A meeting ground of creativity

Weavers working on a pitloom in the factory Photo Shailaja Tripathi   | Photo Credit: 31dmcPanipat

Last few months have been different for scores of weavers working at the factory of Raj Group, one of the oldest manufacturers and exporters of home furnishings in Panipat, which witnessed three such battles that proved to be the turning points in the history of India.

The extreme weather conditions have hardly been a deterrent. Whether it is freezing cold of winter months or unbearable heat of summers, hundreds of carpets, rugs, durries, bath mats, baskets, cushions and what not roll out of its factories every day. What have been out of the ordinary are visits by 11 artists, who roam around, seeing, understanding and finally choosing the weaving technique they want to execute their idea with.

In November this year, The Stainless Gallery on Mathura Road would showcase these works in an exhibition curated by Shailin Smith. Collaborations like these are commonplace in the world of fashion but in contemporary arts, such instances of coming together of weavers and artists on this scale, are definitely few and far between.

Artist Puneet Kaushik is known to use textiles in his work but the opportunity has made him push the boundaries even further. “I have used crochet in my work earlier but for the first time, I used tufting. This exchange has pushed both the sides. Weavers were working in a conventional manner but collaborating with us, they could experiment. A lot of inputs came from them,” says Puneet, who is making five works for the show.

One of the works, in which he has used tufting –– a popular way of making carpets now –– combines convex mirrors and steel. In tufting, the yarn is stitched through a pre-constructed backing, to form a loop. To hold the loop in place, the back is coated with latex. In another, he has woven wool on a kilim loom and incorporated steel into it.

Puneet’s association with different weaving techniques won't end here, he says. A canvas on which he experimented with hand-tufting has already been exhibited at India Art Fair this year.

For Nikhil Aphale, a designer working with calligraphy, it was an initiation into the world of textiles. He has written “Taana Baana” in Hindi calligraphy by wrapping and braiding yarn around the metal structures which are designed in the shape of Hindi alphabets.

“What I learnt from them was that anything is possible. They had a different view. What is the backside of something is like the frontside for them,” says Raman Goswami, a master weaver and head of the pit loom section, a traditional loom which is operated by two foot pedals. The weaver who has been with Raj Group since 1992 rues the fact that no young weavers are taking up weaving. Tufting still has more takers than other hand-led techniques because of tufting machine guns.

Participating artists have drawn differently from the environs. Textiles have formed a part of Shivani Aggarwal’s canvas but with this project, she goes beyond crochet. “For me, it was like a dream come true. I was so excited to see the instruments weavers use like the panja used in the kilim loom, the scissors and wooden shuttles. So, I have enlarged the panja, and crocheted it, wrapped yarn around it,” explains Shivani while working with a weaver at the factory. She is also experimenting with namda, rugs made of felted wool and cotton, a heritage of Kashmir and Rajasthan. On the compressed wool, she would be doing embroidered drawings on it.

One of the most brilliant pieces is the map of Panipat by Nidhi Khurana, who Shailin says is the only artist employing each and every weaving technique. “Nidhi did extensive research. She made numerous trips to figure out Panipat and important spots like Kalandar Shah’s dargah, museum of Panipat, the historical battlegrounds. And not just Nidhi, every artist is making numerous trips to Panipat, spending time here and absorbing things around. Depending upon the response, we would want to open the space to other artists in future as well making it a destination for such artistic affairs,” says Shailin.

What an idea!

“The idea for this project germinated from an exhibition that was done in July 2014 to commemorate 75 years of Raj Group. The works displayed in the show were fibre art pieces, designed by the team at Raj and created by the weavers. As an industry that survives on the art of creating, it is imperative to find a way to create tangible memories from a tradition that may cease to exist in the future. And while we pride ourselves as being at the centre of Panipat, where it all happens, it was important for us to find the right channel to communicate our concern and what better way than art,” says Sumeet Nath, Managing Partner, Raj Group.

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Printable version | Jun 2, 2021 11:20:51 AM |

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