The culture of hand creations

To be fair, contemporary urban Indian society has been trying its best to incorporate the do-it-yourself or DIY ethos from beyond our shores.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

CHENNAI: Do-it-yourself does not exist in the DNA of most Indians. We like things served to us on a platter. Silver, it need not essentially be, but to be served is a must. Every task in this nation has been designed to be sub leased. There is a designated professional for everything, especially if you belong to the privileged strata.

To be fair, contemporary urban Indian society has been trying its best to incorporate the do-it-yourself or DIY ethos from beyond our shores. We stand in long-winding queues, huffing down each other’s necks in carefully designed wedding halls, carrying our plates down buffet aisles. We politely smile when 5-star hotels serve our tea in parts that we need to piece together to make our cuppa. We order furniture and other paraphernalia that also come in parts which we then assemble together, religiously following printed instructions. We certainly have been trying, no doubt!

Human history has always evolved on the DIY principle. Mankind knew no other mode of survival. This hands-on activity was the only way in a world devoid of professional specialisations back in the day. Homes, tools, clothing, food — everything had to be handmade. DIY was omnipresent and an intrinsic part of human existence. History is replete with structures and monuments from ancient civilisations that stand as epitomes to DIY. The two World Wars and their aftermath further made self-reliant activities a necessity and as always, societies adapted to the prevalent context.

Art, however, has always been a do-it-yourself pursuit. It cannot be otherwise. Yet, what of those who cannot do-it-themselves? Of those who have always been fascinated by art and craft but have never attempted to even give it a try lest their imagined skills let them down? It was this need that was addressed by DIY arts and crafts kits when they were first introduced.

The Industrial Revolution from the late 18th century to the early 19th century introduced mass production. Soon, basic tools like needles, scissors and saws became easily available, paving the way for more specialised art tools like brushes and palette knives, pottery wheels and sewing machines, which gradually became immensely popular. The public could now explore their hitherto hidden creative urges, thus fuelling a market for DIY art and craft kits.

So, what were these kits? Could art be packaged in a box and sold off counters? DIY kits come in many forms; there are scrapbooks with patterned papers and decorations that can be glued intricately to create art, there are Indian art kits that focus on folk traditions like Gond art as well as numbered painting kits where colours have to be matched with their corresponding numbers on the image provided…the choices are indeed innumerable. The option of shopping online has even brought these kits from around the world to our own doorsteps.

Confined within small boxes they may be, but never underestimate your innate need for ingenuity and creativity. All that is required is a state of mind and a willingness to create something on your own. Skill is truly irrelevant. So next time you get the creative itch — just DIY !!

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The New Indian Express