2005 - 2013

Textiles by Women 

JD Centre of Art

Handicrafts and handlooms are one of the largest employing sectors in India. The contribution of women in our society as such and in crafts in particular is unfortunately grossly undervalued.

In recent times key exponents of crafts have attempted to correct this wrongly skewed view of the world. Some of these iconic voices are: Ela Bhatt, Founder of SEWA; Laila Tyabji, Chairperson of Dastkar; Runa Banerjee, Founder, SEWA Lucknow; Jaya Jaitly, Founder, Dastkari Haat Samiti; Vijaya Rajan, Purnima Rai and Gita Ram of Crafts Council of India; Uzramma, Founder of Dastkar Andhra, amongst others. This exhibit draws inspiration from these leading ladies and brings to light some of the work done by craftspeople and textile artisans who are part of some of the organisations that these ladies have helped create. While showcasing their work we traverse across the country, grass by grass, yarn by yarn and weave together the vibrant fabric of Indian crafts. A continuing heritage that has never been as much danger as in the last 20 years. Entire communities of traditional makers are opting out of crafts and textiles to be unskilled workers or migrant labourers. What we see here are some of the rare success stories and some who have with luck and sheer determination remained true to their heritage.These photographs are part of the collection of JD Centre of Art (JDCA). The vision of JDCA is to preserve and promote traditional and contemporary art, without boundaries. It has a collection consisting of contemporary art, traditional art, craft and textile, films and publications. At the JDCA we are keen to tell the stories of the people and places behind the collection. 
Lambani Embroiderers of Karnataka
In the same village is the large exuberant gypsy community of Lambanis. The Lambani embroiderers can be easily confused for Rabaris and other counterparts in Gujarat and Rajasthan, with whom they share their heritage. Mirrors, buttons, metal trinkets, cowri shells and myriad objects become beautiful embellishments in the vibrantly embroidered Lambani textiles. The women can be seen from afar when they are in their local market, street or in their habitats.

Paru Bai embroiders a part of an blue wall panel. She is dressed in her traditional dress with mirror work and coins as embellishments.

Tippava is an experienced embroiderer and has worked at the Sandur Kushala Kala Kendra (SKKK) collective for many years.

Often when Lambani embroiderers sit together and work they share their life and sing while they work.

Lambani embroiderers at SKKK, one in a traditional dress and the other in a sari.

Paru Bai and another Lambani embroiderer.

The Lambanis love to dance and their beautiful colorful dresses create organic flowing forms as they move.

Lambani embroiderers dancing.

Lambani embroiderers at the SKKK in Sandur. The Kendra was started in 1984 through the generosity of the local Maharaja and the royal family.

Lambani embroiderers at their new cemented home.

According to mr. A. Veeranna, Secretary of SKKK: "the craftsperson, rather than the craft, is the focal point of this Kendra."

The Kendra believes that only training, developing, encouraging and compensating the artists could properly bring about the renaissance of arts and crafts and craftspersons.

The traditional Lambani blouse with buttons as embellishments.

Lambani embroiderers with their families at their house.

The Lambanis in their settlement at the edge of Sandur.

A Lambani with her shopping for the week at the local market, Sandur.

Embroiderers of Kashmir
The embroiderers of Kashmir carry the legacy of the Central Asian heritage of embroidery over the centuries into India. The refined elegance and the meditatively quiet arduous work is awe inspiring. While it is a male preserve, textile expert and entrepreneur, Jenny Housego helped bring women into this male preserve. In happier and abler past, when she left the museum world of London and Paris for Delhi, Kashmir with it’s gentle and warm people became her muse. We see the deft ari and sozni work across fabrics and apparels, in myriad colours, fit for the royals.

Khala, a master of ari embroidery, with his daughter Yasmina at their workshop in Srinagar.

Khala and his three brothers, their wives, and numerous offsprings, including grandchildren, live in what was an old village on the outskirts of Srinagar that has now been absorbed into the city.

