-a-way-of-life9074.html

2.The Economic Times. (2013, 04 29). Census of Handicrafts artisans in progress: Government. Retrieved 04 10, 2015, from The Economic Times: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2013-04-29/news/38904849_1_artisans-handicrafts-census

3.Nainar, N. (2015, 03 29). Doll Craft in the doldrums. Retrieved 04 09, 2015, from THE HINDU: http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Tiruchirapalli/doll-craft-in-the-doldrums/article7044669.ece

4.AFP. (2013, 09 28). Yesterday's weave of Kashimir. Retrieved 04 09, 2015, from THE STAR online: http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Features/2013/09/28/Yesterdays-weave-of-Kashmir-India/

So, the next time you pop by India or a store that sells Indian artefacts, keep in mind the hard work and long hours that have been put into each piece. Here at Brainworks Education, we believe in cultivating an appreciation for our traditional art forms as they are important links to our rich cultural histories; and what better way to do that than to try our hands at some traditional crafts? Brainworks Education offers several traditional craft activities ranging from pottery to weaving. Mail us today at hello@brainworks.sg to embark on a craft-appreciation journey!

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