In our conservative society, which interprets the art of crocheting through the feminine prism, a 21-year-old male artist from Srinagar is weaving his way towards dignity, writes Mehroob Mushtaq.
For decades, the business class in Kashmir was dominated by men. But nowadays, both males and females are equally competing in the field, although the focus has shifted somewhat to female entrepreneurs and artists.
21-year-old Nazar Nasir alias Areez is a self-made artist who hails from Lal Bazar, Srinagar. He was schooled in Time’s Master Public School, Crescent Public School, and Govt. Boys Higher Secondary, Soura. Youngest sibling among two brothers and a sister, he is currently pursuing an IG course in English Literature from Amar Singh College in Srinagar. Apart from that, he is a self-taught Crochet, Knitting, Macrame, Paper Cutting, and Quilling artist and India’s only male macrame artist.
Way back in 2016, when Kashmir was reeling under a shutdown, Nazar accidentally came across the craft of crocheting. During the lockdown, his sister visited her aunt, who used to crochet, and she returned with a crochet hook and some yarn.
Watching his sister at work, Nazar instantly got attracted by how yarn and hooks could be used to make a fabric with few tricky movements. A blend of boredom and curiosity made him take the hook and yarn in his hands and play around with it. Nazar remembers staying up till 2 AM that night to figure out how it worked and ended up creating a tiny flower in the process.
“The hook instantly got me hooked,” he said. During the lockdown, he made a band and a hand warmer without even knowing the name and the way of the craft. It was only after the internet was restored after some months that he got around to know what the craft was called and what were all the possibilities of it. Since then, he has never stopped his quest, and in the process, he learned many new crafts like knitting, weaving, macrame, and, recently, this year, he started to learn and practice Paper Art. His next target is embroidery.
After learning, creating, and sharing many things with his friends and family, he created his Instagram handle in 2018 by the name ‘Knotty Crafts’, where he shares his work and experience with the world. Within no time, orders started to pour in, and it quickly turned into a small business. Since then, he has grown, learned, taught, and has been appreciated by many peoples around him.
After learning, creating, and sharing many things with his friends and family, he created his Instagram handle in 2018 by the name ‘Knotty Crafts’, where he shares his work and experience with the world.
“There’s no particular person who has influenced me. It’s because of many artists and people around me who have excelled in their field; be it the traditional Kashmiri craftsmen who have endured through ages and brought global fame to the Kashmiri craft or the entrepreneurs of Kashmir who have worked tirelessly to change the mindset of the society to accept what is termed ‘unconventional,’ they have all inspired me,” he said.
There is a strong social stigma that dubs crocheting and knitting as ‘feminine’ or ‘grandma’s’ craft. “Sometimes people get shocked to see a young boy practising this craft. But I believe no craft or job is associated with any particular gender, and if you are passionate enough about what you do, you will surely shut all the mouths speaking negativity, and they’ll be forced to appreciate you,” he said.
His parents have given him the liberty to pursue whatever he finds solace in; be it his academics or hobbies and passions, they have given him the freedom and supported him at every step. “Parental support and family play a very vital role in shaping up a person’s future, and I am extremely thankful for the support I have got,” he said.
Being a solo worker, it’s been hard to manage all the work required to run a small business as there are many steps involved to make the final product; from sourcing the material to making and packing and sending the product to the customer; from marketing to photography to handling all the queries to the creative elements involved, it is all demanding. Throughout these years, it has been hard for him to strike a balance between his studies and the craft he practices, “But being a freelancer, I always had this liberty to work as per my leisure as I have no higher authority to answer to. It has helped me strike a balance. I studied and worked at the same time and excelled in both fields.,” he said.
Given a chance, he would share the knowledge and experience that he has gained throughout these years with the people who are looking for ways to earn or divert their minds from the stressful life in Kashmir, “I believe a craft is not just a way to earn an honourable living but also a source of peace and solace to my mind and soul,” he said.