World Crafts

The party’s over for world handicrafts, not for lack of skill or quality, but for lack of interest, or marketability at least.  The crafts that are a product of hundreds of years of cultural development can be run through the Western consumer-culture meat-grinder and spit out within a matter of a few years, if not months.  The best products might have a life span of ten years or so, but more than that is very rare and at a very reduced level of activity.  Ironically, while tourism can dilute traditional cultures, it can stimulate crafts production.  Little by little, the product is adapted to the tourists’ tastes to the point where it actually becomes a viable product in foreign markets.  Unfortunately it can seldom keep up with the demand for novelty required in Western markets and a once vital industry can dissipate to virtually nothing.  Hopefully there’s still something of a local and tourist market left.  Of course, by then the product has changed beyond recognition so indigenous use is out of the question.  After exposure to the whole process of tourism and mass production, their tastes may have changed beyond recognition anyway.  In some cases they may have jumped to a new level in society.  In others, they may simply have lost touch with their indigenous culture.  In still others, they might continue making knockoffs to order, generic ethnic product from the lowest bidder.  It’s no accident that some of the nicest products come from the politically most hideous countries.  Hopefully something is gained positively and permanently from free enterprise to more than compensate for whatever might be lost.