Khadi, the fabric of freedom, has had a mixed fate since independence. It is either considered to be the fabric of the poor that needs to be subsidized so that people can buy it for cheap, or is ludicrously expensive meant of haute couture. However far from these contrasting worlds, in Sandur, is an idyllic Khadi and Cottage Industries establishment. Women spool the cotton yarn, prepare the warp and weave to create the Khadi fabric.

A young girl works on an Ambar Charkha at the Gandhi ashram, Sandur.

Lady on a loom at the Khadi Cooperative in Sandur.

Ladies on Charkha at the Khadi Cooperative in the Gandhi ashram, Sandur. Gandhi made spinning and weaving the Khadi cloth as the fabric of freedom.

A lady holds the cotton yarn as she spins it into a bobbin from a Charkha.

Winding the warp yarn on the beam, near Chinnur.

A rare sight where both the couples weave and here take a break over tea with neighbors.

Block printing
The legacy of block printing apart from small islands of printing workshops of Machalipatnam and Kutch, is largely the preserve of Rajasthan. Large textile and fashion houses like Fabindia, Anokhi and Soma have mainstreamed these crafts. We find women working shoulder to shoulder in the highly patriarchal Rajasthani society. Sunny and Meeta, started their collaboration with a family of block printers in the village of Kaladera, called Chaubundi. Funky adaptations by designers show whacky block designs take shape on the textiles, dyed in natural colours but often with chemical additives.

Hand block printing a "creeper of eyes" at the workshop of Raghunath Nama and Kalawati in Kaladera, Rajasthan.

The block printer is printing the mud resist, or daabu, as it's called locally.

A fabric is printed initially either with the dye, mordant or a fixer. After that it is printed with mud which when dyed subsequently resists the dye and so it is called mud resist printing.

The block printer has applied saw dust on the mud resist printed areas to the left side of the fabric. She continues to print with mud so that there could be white areas after the fabric is dyed.

The block printer shows the "eye creeper" block. It is incredible how a complex pattern can be made with such a simple looking block.

Kalawati stopped printing a while ago as she and her husband became entrepreneurs. Success comes with a price! Here she shows that she hasn't forgotten it completely.

Kalawati and her grandchildren sitting on a pile of freshly washed block printed textiles. One can see the white areas which would have been printed with mud.

Silk Yarn of Andhra and Telangana
As aesthetes we all love raw and tussar silk, it’s irregularities that create a muted woven pattern. However, the way the silk is drawn from the cocoon is heart-breaking. The images of women in Adilabad District of Telangana (formerly Andhra Pradesh), make apparent how the yarn is drawn from the cocoon, and rolled against their bare thighs with a little oil. The reddened thighs tell a story of hardship. In the same village, the drawn yarn, is spooled and then warps are prepared and woven into beautiful yardages of silk fabric. These are dyed due to the strategic intervention of Dastkar Andhra with natural dyes.

Raw silk drawn from cocoons is being spun into bobbins on a Charkha in Chinnur.

A lady draws silk yarn from a silk coccoon by reeling the tussar silk yarn on her thigh in Kushnapalli.

Ladies work on a simple Charka made from a thrown away bicycle wheel in Kushnapalli.

The handwoven piece here brings together contemporary design with the artisanal prowess of our traditional weaving technique. The piece was conceived as a contemporary tapestry based on the notion of monsoon. Mulberry silk was specially dyed in selected colours in Bangalore, long famous for its mulberry silk. The industrially drawn yarn was deftly handwoven into the contemporary piece depicting the monsoons.

Master weaver in a textile workshop weaves a contemporary design.

Mulberry silk dyed in different blues is woven into this complex tapestry.

The partly tapestry on the loom.

The finished tapestry is inspired by the monsoons and designed by us.

JD Centre of Art
Credits: Story

Credits: Exhibit
Collection: All media by Siddhartha Das, donated to JD Centre of Art
Script & photography: Siddhartha Das
Compilation: Anouk van de Kar
References: Laila Tyabji, 2007, "Threads & Voices"

JD Centre of Art, Bhubaneshwar

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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