Hands of India concentrates on lending contemporariness to weaves of the past, bringing together rare blocks and traditional embroidery

Ex-Air Force officer Ramya Rangacharya, began her passionate textile journey, now evocatively labelled Hands of India, when she dug into the archival Vastrakoti of the Brindavan temple founded by her ancestors and rummaged through tin trunks stuffed with inherited family saris. Armed with samples of vintage weaves and techniques, unusual hand block prints and fragments of antique embroidery, she travelled to weaving centres from Maheshwar to Manipur, Chanderi, Kota, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh and interacted with weavers, traditional embroiderers and block makers in far off rural locations, and through the internet. She made them partners in her mission to revive lost weaves and blocks and to create a textile synergy of weave, motif, embroidery and block print.

“Today Hands of India reaches the weaver and the artisan sitting in his village with a blue print of engagements, which we can replicate across groups,” say Ramya and her partner and sister Malyada.

Rare and innovative

Bringing together rare blocks, many of them resurrected from old collections and often translated into aesthetically embroidered motifs, revived weaves and traditional embroidery in innovative mode are what Hands of India saris, dupattas, kurta sets and Western tops are all about.

They are also about precious textile heritage adapted to an affordable and contemporary milieu. And so you have a range of embroideries, such as, Kashmir’s Sozani, Bihar’s Sujini, phulkari, kantha and chikankari in unique motifs on handlooms, such as, Venkatagiri, Bengal cotton, mull-mull, Kota and Maheshwari. There is a profusion of rare block designs translated into embroidered motifs such as the revived Keel and ostrich on Kota saris and dupattas, huge delicate flowers on Venkatagiri tops and Maheshwari saris abuzz with delicate Kantha stitchery celebrating fields of flowers, animals, etc. An exciting new entrant is Phulkari done on Maheshwaris and Kotas in ‘pat’ thread for authenticity. With its rich depiction of valleys of enchanting flowers, Sozani embroidery on Venkatagiri tops and kurtas captivate. Embroidered table linen from Kanyakumari – a celebration of European convent embroidery – is part of the Hands of India collection.

“We work with more than 30 artisan groups across India,” says Ramya. We are constantly in touch with them. We’ve launched a vintage Chanderi sari collection as well as vintage zardosi and aari work on handlooms with help from the Nawab of Lucknow,” she adds.

The Hands of India block prints are truly magical. Fields of tiny carnations and tulips, and roses and chrysanthemums give an exotic touch to a whole range of apparel and saris. The rare weaves of Puliya and Manipur saris are also part of the collection on view.

“We hope our line reaches out to Gen Next,” say Ramya and Malyada. “It is only their enthusiasm for handlooms which can save the weaves and craft traditions of the country, hopefully for the next 100 years.”

The Hands of India Exhibition is on view at CP Arts Centre, No. 1, Eldams Road, till July 8.

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