Knotty Creative Skills
Nazar Nasir emerging as India's best known macrame, knitting and crochet artist
Twenty-three-year old Nazar Nasir, from Lal Bazar, Srinagar, stands in front of a wall of his room adorned with a macrame hanging he has weaved. He dons a burgundy sweater which has beautiful geometrical patterns weaved into it by him.
Nasir is a 'thread master', who studies literature in college and practices art at home. A self-taught artist Nasir also indulges in paper cutting and quilling, apart from crochet, knitting and macrame.
"Last I checked, I am the only male macrame artist in India, right now," claimed Nasir. In 2016, when Kashmir was locked down, he accidentally discovered crocheting and it intrigued him instantly.
"While the school was under lockdown, my sister visited our aunt, who liked to crochet, and brought back a crochet hook and some yarn," he recalled, adding , "I was immediately intrigued by the notion that all it took to make interesting figures out of cloth was some thread and a hook".
As he watched his sister jiggle the hook and fiddle with the yarn, Nasir was fascinated by the possibility of creating a lot of things if he starts learning the skill. Boredom and curiosity drove him to take the hook and yarn in his hands and play with them.
Nasir recalls staying up late till morning prayers, and learning crocheting. "That night, trying to figure out how the knots are formed into some tangible figure, I crocheted a tiny flower. I couldn't believe what my hands were holding. I had crocheted a flower and I didn't even know what this craft was called. How would I have known? There was no internet where I would have looked on and, subsequently, hone this newly found skill in me," said Nasir.
It wasn't until the internet was restored after a few months that Nasir was able to research about this craft, learn what the craft was called and what all the possibilities were. Since then, he has never left – what he calls 'serendipity' – the craft of crocheting. "This year, I began to learn and practice paper art and embroidery as my next goal," he said
Once he had somewhat mastered the craft of crocheting, Nasir began sharing his creations with his friends and family. "After I was praised by family and friends for the creativity and quality they saw in my work, I thought I should try to sell these articles online," said Nasir who then created an Instagram handle 'Knotty Crafts' in 2018. This he said was " to share my work, and whatever experience I had in the craft of crocheting, with the world".
Nasir was dumbfounded when people started praising his work. Orders for his crochet and macrame works began to pour in quickly, and it grew into a small business, subsequently. His business is now growing exponentially day by day.
When he began Nasir had no one to guide his journey to discover and hone his passion. Rather, as Nasi said he looked at traditional Kashmiri craftspersons who excelled in their respective fields, and have given the Kashmiri craft world fame. He also looked at Kashmiri entrepreneurs who have worked tirelessly to change the society's viewpoint to accept what is termed 'unconventional.
"Crocheting and knitting carry a strong social stigma of being a 'feminine' or 'grandma's' craft. People are often surprised to see a young boy like me practising this craft," said Nasir. But he believes that no craft or job is associated with any particular gender, "if you're truly passionate about what you do, you'll be able to silence all the critics and force them to appreciate".
His parents have always given him the freedom to pursue whatever interests him, be it academics or hobbies and passions. "They not only gave me the freedom, but they also supported me at every step of the way," he said.
It's been difficult for Nasir to manage all the work required to run a small business as a solo worker. There are many steps involved: from sourcing the material to making, packing, and shipping the product to the customer. Then there is the added element of marketing, photography and handling all the inquiries.
"It has been difficult for me to strike a balance between my studies and the craft I practised over the years, but as a freelancer, I have always had the liberty to work at my leisure because I have no higher authority to answer to, and this has helped me to strike some balance" said Nasir.
Once he completes his Masters degree, Nasir plans to take up the craft full time. Conducting workshops to teach people a new skill, and also give them a break from the stressful life here in Kashmir, was something he had always hoped to do, "I want to teach and engage more people to create employment opportunities for the already skilled artisans as well as for those wanting to learn this art".
"What I do is not just a skill to earn an honourable living but it also is a source of peace and solace to me. It is more than a commercialised asset to me. I am doing it because I can express my creativity through it," said Nasir, caressing a crocheted Panda.