Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Handmade in India: A Handbook of the Crafts of India arrives from the publisher

Handmade in India: An encyclopedia of the handicrafts of India

Handmade in India
Edited by Aditi Ranjan and M.P. Ranjan
576 pages, 3500 colour photographs and 140 maps, 9.5 x 13.5” (240 x 340 mm), hc, October 2007, ISBN: 978-81-88204-57-1 (Mapin), Series ISBN: 978-81-88204-49-6 (Mapin), Copublished in association with COHANDS
Rs.3,950.00 / US$95.00
more about availability in October 2007
from the Mapin Publishers Pvt. Ltd. link here

Handmade in India, volume 1, is a tribute to the Indian craftsperson and is organized by the geographical distribution of the crafts across all states and regions of the country. The Indian craftsperson has demonstrated an uncanny understanding of materials which is combined with a mastery of the tools, techniques and processes that have evolved over the centuries through social and cultural interactions, a tribute to the creative design abilities of the village society. The Eames India Report talks about a search for the values that is uniquely Indian and it is here that the study of Indian crafts will help inform current and future actions in the continuous evolution of the economy and the form that it takes in shaping the culture of the land. Today this craft continuum constitutes an enormous resource that can be harnessed for the future development of our society, particularly as the backbone of a creative economy that is enabled by the embedded knowledge in the traditional wisdom of the sector as well as the digital technologies that help connect this ancient skill to new and future opportunities for the craftspersons across India. We will need to make this enormous knowledge base accessible to planners, business and the rural and urban craftsmen as well as connect these to new local and global opportunities for these skills and resources to be reinterpreted in new and imaginative ways.

Sample page showing a typical craft and associated images, text and keywords

This we believe is the foundation of the creative economy of the future in a massively web enabled world and easy access in both directions which promises to link the craftsmen to new markets across the world. For this to happen there are several steps involved and the book will be the first in offering insights and data on this vast resource as well as be a vehicle that can provide a platform and a structure to enhance this knowledge using the new digital networks and tools of access and interaction that it provides provided the required investments are made in infrastructure and training to realize the inherent potential. It is our intention that the information as well as the framework of situated keywords provided in this book will help all concerned with the promotion, development and use of the crafts of India would be empowered to build a sustainable network of live information. This we believe will help our craftsmen re-connect with world markets, just as they had been doing for centuries in their own village and in their trade route networks of the past, and now the world can be their new village economy, if they are enabled and empowered to change to meet these new circumstances with access to information that is both live and relevant.

This volume, “Handmade in India”, is the first of three that are planned and it provides a geographic organization of craft distribution across the length and breadth of the country and shows how craft permeates even the remotest corner of India. In this introductory note we have tried to summarize the enormity of craft variety and the significant role that it plays in the day-to-day lives of both rural and urban people. These linked posts below cover several frequently asked questions about this massive work that has gone on for many years at NID and now we are in a position to make it available to a wider audience for the benefit of informed decisions relating to the development initiatives associated with these crafts in India.

As editors of this work situated as design teachers at India’s National Institute of Design, we would like to celebrate the arrival of the first advance copy from the Mapin Publishers and it is a confirmation of more that 40 years of efforts by faculty and students of this great Institute who have sustained their interest in the crafts of India as a design and development resource for the country when few other organizations showed real interest in what was seen as a glory of the past. That it is a living resource as well as a resource for the future is something that we would strongly advocate and call for sustained investments from both government and industry to ensure its continuity towards a the realization of its future potential as a driver for the creative economy for the estimated six million crafts persons who have kept this knowledge alive through their actions and traditional methods of transmission which we are today trying to capture in an explicit format between the covers of a book. We have had thinkers from the past comparing the crafts of India with the oceans of the world, vast and impossible to put into a bottle of any kind. We are very aware that it is only the whole earth and its gravity that can act as an adequate container for the oceans and water bodies of our planets ecology. Our vast and varied crafts traditions and practices can be compared to this vast ocean and it is only the tips of this enormous ice-berg that are visible in the book and we hope that the web and the digital networks that built in the subsequently phases can support and can play the role of making the rest of the hidden volume visible and accessible in the days ahead. Our attempt has been to provide a framework on which this can be built in the days ahead.

