Monday, June 24, 2013

Know your Artisans!

Artisans are scattered throughout the world that have been, for generations, pursuing art as a cultural expression while also making it a means of earning their livelihood.
Art makes the physical connection of intangibles to everyday life making it colorful and more meaningful.

The articles of common use that developed over the course of millennia for rituals or simply for lifestyle needs, were functional and yet aesthetically pleasing. They also helped preserve an organic way of living life.

Art has not often been accessible to the common folk or even what are now called the middle classes, having been a preserve of the rich and influential. Not in-consequently, many of us never consider ourselves deserving of an indulgence, which an original piece of art has come to mean for us.

In the current mindset, articles of daily use are considered disposable due in large part to their mass production and consequently – cheap cost. The production of such articles is not necessarily environmentally friendly and their cheap quality demands frequent replacement leading to disposal of things in the ever growing landfills. The attitudes towards articles that mass-production engenders, cheapens not just that article, but towards the whole class of objects. If one considered a factory produced plate cheap, chances are slim that one would place significant value in the creation of an artisan.

An example is baskets. Hand-woven baskets made with natural materials are slowly making a comeback but for the longest time were relegated to mere curiosities, having been replaced by plastic or other such material. They were cheap and fast and colorful and you could change them every season if you wished. But all ended up in large pits in the earth, where they’ll still be around for millennia, or perhaps they are floating in the middle of Pacific Ocean adding to the area of the giant plastic island.

While this seemingly innocuous lifestyle of keeping up with the trends and throwing outdated materials into trash hurts the environment, it also hurts the artisans who truly wish to create art and enjoy the process of creating.

In malls and outlets, there are numerous pieces of bright color embroidered glittering fabric products and yet they fail to convey the expression or intent of the artists. They were made for commercial purpose, likely based on supply and demand worksheet, and most likely in a factory setting. Often the designs and fabric are created keeping the customers in mind and not the artist and in trying to meet the needs of the buyer, the authenticity of the artwork is usually lost.
But, the creativity and artistic expression that is enmeshed with a culturally rich life – something we might imagine as belonging to a bygone idyllic time still lives and breathes among us in the unknown corners.

The creative freedom needed by an artisan is usually lacking in the mass produced hodge-podge pieces done in an assembly line style. The artist is never allowed to reflect the emotional, cultural and spiritual side of their being and is restricted to being a wage-earning worker, which stunts her pride in her craft. The result is disenchantment, if not outright disgruntlement with the whole process and the sad demise of the artistic side of the craft.
If the artists are reduced to workers that create products based on current trends they have no way to share their love of art with the younger generations and the craft will die as soon as it comes off the shelf of a high-end store in a mall. Many fine skills that were conceived in a time before machines took over our lives are slowly lost to us; often too expensive to pursue and don’t have a market value that can fetch it a subsistence level price. At the same time we as consumer spend money on faux exotic pieces without realizing that we can patronize true art and real artisans.

In my last post, I argued that we should follow our own heart for a meaningful living and in this post I turn around and ask that we follow the work of artisans and learn more about their craft, their motivation and the natural expression of their art.

Or maybe this isn't what your heart desires, and maybe there is peace and serenity to be found in simply following trends, which I have yet to discover, but I doubt.

This conversation is not about following or leading but it’s about being aware. All realize as a consumer that the value of an item extends far beyond the price-tag and the brand name.

Trends come and go but our relationship with life, our environment and the well-being of our fellow humans is eternal. It’s important to be aware of the drift we’re flowing with, as also the currents we contribute to, as we meander towards the destinations of inner fulfillment.

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