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Living Crafts

Stories of people and communities practicing and preserving crafts, in the present and in the future

Living Crafts is a project that celebrates crafts and the people who continue to practice it everyday through making, reusing, repurposing, recycling and repairing. This online compilation contains craft stories told by craftspersons and communities from Bangalore, Delhi and Calcutta that are perhaps hidden in plain sight yet continue to have a deep and positive impact on our society and culture. We hope this work can make readers curious and provide inspiration for reviving, revitalising and imagining the future of crafts.

The project is a result of a collaboration between UnBox Cultural Futures Society in India and FutureEverything in the UK. Originally imagined as a project with design research and workshops in three cities in India, the project plans had to be altered due to COVID-19 in March 2020. In an attempt to adapt to completely new circumstances, we went back to asking and answering simple (but now challenging) research questions – How would we find and meet a craftsperson? When and how would we conduct research with them? How would we bring the richness of their stories to life without having a face-to-face interaction with them?


Viloo has been making and selling cheese in Kolkata for over 30 years, all the while witnessing the rapid decline in numbers of the once large and vibrant Parsi community. Their count is down to 500, but this close-knit, resilient group is far from moribund.

Mohammad Shahid learnt the skill of embroidery in Mumbai but shifted to Delhi and has been collaborating with and producing outfits for several designers. Having worked in an export house for many years, he has also spent considerable time working with technological innovations in the field.

Screen printing is the process of transferring ink onto paper or fabric using stencils, a skill that Laxmi has mastered during her years working with a printing unit in Bengaluru. Beginning her career as a trainee, she now heads the unit’s screen printing vertical, using the technique to make wedding cards, business cards, personalised T-shirts and bags.

Research process

After a series of pilots using a wide range of research tools and techniques, the Living Crafts team came to the humble phone call as our main method of conducting research. Alongside the phone interviews, the team could engage with a few people who used WhatsApp, which they used to share photos and videos of their work spaces, tools and materials. Sometimes, it was the children who were eager to record and share, seeing as they were more comfortable with smartphones and apps. These asynchronous interactions were helpful for the team to make sense of and ‘put a visual to a complex series of processes’, which till now were explained verbally. The shared images also provided context to the illustrator to be able to accurately represent a craft.

In parallel, we also interviewed expert practitioners who helped us identify potential themes for further exploration. The team used these as starting points in a speculative design exercise, to reimagine the future ecosystems of craft.

At the end of the project, printed prototypes of these stories were created and taken to a few crafts persons to seek their feedback and opinion. Read here about what worked and what didn’t.


This project was made possible by funding from the British Council under the Crafting Futures India-UK Collaboration Scheme.