Handicrafts are unique expressions and represent a culture, tradition and heritage of a country. The Handicraft Industry is one of the important productive sectors. Various attempts have been made to define this broad and diversified industry. The following definition strives to cover diversity and complexity of Handicraft Industry.
Definition According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization/Information Technology Community (UNESCO/ITC) International Symposium on “Crafts and the International Market: Trade and Customs Codification”, Manila, Philippines, October 1997: Handicrafts can be defined as products which are produced either completely by hand or with the help of tools. Mechanical tools may be used as long as the direct manual contribution of the artisan remains the most substantial component of the finished product. Handicrafts are made from raw materials and can be produced in unlimited numbers. Such products can be utilitarian, aesthetic, artistic, creative, culturally attached, decorative, functional, traditional, religiously and socially symbolic and significant. India is one of the important suppliers of handicrafts to the world market. The Indian handicrafts industry is highly labour intensive cottage based industry and decentralized, being spread all over the country in rural and urban areas. Numerous artisans are engaged in crafts work on part-time basis. The industry provides employment to over six million artisans (including those in carpet trade), which include a large number of women and people belonging to the weaker sections of the society.
In addition to the high potential for employment, the sector is economically important from the point of low capital investment, high ratio of value addition, and high potential for export and foreign exchange earnings for the country. The export earnings from Indian handicrafts industry for the period 1998-99 amounted to US$ 1.2 billion.
Although exports of handicrafts appear to be sizeable, India’s share in world imports is miniscule. It is a sector that is still not completely explored from the point of view of hidden potential areas. India, a country with 26 states and 18 languages and more than 1500 dialects offers an enormous range of handicrafts from each of the states. Major centres in Uttar Pradesh are Moradabad also known as the "Peetalnagari" (City of Brass), Saharanpur for its wooden articles, Ferozabad for Glass. The North Western state of Rajasthan has to offer the famous Jaipuri quilts, Bagru and Sanganer printed textiles and wooden and wrought iron furniture from Jodhpur. The coastal state of Gujarat comes with embroidered articles from Kutch. Narsapur in Andhra Pradesh is famous for its Lace and Lace goods. But this is only a small part of the total product range. India offers much more.
Handicrafts are classified into two categories:
1. Articles of everyday use
2. Decorative items
The craftsmen use different media to express their originality. The diversity of the handicrafts is expressed on textiles, metals – precious and semi-precious, wood, precious and semi-precious stones, ceramic and glass.
Textile based handicrafts:
Hand printed textiles including block and screen printing, batik, kalamkari (hand printing by pen) and bandhani (tie and die) are used in products ranging from bed-covers to sheets, dress material to upholstery and tapestry. The famous embroidered articles of silk and cotton, often embellished with mirrors, shells, beads, and metallic pieces are also found in India. Embroidery is done too on leather, felt and velvet etc. This segment of the industry accounts for almost half a million strong employment in addition to a large number of designers, block makers, weavers and packers involved in the trade.
Clay, Metal and Jewellery:
Brass, copper, bronze, bell metal are used for a variety of wares and in a...