More precisely expressed as artisanic handicraft, sometimes also called artisanry, is a type of work where useful and decorative devices are made completely by hand or by using only simple tools. It is a traditional main sector of craft. Usually the term is applied to traditional means of making goods. The individual artisanship of the items is a paramount criterion; such items often have cultural and/or religious significance. Items made by mass production or machines are not handicraft goods.
Usually, what distinguishes the term handicraft from the frequently used category arts and craft is a matter of intent: handicraft items are intended to be used, worn, etc., having a purpose beyond simple decoration. Handicraft goods are generally considered more traditional work, in traditional non-industrial and transitional societies created as a somewhat more necessary part of daily life (in comparison to industrial societies), while arts and crafts implies more of a hobby pursuit and a demonstration/perfection of a creative technique. In Britain in the late nineteenth century, however, the Arts and Craft Movement was not a matter of hobbies, but of creating useful as well as creative work for people, using natural materials and traditional techniques. In practical terms, the categories have a great deal of overlap.
Handicrafts in the Indian subcontinent
The history of handicrafts in areas generally now comprising India and Pakistan is an old saga. To peep in to the traces of Indian handicrafts we need to go back almost 5000 years. The first references to handicrafts in the Indian Subcontinent can be found from the Mohen –Jo- Daro, Sindh Indus Valley Civilization (3000 BC-1700 BC). The craft tradition in India has revolved around religious beliefs, local needs of the commoners, as well as the special needs of the patrons and royalty, along with an eye for foreign and domestic trade. These craft traditions have withstood the ravages of time and numerous foreign invasions and continue to flourish till date owing to the assimilative nature of Indian culture and broadmindedness of the handicraftsmen to accept and use new ideas. Therefore the handicrafts are a mark of golden history of our country.
The Indus valley civilization had a rich craft tradition as well as a high degree of technical excellence in the field of pottery making, sculpture (metal, stone and terracotta), jewelry, weaving, etc. A lot of material information from excavations at Harappa, Mohen-jo-daroetc. Substantiate the craft tradition of the Indus valley civilization. The craftsmen not only catered to all the local needs but surplus items were sent to ancient Arabian cultures via ancient sea routes.
Handicraft is the art of creating products using raw and indigenous materials. It develops the skills and creative interests of students towards a particular craft or trade. The basic training provided in a specific craft prepares the students to become competent craftsmen and artists who can contribute to the establishment of cottage industries, thus contributing to the economic growth of the country.