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Quality reigns supreme here

LALITHAA KRISHNAN
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SHOWCASE In Jullaaha, creativity and social commitment go hand in hand. LALITHAA KRISHNAN

One of the painted saris at Jullaaha.Photo: K. Pichumani
One of the painted saris at Jullaaha.Photo: K. Pichumani

Let’s begin with the name. “‘Jullaaha’ means weaver in Urdu. When a friend suggested it, I felt it would be the perfect name for my design studio that specialises in handwoven and handcrafted textiles,” explains Jaya Devi Cholayil. Over the years, the range has grown to encompass handlooms from not only the southern States but also the northern regions. To the extent that Jaya Devi has been requested to showcase the connoisseur’s pick of the collection in a textile exposition at Vinnyasa Art Gallery as part of the ongoing World Crafts Council (WCC) summit in Chennai to celebrate the 17th General Assembly.

A privilege that the textile curator is keenly appreciative of, when she says, ‘When I first participated in a CCI exhibition in Hyderabad, the exposure to pan-Indian crafts proved an eye-opener. The breathtaking spectrum, the high visibility given to craft persons, the sheer quality of artisanship – all these forever changed my perception, inspired fresh ideas and birthed a new design sensibility. My passion for textiles and crafts, always the driving force behind my creativity now gained a new focus. India has the world’s largest craft tradition. In many countries, crafts are relegated to the museum. But in India, they constitute a vibrant living tradition, a part of everyday life. This is due to the sustained efforts of craftsmen, craft lovers and forums such as the Crafts Council of India (CCI) and the WCC, giving a new lease of life to crafts.”

In Jullaaha, creativity and social commitment go hand in hand. “I believe a venture has to have a purpose beyond just making money. We train women from disadvantaged backgrounds in traditional craft – Indian and Indonesian Batik, silk and mural painting, block printing and Kalamkari and provide employment to them. I adopted a hands-on approach, completing a diploma course in NIFT and learning crafts from scratch to familiarise myself with dyes and techniques so that I could personally train the first batch of women. In turn, they have trained successive batches, including inmates of The Banyan and other NGOs.

“Starting out with just two women, I now have a craft team of more than 30 artisans. The happiness and satisfaction lighting up their lives from being self-reliant and generating a steady income that sustains their families, brings me great fulfilment.”

Quality reigns supreme here. Which explains why Jullaaha’s reach extends to stores across India, Dubai, the U.K. and the U.S. The rustle of tussar, whisper of pure silk, dull gleam of raw silk, creaminess of crepe, buttery glide of Chanderi silk – fine thread count and fluid drape make an independent statement. Mirroring impeccable taste the embellishment is pared down and fabric appropriate. The attention to minute detail is evident in the design vocabulary.

The Kalamkari pieces painted in natural dyes are a class apart. Even the ubiquitous mulmul sari is transformed into a show stopper with three-tone colour blocking overlaid with florals. Pure silks with brocade borders and zari butis (Rs. 8,000 upwards), Salem and Coimbatore cottons (Rs. 2,000-2,500) and silk cottons (Rs.2,500-4,500) are woven poems. Yardage, dresses, bed linen, shirts for men, hand crocheted lace, accessories such as bags and scarves also find a place in the display.

Belonging to the noted Cholayil family in which Ayurveda is both a calling and a way of life, Jaya Devi credits the fruition of her dream project to the support of her husband and parents-in-law. “Their empathy with and encouragement of my need for creative self-expression by working with eco-friendly products, fabrics and crafts has been instrumental in bringing me this far.”

Catch the exhibition cum sale at Vinnyasa Art Gallery, 1st Main Road, CIT Colony, Alwarpet, from October 5-10, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. (Sunday holiday).

We train women from disadvantaged backgrounds and provide employment to them. - Jaya Devi


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