For centuries Indian handicrafts have been distinguished for their great aesthetic and functional value. In ancient times, the shilpis conceptualized the intricate designs and patterns, which were crafted painfully into the temples and the objects associated with them. Apart from the temples, other handicraft items too have gained immense popularity.
Handicraft items that were patronized by the Mughal royalty show a remarkable refinement of workmanship. In these crafts the designs were very often influenced by the court paintings and miniature art derived from Persian or indigenous sources. These designs are evident in the Indian carpets, brocades, papier mache, stone inlay and so on.
Traditionally, the artists prepared the designs on paper which were subsequently executed by the craftsmen. The designs were assigned to different craftsmen according to their abilities and skill. Thus the designer or master craftsman visualized the complete design indicating the details of form, color distribution and proportion to be realized by various specialists.
The rules of iconography were written down in the ancients scriptures, namely the Shilpa Shastra. The master craftsman would first visualize the image in a particular representation, according to the rules of iconography laid down in the scriptures on stone craft, and prepare initially a model in wax or clay. This would later be cast by craftsmen, while the master craftsman executed the finer work. This combination of design ability and technical skills was a part of our craft tradition. There are however, many crafts where the craftsman both designs and executes the products himself.