It’s been over six months now since we’ve been flung headlong into a way of life so far removed from the one we’ve lived. This time has brought with it chaos and uncertainty, but also, a chance for much-needed introspection; an opportunity to redefine the way we think. Now more than ever, we need to stage an ‘intervention’ and design a different life, for ourselves and future generations, from one we’ve lived so far. We need to move away from a culture of mindless consumerism to that of consciousness, which champions needs over wants. We need to realign our perspectives, placing nature at the centre.
My grandparents and the generation they were a part of embodied the tenets of sustainability without ever being aware of it. Being sparing, and saving for a rainy day, focusing on the fundamentals and not on excess had been so ingrained in their ways of living it was never even acknowledged. Somewhere along the way, these values got lost. And so, every time I sit down or have a moment to reflect, I find myself constantly asking, “How can we do better? What is the solution? Where do we go from here?”
The Indian craft industry is long overdue for a great change. Unknowingly large, our country’s design and home decor handcrafted segment is a burgeoning resource. India’s carpet industry alone is a billion-dollar industry which exports to more than 70 countries in the world and provides employment to over two million workers and artisans in India. But how many people know about these ‘invisible’ craftsmen making your pieces? Why are they just treated as human machinery? Twice excluded from the narrative are the women artisans who have been upholding these traditions passed down through their families because a lot of the men have abandoned the crafts to take up jobs to sustain themselves.
The first way to uplift these protectors of craft is through education, which then enables them to take control of their lives. Here is where a ‘Digital Intervention’ would also help them grow and access not only India but a global market. Few entrepreneurs, let alone NGOs and artisans, have the skills of presentation, photography, content creation, or the human resources required to create brands that would have an international appeal. If they can harness the infinite digital space, their growth could be massive. At the end of the day, it also boils down to the accessibility that comes with the internet, that would give a weaver in Rajasthan or a woodworker in Saharanpur the means to not only see what’s out there but also maybe even refashion their crafts to fit contemporary sensibilities and be relevant on a global level.
Speaking of accessibility, I think it’s time we acknowledge the full potential of the digital world we live in, with respect to the design industry. Though we may have been unwittingly thrust into this ‘new normal’ where client consultations are virtual and global conferences are taking place via zoom, we can’t deny the positive impacts these changes have had on our environment.
Our carbon footprints are lower than they have been in a long time, and this new wave of virtual connection has brought about a democratization of design like never before. Two months into lockdown, Design Pataki hosted a Digital Design Week. It was packed with live conversations with designers, workshops and webinars. Doing this digitally freed us from geographical constraints of a physical event and allowed a cross-cultural exchange of ideas with designers from across the globe like Stefano Giovannoni & Richard Hutten. While Design Pataki is based out of Bombay, we had 46,00,000 people from all across the country tune in for Digital Design Week, which would have otherwise been only a few thousand. Keeping aside a financial and physical privilege that would allow one to travel, anyone with an internet connection was able to join in for the Digital Design Week.
There’s no denying that all of us (myself included) can’t wait for things to get ‘back to normal’. However, let us not reverse the few good things that have come out of this dark period. Let us all learn to live with less, and with a deeper appreciation for that which we have and those who make it.
And so I leave you with this –
How are you redesigning your life?