WHY CRAFT PRODUCED TEXTILES MAINTAIN A PLACE IN OUR SOCIETY?
Cultural heritage is increasingly being recognised in today’s society.
UNESCO (http://www.academia.edu/403826/The_Importance_of_the_Intangible_Cultural_Heritage) promotes the value of learning and keeping alive traditions. Understanding cultural diversity enables cultural awareness of identity of a particular race of people and the way in which they interpret their own historic methods.
Its not just about crafts, it’s also about oral traditions, whether music stories or artefacts. Even performing arts costume and design plays a big part. In years gone by these crafts were used to mark stages in a persons life (e.g. samplers) where birthdays, weddings and marriages were depicted.
Or even historical events are marked (Bayeux tapestry).
Nature also plays a big part in the development of these crafts, materials for constructing, plants for dyes, and colours for painting.
Fabric dyes are taken from nature throughout the ages. The Hmong people of Vietnam use dyes taken from the Indigo plant. The blue colour doesn’t appear until the leaves have been fermented where the mushed leaves produce a blue powder.
Globalisation is blamed for the threat to traditional crafts. However, medical organisations, still regard plant useful for new medicines. Many of the woods of the world are disappearing to make way for ‘progression’. However this has a detrimental effect on the raw materials needed for local craftsmen. Also people are moving from small villages to bigger cities for better pay and a better life, with the loss of community spirit. However drawing on these skills could help the craftsmen or women to promote further development and self-worth to provide for their families
Craftsmen rarely earn a massive wage, but enjoy creating the pieces they make and therefore maintain living traditions. However saying that, in the UK where skills have been lost, there are few craftsmen that retain traditional methods and can command their own price for the skill to produce traditional art. A lot of artefacts also need craftsmen that know their trade to achieve the best results in restoring historic work.
It has always been considered that artefacts should be preserved but there is increasing awareness of maintaining the crafts and educating people within their own communities to preserve their own communities to preserve their very on heritage. Many skilled craftsmen struggle to compete with mass production. This has an impact on small businesses that are trying to compete with the mass production of goods.
One of the key factors to teaching people the importance of maintaining the crafts produced is the sense of well being of the community and the development that could be achieved, whether learning a skill or monetary value.
Governments from around the world are now recognising the basic requirement for saving craft techniques and making them ‘living’ history.
In the Middle East a framework called the Cultural Heritage Development has been set up. Morocco for example has many examples of living cultural history as a matter of course. This can be for own needs or for trade. This may be due to the underdevelopment of the society as opposed to the west. Life with fewer trappings, as it was in history. It is our link back to the past.
Another place is Vietnam. (www.asiaseed.org/wec/weca/workshop.html)
E.g. Vietnam generates employment using handicrafts for over 2017 villages. Traditional methods are used and have been for over 100 years, like locally resourced materials like bamboo and rattan. This equates to 24% of the employment gained through traditional crafts. Many women predominantly are involved in the fabric business whether weaving or embroidery.
E.g. fabric weaving 136000
In a country where the people are so poor these crafts feed, clothe and help the next generation to maintain their position in life. This eases the poverty to a certain extent.
The revenue generated by the handicrafts is about 366000 VND a month. This is higher than farm workers and the national average. Much of the crafts, help the economy through export around the world, where traditional crafts are being appreciated for what they are and how they are made. This is also true of tourism, where visitors want something that has been handmade using traditional methods in the region where they visit. However, this can lead to exploitation in some parts of the world. The Fair Trade initiatives are set up to prevent this. This was shown in India, where sweatshops are prolific. Poor pay and terrible working conditions are accepted because of the employment it gives to the poor however hazardous.
I myself have a piece of papyrus from Ethiopia, where a friend of mine brought it back.
Another consideration in using traditional methods is that using natural resources cuts down on pollution and helps the environment in the long term.
The crafts produced by the locals, help to maintain village life and the values that have been somewhat lost today. All the villagers work together to promote the talents they have and that pulls them closer as a unit.
Governments are recognising the importance of the development, both financially and cultural. In Vietnam policies (the master plan of Ha Tay province) are in place to create craft villages, where government funding, technology and support are available. This help should in effect help further generations to become self-sufficient.
