In the industrialised countries, handicrafts are popularly conceived of mainly as ethnic products with little utilitarian value. They are categorized as curios, tourist souvenirs or as items of artistic interest, but seldom as articles for daily use. This is along way from the traditions of their countries of origin, where handicrafts have evolved over centuries for very practical ends.
When handicrafts are marketed as items with functional uses, fitting into peoples life-styles – at home,at work, at leisure, etc -their narrow, restricted image immediately disappears. Their ethnic / cultural aspect is tones down, giving way to a more utilitarian image. The customer can then regard crafts in terms of floor coverings, wall hangings, room dividers, kitchen or table items, etc.
Perhaps a duel approach is necessary. For some markets and certain items, the cultural / ethnic aspects of handicrafts could be emphasized. For most export markets, however, a more functional image will be essential. In addition, one could recommend dropping of the term “handicraft” on markets where the term is basically associated with cheap curios.
ITC International Trade Centre. Handicrafts and Cottage Industries. Geneva 1991
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