Crafts and Covid 19

Challenges. Opportunities. Strategy

In light of this pandemic, we are attempting to engage with leading craft organisations in South Asia to work on Horizon Scanning for what this pandemic means for the Crafts sector in South Asia, from the mid term to the longer vision of how this will play out in the months to come for craft making communities, businesses, traders, designers and other relevant and interested groups.

Speak to us if you would like to contribute your ideas and experience.

Our survey explores the challenges at grass roots as communities continue to make crafts during the pandemic. 

Survey with Craft makers

Scroll down to read what we have learnt from craft businesses, enterprises, practitioners, designers and those working in sector.


Nitin Goyal

About :
Founded in 2005 in East London, city’s hub of young creativity, Nitin Goyal London – a craft based interior & textile studio has fast established its trademark with its instantly recognisable ‘signature look’ of visually and texturally tactile fabrics using hand crafted detailing such as intricate smocking, pleating and stitching along with an interesting mix of timeless modern prints and fine embroidery for the luxury interior textiles market, catering for both commercial and residential interiors. Quality is key and therefore every piece is handcrafted from start to finish making it even more unique.
Nitin Goyal, a post graduate from NTU and an award winning British designer has experience of working in the Fashion, Textiles & Craft industry for over 18 years and constantly brings together the cultural influences from his childhood and travels around the world and combine them with his strong craft aesthetic to create modern innovative designs that are functional, new yet timeless. “Travel, art, craft, music and nature” are his muses.
Nitin brings with him a wealth of creative, business, management & marketing skills along with extensive branding, sales, media & routes-to-market experience. He has a deep understanding of the design & craft sector & international markets, and its place & value in the commercial industry.
At Nitin Goyal London, we work mainly with South Asian countries & therefore understand the regional & geographical impact on the craft very well within the South Asian countries & communities.

Covid – 19 & its Impact:
Covid pandemic has had a very adverse impact on creative industries, for example in UK, it is projected there will be a combined loss of £74billion in turnover overall. Therefore the pandemic would have far reaching negative impact on the craft people and industry along with other creative areas. The immediate impact is the huge work & job loss, predicted to be over 400,000 job losses in UK alone and this will have a lasting effect on the supply chains all the way to south & far east world.
This combined with lowest consumer confidence will adversely impact craft sector. A major factor is the cancellation of all the craft fairs and shows including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, Top Drawer besides others and without these shows the level of opportunities & direct engagement for craft artisans has considerably reduced.
Less engagement leads to less awareness, understanding & buying of the craft work.
These shows act as primary source of craft work promotion, marketing & selling.
Retail sector closure has also had a very adverse impact on the craft products & its sales and as digitisation has not yet happened fully in this sector in an organised manner, there has been a huge decline in craft sales & revenue.
The crafts people have not been able to connect with markets as well as raw materials suppliers, they have found themselves stuck in their homes, often isolated & therefore they have not been able to make/ create new work in the absence of procurement of raw materials. This combined with a sharp decline in sales has put this sector in an ‘alarming’ situation.

Recommendations :
At grassroot level, artisans need to be made aware of the importance of finding new access routes & applicable ways of digitisation and then prioritisation needs to take place to pivot & employ new ways to teach the artisans the new methods & processes of procurement, engagement and market connects.
Local governments, private & public organisations would need to invest in new channels with the help of sector specialists and look at these pivot methods. New digital platforms & marketplaces for sourcing & selling would need to be built & made accessible to futureproof the craft industry.
Sustainable crafts would become mainstream and take the winning spot. We would need to look at the craft supply chains, its visibility and ensure the products are ethically sourced & are sustainable. Experts would need to look at pivot methods and work closely with the artisans to make their craft practices sustainable without losing the authenticity & provenance of the craft itself.

It remains a big challenge as to how the craft industry can find new ways of engaging with its audience during and in the post pandemic times. The pandemic has brought to the surface this very lack of structured access routes for this sector and how in absence of mainstream digitisation, the sector remains isolated & fragmented.