Without this help, a lot of people although very proficient in the work they do, would be unable to market the product, in their own country or abroad. Comprehension of the important work created, is difficult for people who haven’t been educated and so don’t understand that preserving it, maintains for future craftsmen. This intervention by the government also promotes a sense of wellbeing where the craftsman feels useful doing what he enjoys. How many people today do a job they hate? I am sure there is a lot to be said for a simple life.
Tourism helps crafts, where tours to see traditional methods are encouraged. This promotes revenue, both in the tour and the goods bought.
The revenue also helps to restore methods used that are either too expensive, or seen as irrelevant in today’s society. Many of the traditional crafts stem from need.
There were no supermarkets to get food, no clothes shop to buy clothes, in fact no money to buy these things. So that’s where the need for crafts came about. Useful things were created that were needed around the house. Clothing from furs, killed to provide meat and candle wax. Basket made from willow, these are amongst just a few of the many, many crafts to help in everyday life. Today unfortunately we live in a throwaway society. However, with up cycling many people are reusing previously thought of rubbish. E.g. scraps of fabric can be used for a quilt.
There has been an increase in the amount of craft trade fairs, with a diverse skill range. Traditional crafts are used however, many artists today although keeping the traditional method has diversified the technique and created a totally new concept Micheal Brennand uses textiles and wood and stems from his grandmothers working practices as a weaver. His grandfather was an engineer.
Using both of these techniques he creates amazing floral displays. (http://www.textileartist.org/textile-artists-inspired-by-flowers). His work shows depth changing the further away you go.
Government incentive for the sustainability of cultural heritage
In the UK cultural identity is being promoted by George Osborne last budget eg made in Britain
‘Britain held aloft by the march of the makers’
Princes Foundation Prince William
There is a move by the princes foundation to encourage a younger people to embrace traditional methods with apprenticeships
Examples of cultural sustainability
Traditional practices are under threat in the mountains of central Bhutan. Traditional methods are being encouraged by the Choki Traditional Art School in Thimpu Province Bhutan to younger people to preserve the heritage of their ancestors
Cultural methods change little in their methods; however future generations reinterpret these in different ways. Many of these students, through studying the old ways, bring a cultural diversity, restoring historical buildings for example
The ‘old’ methods are critical to retaining the future of the world.
Sustainable fashion and textiles
Traditional shoe making is an art. Today we have mass produced shoes, that we squeeze our feet into. Having delved into my family history my great grandfather was a shoemaker. In years gone by family members, usually sons would have gone into the family business. But many years down the line, I make sheds, not shoes. This is an example of generations evolving into new careers. This is an example of family tradition.
Two contemporary artists take traditional methods and adapt for their art
Fleur Andreas a member of the society of designer craftsman and the West Surrey of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers. Early influences came from her love of dance, leading to a passion for the creative arts and eventually textiles.
Having attended the University of the Creative Arts in Farnham she specialises in weaving using traditional methods. She takes her inspiration from nature. Where there is vast array of colours, texture, pattern and structure.
Sebastian Cox is inspiring young designers to revive traditional crafts in UK.
He himself uses by-products such as coppiced Hazel that otherwise would be discarded, taken from managed woodlands. Using these old crafts interest is being renewed, especially by Modern designers. In the UK economic growth amounts to £3.4 billion according to the UK’s crafts Council. This is due in part to people wanting individuality, and the need for something different. Also people prefer the simplicity of traditional handicrafts. Inspiration throughout history has drawn on the past, but this retains not only a craft, but also religious, social and other heritage.
Sebastian believes that too many people throw away things, often sent to landfill and this in turns has an impact on the environment. Many crafts people prefer to up cycle rather than dispose of.
He feels that people need to be educated to the possibilities to take from nature, whether aesthetic or as he does taking the by-product and producing a new item. This in turn retains the techniques that could so easily be lost for generation to come.
Another reason for encouraging crafts, is that it is therapeutic and can help people retain a sense of worth. For example within mental health, but not solely for that purpose. http://www.artinminds.org.uk/ is a charity that helps people who have a range of illnesses with encouraging and promoting artwork. I myself exhibited in Worcester University, Cathedral and Worcester Porcelain Museum.
My thoughts on traditional crafts are that they should be maintained for future generations. These simple crafts remind us that life was simple, and helps us gets us back to basics. Hand made crafts have always been given as presents e.g. matinee jackets for a newborn. This gift shows the skill but also the ‘love’ that has gone into it.
In summing up, ‘preserving our crafts gives us our inspiration and hope for the future of design’.