It is a pleasure to hold the advance copy in hand and see the realization of a dream and the fructification of the efforts of several generations of NID designers as well as a large team of contributors who have made this book possible, thank you all. We would like to thank our sponsors the Development Commissioner of Handicrafts, Government of India, the COHANDS, Mapin Publishers as well as our Institute, the National Institute of Design for having provided us the opportunity of producing this work and we look forward to an active period of cooperation in taking this forward to the next stages through volumes two, three and beyond.

Aditi Ranjan & M P Ranjan
Editors: Handmade in India
7 August 2007 from the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India

See a note on the Information Architecture used for the book to enable informed web searches on each craft that is covered here in the book.


  1. Hi Ranjan,

    Congratulations to Aditi & you for all the amount of efforts & passion you people have put in to get the book out. I'm also proud to be a tiny part of the gaint volume. (Saleem & I did the coiled cane crafts of Telekhalerpar, Assam in 2000)
    I'm excited to have my copy.
    Is it available in Pune somewhere?
    Do let me know.
    - Amogh

  2. congratulations!! team handmade in india. cant wait to grab a copy and show it to the sikkimese people the kind of work NID has been doing, it will be of great help to people working in the craft sector and create value to the craftsmen and their craft, they will be very proud and inspired to see their work in a book like this one.

    sonam tashi gyaltsen
    product design

  3. Often we do not understand the process and the pain that results into such forms. My heartiest congratulations to Aditi and you for whom this edition has seen the daylight. I do hope that this is not a full stop. What we see here is just the seed. I am truly proud to occupy a minute corner of this giant effort..my regret not to be able to continue with it!
    With warm wishes and regards,

  4. Congratulations are due to you and Aditi on the effort. Would love to hold a copy of the same, soon. Wish I was a part of this team. Maybe next time?

  5. my heartiest congratulations to you and aditi, alongwith the whole team, anonymous and otherwise, for facilitating such a potent seed, which no doubt, would grow as organically as possible in the times to come.

  6. Dear Ranjan
    Congratulation on setting up a blog on your course which has inspired me here and I was requesting our project students to set up one, I shall try my best to break the barrier of stubbornness and reluctance. And I have been contemplating on this for quite some times, whether a teacher should think far ahead or give and share knowledge which is comfortable both for the giver and the receiver. How does one break the barrier of mesoneism, - hatred of change, innovation or newness? Which has always been the process in any civilized society’s thoughts which later gets accepted for want of choice or alternatives or more so the change of context and time.

    There is a popular story/ joke when a man going to a remote village asked for a way was guided by someone by swaying his rear side of his hands, he was in fact showing his rings rather than guiding this man to the village. So many a time we don’t seem to tell things in a direct way , so I guess many a models might fail especially the maps and signages.
    Second example is the language has a bit of symbolism sometime with lots of puns and metaphors and proverbs. For example if a lady has conceived they ask if she has taken a bath ( literal way ) and how long since she has taken a bath.
    So how do we look at visualization in this context. Sorry lost the thread of thoughts – to be continued—

