Weaving coloured threads and creating designs out of them needs a lot of creativity. Especially, when the fibre involved is silk, it requires a lot of patience and talent as the material needs to be handled with extreme care. Concentration, imagination, creativity to bring out credible designs and a thorough knowledge of the subject are mandatory.
Rama Balaji, a home maker, chanced upon the art of weaving threads on silk two decades ago. She learnt it well to become a teacher with Anchor and handled its embroidery classes. “What started as a hobby slowly turned into passion as I started learning Kerala murals, Warli art and arts of other States. Little did it occur to me to try these on saris until one of my friends suggested it,” says Rama Balaji.
Intrigued with the idea, Rama took up her threads and unleashed her ideas on fabric. Soon the art of Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan came to life on her saris. Swept away by her designs, creativity and style, a loom owner suggested her to develop it further and improvise it with themes and traditional paintings. He also gave her an opportunity to implement her designs on silk. Turing out such hues and designs on silk was flabbergasting and it attracted the attention of major silk traders.
Her first thematic design was a Kerala mural. Swans, peacocks, flowers and human characters such as Radha-Krishna were created all over the fabric in attractive colours. The acrylic colours lent more appeal to the saris making them look unique. About 14-15 saris were sold out in no time and this paved way for her to step into the world of designer silk saris.
She breathed life into the exclusive pieces with Madhubani, Warli and Saura designs. Warli indicates the culture of Maharasthra. The designs are dominated by black triangles and talk about various activities of the place. For instance, if the theme of the painting is harvest, the way they sow, reap and winnow are all indicated in the design. The themes swivel around marriage customs, traditions observed during a king's processions and so on. Themes can be drawn using Saura designs too but with a riot of colours and the design comprises triangles and circles. Madhubani features gods, goddess, animals, birds, trees, sun, water, aquatic animals and other elements of nature.
Apart from these, some of her other designs include fascinating flower bouquets, assortment of flowers and leaves, village scenes and etc. Pearl and metallic colours are also used by her to give the design a different hue. Generally these are used to highlight jewellery, instruments and clothes in the painting.
Asked if it is cumbersome and time-consuming, Rama says, “It is as it takes around 20-25 days to finish a huge painting in one metre of pallu.” She does embellishing work on silk salwars, blouses (neck lining) and duppatas. Rama also excels in coffee painting, charcoal, fabric painting, different kinds of glass painting, flower making, soft toys, embroidery (wall hangings, saris and blouse materials), paper quilling, parchment craft and other kinds of art work. Rama Balaji can be contacted at 2, Lal Begam Street, Triplicane. Ph: 99622 01925 / 2851 1361.