It took 25 years of basket-making for Joe Hogan to decide it was all right to create something that wasn’t useful.
“Half of what we make is for use and the other half for decorative purposes,” says the 59-year-old, a professional basket weaver from Ireland, who chose to work on natural willows rather than enter government service. He adds that 95 per cent of the baskets sold in Europe are from China.
“Some 30 years ago, most baskets in Europe came from Poland. Basket-making was their 10 largest industry, but that has now gone due to various reasons,” says Mr. Hogan, while making a basket at Kaivalam, a three-day world crafts summit organised by the World Crafts Council.
Arguing that European baskets were definitely of a better quality, he says that buyers should look at longevity more than just cost. “Chinese baskets are available at 20 Euro each and European ones cost about 80 Euro. But ours are made to last. If I make a basket it will last for 20 years. But I would give a Chinese basket about a year. If you are not using it, it may last longer. The Chinese too use willow, but they take the skin off,” he explains.
Kaivalam was inaugurated at ITC Grand Chola, and many events are being organised across the city as part of the summit. These include a crafts bazaar in Valluvar Kottam and an exhibition of textiles at Lalit Kala Akademi. A crafts expo that showcases crafts from all over the world is also on at the same venue. At the exhibition, one can interact with artists like Behzad Azhdan, who is one of the few experts in lustre pottery in the world.
“This kind of pottery was created by two families in Iran hundreds of years ago, and over the centuries, the craft was lost. But a few of us have revived it,” explains Mr. Azhdan.
There is also a stall on truck art from Pakistan. “It started after the Partition and it has now developed into an industry. So much so that if a truck is not painted, it doesn’t get much business. But those artists don’t get the respect they deserve and that required an intervention,” said Anjum Rana, who works with the truck drivers and their families.