Journey Back in Time Through The Elements of Craft

The experience of work that depends on the elements is an entirely different perspective.

Whenever I travel to stay in our artisan partners’ homes, observing their pace of life and work cycle, it’s a rewinding of the clock and a journey back into time.

We’re so used to being enclosed within buildings, windows and cubicles that the changing weather outside seldom affects what we do. Developed economies pride themselves on being insular, on having built systems to conquer the whims of natural change. We continue to work and function as if nothing could touch us.

Imagine a day where what you plan to work on depends entirely on where the sun and fog is that morning. That the way you mix your base dye and the colour you’d like to achieve depends on wind, humidity, and the quality of water you’re using. And also the temperature of the air in the immediate hour after you’re done. Imagine continually weighing the elements and adjusting the filter fabric in your colour tray to match the fineness of the print design, and combining a methodical, unbroken rhythm of laying a block with the gentle balance of your hand’s weight.

People are often amazed on how change affects craft. The changes in weather conditions affect how the final product develops as time passes by. The resulting result will never be exactly the same as the initial proposed result. It adds a certain kind of charm in the craft.

Lets run through those reasons.

Craft is an art form that goes through many different processes. However, the process of the craft in itself is an art. It involves decisions that can sometimes be irreversible, especially in slow cloth making. For example, in block printing, you will need to decide how much to thicken the dye to suit the fineness of the pattern, how many layers or mesh, jute or silk to lay the tray with, the fact that each block must be applied with the same amount of pressure consistently.

It causes the timeline of production to disarray. Change in climate may disrupt processes such as drying, due to the humidity. The quality of the craft, for example in fabric making, will also be affected, for example, colors will be inconsistent and prints might not turn out to be as expected. It’s quite beautiful when you think about how entwined craft is to its immediate environment, and how many factors combine to create a perfectly repeated, precise and consistent product over again and again.

Most manufacturing factories are centralized. This means there are hundreds or thousands of people in one building, stacked on top of one another, each representing one small monotonous step in the entire process.

This earns them supplementary income that also means that their children can be the first in their family to earn an education.

Dispersed production like this prevents the community from having to migrate in drought periods or do government labour work, but it also means that other factors such as festivals or weddings can hold up an order if it’s not planned right. A commitment to quality means sacrificing time — time taken to ensure that each step is complete before proceeding to the next one.

There’s a buffer in there for the serendipitous art of aligning variable weather and measured effort, and a patience to endure a different kind of production system that takes into account the human and natural factors for a better way of living. It is not a system made for consistency, but perhaps humanity is not about being consistent or perfect but about creating eco-systems that can accommodate all ways of living.

MATTER is a socially motivated business inspired by the type of travel they loved. Story driven, community based, built on direct relationships and a commitment to respecting provenance.

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