Talha Ali

The national institute of folk and traditional heritage has a wide range of interest related to culture and heritage. It deals with all sort of arts, artisan, and master crafts and intents to focus on developing cultural, and creative industries throughout the country. Currently the institute has two museums, however it recognizes the need to have a country wide setup of museums and cultural complexes, which will help in collaborating with multiple actors already working in the cultural sector. With a national setup, it aims to develop a network of collaboration, assimilating research, documentation, and information which further helps other actors and activists in the sector.
The institute has the vision to stop the culture and heritage from being just a superficial display for the entertainment of the tourist, and bring it into everyday life of the masses, specially the youth. It will work with different artisans and professionals to divert the focus of the masses from the global trends back to their own culture. By engaging the common man, the institute is keen to create a living heritage which can be experienced by everyone.
Unfortunately, the craft sector was already struggling, and with the pandemic the conditions only worsen. Many of the problems we are seeing after the pandemic has existed for a long time, the pandemic managed to amplify them and bring them to the surface. One of the biggest problems in the sector is the lack of value given to the crafts. This problem can be seen even in the local language, where art and craft share a common word – ‘fun’. So, the debate remains about the distinction between arts and craft. The recognition of artist, and arts is generally very low, with very few buyers and promoters. With the pandemic, even the few admirers of the sector have stopped buying and promoting arts. The money has stopped coming all together, and with that many people have stopped practicing their art. Less skills are being transferred to the next generation because the youth are opting for something more financially rewarding, making many arts/craft endangered.
To reduce the effects of the pandemic and save the craft sector it is very important to educate the youth about our heritage and culture. Instead of valuing foreign art, the people should be able to value their own traditions and culture. This is possible by making them experience different aspects of their culture and having them accept it.
When I was a kid it was common practice to get your shoe-shined by someone else. One day my maamu showed me how to water polish my own shoe. Learning and experiencing the art of water polishing made me value it and ever since I have been shining my own shoe.
We need to utilize summer holidays and engage the children in traditional arts, crafts. They should learn different techniques and skills which will help them appreciate the artist who make traditional arts and crafts. Along with learning skills and technique, we need to teach them about their identity, what is their heritage, where do their traditions come from, and who they really are. Both type of teaching needs to go parallel, one teaching them the value of things and the other linking their identity to those values. Through these methods you can start bringing back traditional arts and crafts back into our life, increasing the demand for the sector.  

Anara Alymkulova

Institute for Sustainable Development Strategy (ISDS) established in 2012 as a public foundation by the Ministry of Justice Kyrgyz Republic with the mission to contribute to sustainable development through application of innovative and traditional approaches to the solution of environmental, social and economic problems on the local, regional and global levels. This is a new local institution that strives to bring to the forefront ideas and values of biocultural diversity, including traditional ecological knowledge and intergenerational connection. The mission of PF "ISDS" is to contribute to sustainable development through application of traditional and innovative approaches to the solution of environmental, economic and social problems on the local, regional and global levels. As a new local non-profit institution, we strive to bring to the forefront ideas and values of biocultural diversity, including traditional ecological knowledge, continuous intergenerational connection and learning. One of the objectives is to empower local communities to adapt to climate change using their traditional ecological knowledge combined with innovative practices. Anara Alymkulova, who is currently heading the organization states,
Since the crafts sector in Kyrgyzstan is heavily dependent on international tourists visiting the mountain communities, specially during the summer time, it has been badly impacted. Due to the lockdown tourists are unable to travel and there is a direct connection between the number of tourists and the number of sales. Secondly, because some part of craft products are sold in the domestic market but because of the people lost their incomes they are neither able to afford nor the handicrafts a necessity or priority, that's why the people mostly spend their income to buy food and ensure shelter. There will be lots of changes in terms of buying and business patterns after the pandemic. I feel people will take a lot of time to deal with the situation and adapt to the new world. I do believe that the craft sector will overcome the challenges of the pandemic crisis but it will need more efforts and time from the craft women in Kyrgyzstan.
I recommend that we must strengthen social media skills of local artisans to promote their craft products, at least on the domestic market, improve their design/quality of their traditional products, to think over on how to produce crafts of 1st necessity/ essential ones. We must also support and respect the Kyrgyz craft traditions/traditional techniques which is essential in contributing to a sustainable and green future (using local raw materials (wool, sheep yarn, etc. Also, the use of more eco-friendly products, organic fabrics and natural processes may become the strongest trends in the market. This will bring forward a chance for the industry to bring back a lot of processes that have been neglected.