Tofurky and Contemporary Crafts

Two phrases we hear all too often are: “We want something that is not so ethnic” and “We want to take the skills and make the work Contemporary.”

To this, I say, TOFURKEY.  What does Tofurkey have to do with craft?  Tofurkey is the food of guilty carnivores.  It is tofu made to taste like turkey, because some people really want to eat turkey but they think they should not.  Tofu masquerading as turkey is a perfect solution- guilt free post Thanksgiving sandwiches.

Similarly there are people who want to like craft, but then again want to eliminate its character.  Craft IS ethnic!  It is hand art, the expression of an ethnic culture. Ethnic is precisely its character and its beauty.  This is not to say that craft should not change.  Traditions always evolve.  The challenge that Kala Raksha has taken is to update traditional objects to fit contemporary life, without eradicating their essential identity.

As for contemporary, I somehow hear a pejorative touch to the word, as if contemporary is good and tradition is not.  Contemporary is by nature transient (how long can something remain contemporary?) Tradition lasts; it has to have lasted to be called “tradition!”  Do we want craft to speed beyond its identity to fit into a fashion- only to be discarded when the next wave of contemporary appears?

The good news is that in Kala Raksha’s experience the products with cultural integrity- that draw their strength from their ethnic traditions- are the ones that have lasted in the market!  Of course they have to be updated to fit the needs of contemporary life, but not to the eradication of their essential identity.  This is a challenge to be sure, but when it succeeds, it lasts.  Those products that tried too hard to be contemporary- that looked like an au courant bag with tradition based hand work stuck on the front, appealed to neither the contemporary nor the classical market.

And so we are looking back to our rich resource of traditional textiles to develop this year’s collection.  No Tofurkey for us this Thanksgiving…..