    2. Congratulation and thank you for pulling me and showing me the book Handicrafts of India. It is so nice to get the fresh smell of the inks and the paper and the texture of the first print. And seeing the joy in the faces, like looking at a new born baby.
    My heartfelt congratulations goes first to Aditi and secondly to you, for the great perseverance and bearing with all the difficulties and unknown hitches and seeing it happen.
    On the other hand I guess though the client must have initially thought of it as only a simple catalogue, fulfilling a boastful commitment to the ministry, I doubt if they (the client) could foresee this magnitude of information and the outcome in the form it is today.
    Having seen this first book, I feel it is very historical in the context of India which I am confident not many would realize. There had been an effort in the year 1880 by George. Birdwood, with a wide knowledge of art manufacture. He brought out a series called ‘the arts of India ‘this book was about the collection of the east India Company which later was transferred from the India office to the south Kensington museum. This was Published by the British Book Company, and privileged that I could lay my hands on today.
    The arts of India is interesting in a way since the first part talks of the Hindu pantheon an it is a compilation of well known works of many luminaries of that era one of them being Max Muller, Talboys wheeler and the second part on the Master handicrafts of India, which Birdwood says is a reprint, with added text, of a portion of Handbook to the Indian Court at the Paris international exhibition of 1878. George Birdwood wrote this as a handbook on the industrial arts of India, in connection with the reopening of the India museum, in south Kensington. He says that what was most wanted was not a handbook to the contents of the museum, but “an index to its deficiencies”. He hopes that it is a fairly trustworthy index of every district and town in British India where manufactures of any special artistic quality are produced, and that it will prove of some assistance to the officials of the science and art department in completing the Indian museum collections, and to the general public as a guide to the place in India where they may obtain objects of genuine native art.
    He seems to have felt the difficulty in the spelling and says that he has not spelt according to the official system, “Even if the natives of India adopted the Roman alphabet we ought not to spell modern Indian geographical names as they naturally would, if our first object is to preserve the proper pronunciation of them: for let it be clearly understood that by the official system of spelling we are degrading their pronunciation.” He feels it is therefore of paramount importance that they should “be englished rightly”
    Birdwood quotes interestingly in the nineteenth chapter of the second section of the Ramayana , or Ayodhya-Kanda__ “ Scenes in Ayodhya” – the inhabitants of that city are presented as going out in procession with Bharata to seek Rama in the order of the trade guilds; Jewelers, potters, ivory –workers, perfumers, goldsmiths, weavers, carpenters, braziers, painter, musical instrument makers, armourers, curriers, blacksmiths, coppersmiths, makers of figures, cutters of crystals, glassmakers, inlayers, and others and with the ‘chief of a guild ‘ bringing up the rear.”
    Quite interestingly Birdwood seems to wonder at the above paragraph in the Ramayana as a list as that was prepared from a census return of the inhabitants of Ahmedabad in western India of that era. He also feels that it is identical with the list of the trades as given in surgeon James Taylor’s Sketch of the Topography and statistics of Dacca, published in 1840 [Calcutta].
    He also talks about the membership in the guild which is hereditary, but new comers may be admitted with an entrance fee, with reference to a sum in Ahmedabad. There seems to be a lot of reference to Ahmedabad in terms of the guild.
    Later on in 1857 also E B Havell in his ‘The revival of the artistic tradition and industrial arts in India’ also has reflected on means for the upliftment of the artists, since he did not differentiate artist, artisans or craftsmen. He felt that the western education has been responsible for the downfall of the artistic tradition in India.
    These were the ramblings of that bygone era and the concern that people have shown to the Arts and Crafts tradition in India. In this paradigm of design thinking a book of this sort Edited by Aditi and You is of paramount importance and I personally consider a landmark. I am sure there would be criticisms of cost and accessibility etc. etc, But it so happens the clarion call of the people of bygone era has also gone into muted ears. However their work has become landmarks and so will this for the future. And perhaps would bring in some aesthetics and sensibility into those who hold the reigns and enlighten their wisdom to take a responsible and fair decision for the benefit of one and all.
    Immanuel suresh

  7. Three cheers from New Zealand! To Ranjan, Aditi, the publication team and the countless craftspeople who have made this possible.

    You've now left me with the dilemma of ordering the book from down here and hauling it back over to have you guys sign it or waiting till I'm next there to pick up a copy & having you autograph it on the spot! But this a small issue compared to the dedication you all of shown for the project that I am so pleased has finally come to fruition.

    Warm regards from a cold climate
    [*] Meena

  8. Congratulations!

    My father, Sankho Chaudhuri would have been very happy to see this work coming to fruition. He always felt that our indigenous skills were of a very high order - both in terms of craft and concept - and that not enough was being done to document and preserve the products of such skills, let alone prevent their extinction.

    Udit C

  9. I really appreciate the effort made to publish the book.I think the traditional craft skill is in the verse of extinction.so nice work to document them.

  10. sir...i really liked the work you have kept on doin...for design students like me it is a very useful and informative...i want to thank you..for giving us such an insight!

  11. I am very fond of handmade crafts. I like your post...

  12. Hello!
    I am Tina Michaels from ezebee.com, a new but very vital platform for handmade manufacturesrs and micro-companies all over the world.
    ezebee.com is a 100% free project, financed through cooperations and donations. We now have members from over 40 countries, 98 % women producing handmade items, fashion, upcycled products and jewelry.
    I really like your facebook page here and would like to ask you if we could exchange links or help each other otherwise. I would be very delighted if you liked our site and would share it with your facebook fans.
    And you clearly qualify to open a showroom on ezebee:-)
    Keep up the good work and hope to hear from you!



    PS: We have users from all over the gobe, that makes it interesting if you are interested in international selling as well or if you are producer/ supplierof items needed for handmade things...


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