Entries by Judy Frater

Private sector Intermediaries-NGOs, Partnership, Trusteeship

August 12, 2023 Distributing payments in Sumrasar Jatwali, 2001. After working with Kala Raksha, the trust I co-founded in 1993, I became acutely aware of the limitations of development for artisans in the NGO sector. As Dr. Ismailbhai Khatri said (last post), the government should provide basic amenities to all.  He was not asking for […]

Government (and other) Intervention in Craft

August 5, 2023 Dr. Ismailbhai Khatri and other Advisors teach artisan students about traditional textiles at Somaiya Kala Vidya in 2018 In “Crafting the Nation in Colonial India” McGowan describes how craft was swept into the industrialization of post-independence India as a complementary means of production. Most early 20th C. reformers, she writes, agreed that […]

Art or Merchandise; Manufacturing or Creation?

July 29, 2023 Laxmiben and her partners Taraben and Tulsiben discuss their upcoming suf embroidery exhibition with chikan embroidery artisans who they had mentored with Manjari Nirula and other members of Delhi Crafts Council, 2015. In a previous post, I argued that Industrialization changed the character of craft. Handmade objects that had been culturally valued […]

Technology or Creativity

July 22, 2023 What’s wrong with these pictures? The last handloom weaver in a small Karnataka village weaves plain white yardage for school uniforms; a poly-cotton railway sheet proudly displays the handloom label. Technology is a basic element of making craft.  But there is a debate about how much technology is ok.  In some Khadi […]

Imagining the Maker

July 8, 2023 How do we imagine makers? As generic hands without heads? Years ago, a college graduate bandhani artist who wore a button-down shirt and pants told me no one ever believed he dyed, let alone tied his own work. Historically, because artisans work with their hands they were usually lower status Hindu and/or […]

Hierarchy: Craft and Maker

July 1, 2023 In India, social status doesn’t always relate to economic status. In the Hindu caste system, working with hands is inversely proportional to social status. Among makers, material and product further determined social status.  Because shoemakers tanned leather and made footwear, their social status was low.  In the 1960s when local markets were […]

Skill vs Craft Tradition

June 24 2023 A variety of crafts through the world and over time complicate discussion. Craft surely involves a patron, but relationships vary widely. My work focuses on textile artisans in Kutch, and I distinguish between craft as skilled labor and craft traditions, which are created by hereditary artisans. “Craft tradition” refers to a comprehensive […]

Artisan Designer

June 17, 2023 In 2003 when I began developing a design school for artisans, people inevitably asked: “Oh, so you are teaching them craft?” No, all students are traditional artisans. “Oh, so you are giving them designs?” The 2 questions circumscribe perceived limitations of artisans; few people can comprehend that artisans can design. “Design” is […]


June 10, 2023 In the USA, I grew up revering Art. The distinction between art and craft was one of medium and functionality. A work on canvas hung on the wall was surely Art, but if it was cloth and useful it must be craft. Nor was art repeated. If there were many like pieces, […]

Making in Craft

June 3, 2023 How many times have you seen a maker depicted as hands without a head? A discussion of making in craft opens a Pandora’s box of issues that have been debated for centuries and yet still elicit strong and differing opinions. What differentiates art and craft? How do we perceive makers? Who can […]