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Friday, March 23, 2012

Craftspeople of Mizoram


By Bela Shanghvi


Bela Shanghvi talks about her first-hand experience with craftsmen in Mizoram, India and enumerates the impact of an organised awareness program on socio-organic design...
Closely observing the lives of craftspeople in North India, one realizes that while skill sets are fairly well interpreted, craft is more a way of life and livelihood, rather than a well-thought-out vocation.


My journey to the scenic Eastern Ghats of India, specifically Mizoram, was orchestrated as part of a design workshop, culled to realize the inherent talent of these craftspeople for a contemporary mass-appeal produce. 

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When I began working with these craftsmen, I realised that although their skill-set swerved from good to excellent, and was accompanied by an eagerness to perform, it cried out for guidance – an organisation and prioritisation of ideas and activities. And the key to accomplishing this was not by refuting their way of working; but by subtly introducing them to ‘better’ ways of doing things.


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From ‘harmonics’ to ‘perspectives’, I guided workshops that better equipped them in understanding form, quality, value of raw materials (eco-friendly and bio-degradable properties of cane and bamboo) and their management. My sessions with them included waste management, recycling processes, and cleanliness in workplace. They began to open their minds to rejuvenation in product range, contemporary marketplace needs, cross-cultural aspects, value for tools and introduction to new tools and technology. I capped these with the all-important lessons in timeliness and the ethereal beauty of simplicity that could be manifested via the perfect ‘finish’. 

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Their mindset began to be impacted upon and they understood the significance of a ‘fine finish’. The result: a campaign that realized products with an amazing finish, so much so that the profit margins showed a marked increase. More positively, the consumer walked away with a feeling of ‘worthy purchase’, while the craftsman beamed at his extra buck.


Such an exercise that worked at sustaining a rejuvenated creative environment that could translate into commercial viability in the long run, taught the craftspeople by example that the creative process necessitates evolution, and this alone is their path to success.


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Instead of removing or rather uprooting their systems, I ‘tweaked’ them so that the craftspeople did not feel jolted out of their comfort zones.  No outright rejection of their ways of working; rather a gentle introduction to new ways. This to my mind was the singular most important facet of making the whole project a resounding success. 

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And there was just one new thing that I introduced – the skill of carving. This naturally led to them discovering new proportions and methodologies. Through this project, we were able to focus upon and successfully accomplish certain ecological solutions as well as bring to fruition a sustainable social agenda and economic wherewithal, ensure participation of women as mainstream craftspeople and develop rural commerce resulting in the encouragement and stabilization of rural growth. 

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Bela Shanghvi is a Mumbai-based Design & Business Re-Engineer, Textile & Craft. 

4 comments :

  1. I would not feel like I've given my best if I just settled for less than the best outcome for a project. If a job is a reflection of my talent and integrity; which it is, I'm going to do it right, even if it means going back to the drawing board and re-engineering the project.
    Posted by Tannya Wilson on LinkedIn on Group: The Decoration Nation® - Connect. Build. Grow.™
    in response to an IAnD Discussion: Would you as a designer prefer to intervene into design reengineering methods to better existing situations or to get on with your project, irrespective? Why?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think intervene is not the word but probably necessity. Actually the more effective designs is one that have fully considered the capability of the manufacturer he designed this for. He or she might opt to adapt to what the manufacturer can do or maybe push this to a certain limit whereby re-engineering methods can help. If the situation warrants that by doing this the end result will be beneficial to all then i guess one should do it. This altogether should be a collective decision. This is purely my opinion but again I might be wrong but I just thought your discussion really makes a lot of sense.
    Posted by Jay Gutierrez on LinkedIn Group: Furniture Manufacturers in response to the IAnD initiated discussion: Would you as a designer prefer to intervene into design reengineering methods to better existing situations or to get on with your project, irrespective? Why?

    ReplyDelete
  3. The projects of Industrial design (and craft) should make better the quality of life of who uses a product, also about an already existing product. I think it's important, at first, as far as possible, intervene into design reengineering methods to better existing situations. Reading the article "Craftspeople of Mizoram", I found excellent this concept: "the key to accomplishing this was not by refuting their way of working; but by subtly introducing them to ‘better’ ways of doing things".
    Posted by Carlotta Barbieri on LinkedIn Group: Design & Architecture in response to IAnD's discussion thread: Would you as a designer prefer to intervene into design reengineering methods to better existing situations or to get on with your project, irrespective? Why?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The answer to this can not be easy. There are many varibles that apply.
      The situation of The Craftsmen, need of the hour for both Crafts and people practicing it, what are diffrent hurdels leading to diffrent situations and many more factors.
      The sustainable solution need to emerg. For that there is no one correct answer. It has to customized.

      Delete

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