Pakistan’s rich heritage of arts and crafts includes centuries old traditions of hand loom weaving and exquisite hand embroideries that are reflected in its handmade home accessories and apparel. Over time however, many of these traditional crafts have largely been marginalized by mass produced, machine-made consumer goods. The nature of arts and crafts and challenges faced by artisans also contributed to the decline of traditional arts and crafts in Pakistan. It was clear that without appropriate intervention, rural-based artisans – geographically apart from their consumers to be able to understand modern day consumers’ aesthetic and socio-cultural needs – would not be in a position to compete in the urban domestic or global marketplace.
As a non-profit organization committed to the revitalization and development of Pakistan’s craft traditions and cultural symbols into a full-grown industry that is internationally recognized and valued, IHT resolved to take on the challenge of making the crafts sector economically viable and attractive for current and future generations of artisans. To this end, IHT has adopted an inclusive and socially responsible three pronged strategy which aims to: enhance and strengthen the skills of artisans to help them create internationally competitive products; support artisans through the entire value chain and enable them to transition from rural artisans into entrepreneurs; and showcase the finest work of Pakistani artisans both locally and globally.
IHT’s intervention has shown that with access to training, materials and modern marketing techniques Pakistani artisans are able to develop the capacity to translate their cultural and artistic expression into significant economic benefits. IHT’s experience has also highlighted that in order to safeguard and preserve indigenous artisanal techniques – an integral part of the Indus Valley culture and heritage – there is an ongoing need for investment in traditional arts and crafts and the well-being of artisans. IHT has been able to achieve this objective by matching craft production to the needs of modern living: through design intervention; by serving as a bridge between the artisan and domestic and international markets; and developing artisanal skills to an economically viable level without losing its identity and essence.
The Arts and Crafts industry’s considerable contribution to a country’s GDP has been well documented. It is my strong belief that through sensitive design intervention and access to markets, both domestic and international, the traditional crafts sector can be kept commercially viable and alive.