I really hope you have enjoyed our series of blog posts on world crafts. For me, the journey was enlightening, educational and inspirational. They say that travel broadens the mind, and my world tour certainly did that. I came back so full of ideas, and it was thanks to communities and individuals everywhere I went who were so creative with what they had.
A great end to the world crafts is the final stop in Bhaktapur, Nepal. It is a small heritage town which is protected by UNESCO due to it’s beautiful old buildings, and the traditional ways of life maintained within the walls. Visiting very much felt like stepping back in time, daily power cuts and blackouts mean that you can’t rely on modern technologies, so everything is back to basics. I stayed in pottery square, where every spare space, and even the rooftops are covered in drying pottery. Around the town, I also came across evidence of other crafts being a part of daily life – such as ladies spinning their yarn in little hidden courtyards, and dyed yarns hung out to dry in the sun. Not to mention the tourist stores selling yaks wool blankets and locally screen-printed prayer flags.
Poised to spin the wheel
Helping with some yarn spinning
Dyed yarn hanging to dry
In the small lake-side town of Pokhara, Nepal, behind a shop filled with fantastic displays of bags, you will find a women’s weaving co-operative who are producing a wonderful range of materials and products.
The group set themselves apart by designing their own weaves, and they offer to create your favourite bag style in your chosen weave. Hand-made and personalised – we love both at Makery Mill.
Ladies at the looms
In the Red Fort, Jaipur, there is a room in the palace which was covered in concave mosaic mirrors, which would reflect candlelight in the evening and create the illusion of a starry night sky for the princesses. Those skilled at this craft have been sought after ever-since!
I went to visit a workshop where they design make their own glass and mirror art, and I also bought a piece to take home. Just like the stone-inlay work seen elsewhere in India, each piece is cut and filed to a very specific shape. However, instead of being positioned into marble, they are laid on top of wood, and then surrounded by plaster to hold them in place. A finish is then applied to make the artwork suitable for the outdoors (although I’m not sure they would withstand the British weather!) Each piece is unique, and some installations cover whole walls and work in 3D!
Checking the shaped glass to the design template
It wouldn’t be right to write about Indian crafts and not include henna. It is fascinating to watch a henna artist at work. A steady hand is required to use the piping bag, and a big imagination full of complimenting designs is needed to quickly decide what detail is coming next. It is rather like a doodle, but with a deliberate creativity and theme. The dye lasts for a week or so, before it starts to fade, so it is important that the wearer likes it. I was delighted with mine, and would love henna to be a more popular trend here in the UK. It is great for people like me who change their minds too often to risk the permanence of a tattoo!
I’m going to get Becky to have a go at this – her cake piping is so controlled, that I think she would make a perfect candidate for an in-house Makery Mill henna expert. What do you think?
Henna in action
The Taj Mahal, a Wonder of the World (and rightly so), is full to the brim of fantastically detailed work by local craftspeople. One of the crafts, which is kept alive today is stone-inlay work. The sought-after craftspeople spend every Friday working on the Taj itself (as sadly, many visitors still like to steal “souvenir” stones from the building), and the rest of the week they produce pieces for the home, which they sell for a living.
It is a time-consuming and sometimes dangerous craft. Each stone must be filed so precisely that fingers are often injured! The design is marked onto the marble and carved out, the stones are cut to shape, then carefully positioned into each indent. The finished pieces are fine, and particular stones will also allow light through – allowing them to be used as light fittings.
Stone inlay work on the Taj Mahal
Marking and carving the marble
Filing and fitting pieces