Technology and Craft – Frenemies?

Date: Nov 25, 2019

I may be a poster girl for all things handmade, but I do not reject new technology. New technology and artisan crafts are not mutually exclusive. They can complement each other. Their combined forces can combat environmental pollution and the decimation of communities.


Technology and Craft: Alternative Fabrics:

We know that cotton cultivation uses excessive water, chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Traditionally, jute, nettle, hemp and organic cotton have been substitutes for cotton. New technology has introduced alternatives like coffee ground fibre. Coffee ground fibre is made from coffee waste.

Bamboo is touted as an eco-fabric. The bamboo plant requires little irrigation or pesticides. It prevents soil erosion and has anti-bacterial properties. But the bamboo story does not have a happy ending. To produce bamboo fabric, the raw material goes through an intense chemical process. This involves the use of sulphuric acid and sodium hydroxide.

Commercial silk involves boiling of the cocoons with the silkworm inside. Peace silks like tasar, muga or eri silks are the sustainable, vegan options. These silks are made from open-ended cocoons. Moths leave the cocoon. The cocoons are then harvested to spin the yarn.

We are no longer limited to peace silks as alternatives to commercial silk. New technology has given us an array of fibres ranging from banana to corn and soy. Banana and soy fibres replicate the lustre of silk. Banana fibre is cheap. It comes in different strengths. Banana fibre can be used for clothing, home furnishings and rugs.

Technology and Craft: Eco Leather

Leather manufacturing has a negative impact on the environment. Effluents from leather manufacturing emit toxic fumes and pollute the water bodies. Eco-canvas and effluent treated PU can replace leather. Technological advancements in leather include pineapple leather, coconut leather and eco-leather or vegetal leather.


New technology has opened up several possibilities. We can bio-fabricate or grow clothes from mushrooms. Fabrics can mimic or imitate nature to self-clean, self – repair, and conserve energy.

Digitisation and AI

Digital printing, computer-generated pattern and marker making have minimised pollution and waste. Instant portability of computer-generated patterns has reduced carbon footprints.

Does technology kill crafts? It does not. Technology can give craftsman access to hitherto untapped markets. Artwork can be digitised for further use. Craftspersons are embracing new technology like 3D printing and laser cutting.

The solution is to strike a balance between new technology and artisan crafts. We have to introduce innovation in a manner that it does not strike at the roots of the old techniques we know and love.

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