“If light is in your heart, you will find your way home.” ~ Rumi
Soaking in the blistering summers, the artisans digging deep to carve perfection through their ancestral artworks. Consistently detailing and breaking a sweat to reflect the preserved culture through sheer hard work as the weavers and artisans immaculately invest their skills by burning the midnight oil. Every single handcrafted piece resonates a unique tale to tell yet the advanced mechanism of the supply chain has buried the nuances of reality into layers of corruption and materialistic world.
Every year, hundreds of artisans and weavers commit suicide all throughout the country. These unsung heroes who have played a remarkable role in preserving the traditional arts have been pivotal for retaining the status of cultural capital that India proudly boasts of. Although, with the advent of globalization and virtual space, the accessibility and availability of readily machine-made goods have become quite a trend. The skilled resources have replaced the essence of authentic handicrafts and handmade goods that once beamed with old world charm.
How Has Power Loom Affected the Handicraft Industry?
According to the reports, back in 2011, about 51% weavers were involved in weaving and spinning. However, today, only 10% of them work on handlooms while a majority of weavers are dependent on power looms for quick manufacturing and better earnings in contrast to handloom workers. This ugly reality is a proof that mankind values corruption over welfare.
Not only the handicraft weavers are worse hit, the immemorial Toy Town of Channapatna in Karnataka has been similarly challenged. Ever since the invasion of Chinese wooden goods has acquired the market, the locally produced Channapatna products lost their charm and beauty. The Karnataka government in a way to promote and preserve the handicraft allotted subsidized power to about 254 toymaker families in an attempt to keep up with the legacy, yet the startling number of workers have withdrawn and seeking livelihoods in other profitable arenas.
In 2016, the Enforcement Wing of Quality Control Division, Directorate of Handicrafts conducted an inspection of the handicraft sellers in the town of Katra in Jammu & Kashmir, where they raided the local shops for selling the power loom products in the name of authentic handmade goods to tourists at very low prices. The craftsmen in and around the city have suffered huge losses due to which the manufacture of Pashmina Shawls has been on a stark decline. Furthermore, 91% women involved in weaving Pashmina shawls have left the industry and resorted to other work to sustain their livelihood.
How To Spot Authentic Handicrafts From Fake Ones?
When you’re on a shopping spree and exploring the formidable handmade creations by the artisans and weavers in remote places across the country, look out for these signs before you shell your money and embrace the real product.
This gorgeous traditional artwork hailing from the Nawabi City of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh signifies royalty and feminity with a touch of delicate dainty look. The pastel colors evoking romantic vibes while the intricate embroidery is worth drooling for. When you’re on the lookout for a perfect Chikankari ensemble, always ensure the product has French knots, crisscross embroidery, and shadow stitch. If you happen to see loose threads, uneven fabric, and thick fabric, it’s not handmade.
The traditional work of Patola has garnered popularity all over. From roots in India to now spreading in Indonesia, Japan and so forth, this fabric undergoes a lot of replication. You should be careful with the colors and intricacy of the art. It is generally designed in such a way that the back and front have different designs always.
There are prominently three types of Assam Silks namely Muga, Pat, Eri. Pat is a very soft silk variety which can be easily identified by locking system at the back the saree. The pallu or border of the saree is designed in such a beautiful way that it looks 100% same; which is why machine-made sarees are a big turn-off. You will also notice variations in color, design, sharpness and design intricacy along with the loosely hanging threads all over. The border of the Assam silk sarees are woven separately and stitched later to the saree while in machine-made saree, this is not so.
The rich and flamboyant weaves of Banaras are most vulnerable of all. To assess the authenticity of the Benarasi brocade, always check the back side of the saree. You will observe the heavy thread work which shall be absolutely in contrast to the other side. Also, only the original Benarsi saree will have floats in it, while power loom won’t. You can also look for six to eight inch of plain silk patch falling on the cascading crease of the pallu.
The oh-so-famous Ajrakh and Kalamkari prints are the graceful remnants of the glorious history we are a part of. The beautiful block printing art can be easily identified. The original hand blocked fabric will have little flaws at every other place with bleeding of color in every nook and cranny as compared to the machine-produced fabric which will be consistent and perfect.
Quick Tips to Differentiate Authentic from Fake Handicrafts
Always look on the pallu or back side of the handwoven saree, if the design is the replica, is original otherwise not. Check for loose threads, fabric, and sharpness of design and intricacies in embroidery to verify.
Notice the grappling difference in colors of the silhouette. Power looms use synthetic colors which are quite harsh and jarring to the eyes as compared to naturally dyed colors which are locally produced by the weavers and artisans. They might not be perfect yet exude the simplicity and reflect the essence of imperfection for you to gauge.
An original handwoven saree will be incorporating Mughal motifs and patterns like ambi amru and domak which are primarily the Persian designs and can be found in several sarees. The fake sarees will not have these.
So, whenever you're off to shopping spree, don't forget to take a look at some of these trademarks, identification tricks and tips that will help you make an informed and wise decison.