With the sustainability movement’s emphasis on quality goods and slow production, it only makes sense that craftsmanship is experiencing a rebirth in today’s market. Many brands are now highlighting their craftspeople rather than keeping them behind the scenes. They are giving credit where credit is due for the creation of one-of-kind heirloom pieces that are truly works of art. More than that, conscious brands are committing to giving craftsmanship a face, and helping it flourish in the twenty-first century/
When we talk about craft, we are talking about a process of creation that has deep historical and cultural roots. Adapting a craft for the modern-day consumer is therefore no easy task. Hatice Tekin, owner and creative director of luxury jewellery company Ana Dyla, finds that a “combination of machine-made and handcrafted is what makes jewellery more likeable for today’s conscious souls.” She is always seeking to balance the power of machinery with the gem cutting and silversmith expertise of her team’s artisans in order to create pieces that appeal to today’s audiences.
Likewise, Shayonti Chatterji, founder and director of silk and cotton accessories brand Urban Medley, melds together old and new: “Our weaving and printing processes follow the age-old traditional methods, whereas our designers work with our artisans to experiment with design and colour, keeping global tastes and trends in mind.” This mix of traditional and contemporary creates demand in today’s modern market, which ensures the survival of Chatterji’s company and her artisans.
The resulting pieces from both brands are entirely unique. They stand as a true testament to how tradition can breed innovation to create something even better than we could have imagined. As Chatterji puts it, “A machine would not be able to add the touches that a craftsman does, all of which add to the charm and character of the product.” Tekin explains that the Ana Dyla creative process allows artisans to make adjustments to jewellery designs as needed in order to deliver the best possible version of their products. In short, craftspeople can adapt to variations in material and design in a way which machines simply cannot replicate. It is exactly this skill and knowledge that artisan-centred brands are now striving to make more widely known and respected, and it is also what they are aiming to preserve for future generations.
THE WAY FORWARD
So, the question remains: how do we protect craftsmanship? Reflecting on the past, we see that today’s biggest problem is a lack of artisan empowerment and apprenticeship encouragement. Chatterji explains that if artisans are unable to financially support themselves through their craft, then they may need to turn to other jobs, like fast fashion manufacturing, in order to earn a decent living. This may even force them to relocate from their indigenous communities. These same issues make being an apprentice equally unappealing to younger generations, which is why we were seeing the culture of craft hitting a dead end.
But from despair comes motivation. By giving craftspeople the support, exposure and compensation for their work that they deserve today, we can contribute to safeguarding the very existence of these crafts tomorrow.
NEW SUSTAINABLE LEADERS IN CRAFT
The partnership between artisans and sustainable brands comes at the perfect time to supply today’s demand for purposefully created, quality goods. At Ana Dyla, they are committed to using 80% recycled gold and sterling silver in their pieces, and they engage in a made-to-order production process. If there is one word to describe both the goal and the feel of their jewellery, it would be “timelessness.” The minimalism of Dutch design paired with the long history of Turkish craftsmanship has borne a jewellery line that holds its own, both aesthetically as well as in durability. This is why Tekin does not believe in the need to constantly create new things. She hopes that you will keep your well-made and thoughtfully designed Ana Dyla pieces for years to come, and pass them down through generations of loved ones. “We should value the things that we have already, like the craftsmanship of goldsmiths, their eye for details and the freedom of expression that exists through jewellery. Let’s value this more.”
As for the artisans of Urban Medley, they have been rearing and weaving silk for generations, and each artisan only makes a few pieces per year. The brand is especially well known for its peace silk, which is carefully harvested from empty silkworm cocoons after the moths have left them, ensuring that the worms are not harmed in the process. Once a scarf or cape has been made, it is then hand block-printed. This requires a wooden block to be carved with intricate designs and then stamped onto the fabric. Hours of design and discussion go into the creation of each block, as the artisan and designer work closely to ensure that a perfect balance is struck between traditional and modern appeal. Knowing that all of this goes into every piece offered by Urban Medley is what makes each one truly special when it finally makes its way from the hands of its artisans, to you.
The “handcrafted” label has long signified an investment of skill, effort and years of tradition into the creation of an item. It implies uniqueness, particularly against today’s backdrop of mass production. Craftsmanship transmits the meaningful legacy of the maker to the eventual owner, a legacy that sometimes encompasses an entire culture in the palm of its hand. This is the promise and value of handcrafted goods that we hope you will join us in rediscovering now.