Threads of change

Keeping traditions alive by Toda embroidery Photo: M Sathyamoorthy  

The Toda embroidery in its trademark red and black woollen threads on a white base material is instantly recognisable. It now also enjoys GI status. “It’s an exclusive work done only by the Toda women. Sadly, only a handful of them know the craft now,” says Sanjiv Sivaraman from Coonoor who is the founder of Chirpy India, an online store.

Sanjiv says it is the first online store to promote Toda embroidery. They have attempted to give a contemporary twist to the embroidery that traditionally featured on poothkulli or the toda shawl. “We have tied up with Shalom, an NGO in The Nilgiris, to work closely with the Toda women. We create contemporary products such as mobile pouches, folding shopping bags, laptop sleeves, tote bags, cushion covers, stoles, table runners and more,” he adds.

The objective is to take the art form that is exclusive to The Nilgiris across the country. And, Sanjiv proudly shares that Ira Khan, Aamir Khan’s daughter is one of their first celebrity customers. She bought a tote bag from the online store.

The motifs are often of wild flowers, mountains and the valley, all inspired from Nature. The women do not refer to a pattern or any book as they recreate the designs on the cloth. They work on the cloth on the reverse side and the patterns emerge on the front giving it an embossed effect. Sanjiv says the precise embroidery is often mistaken for a weave. “The patterns are made by counting the threads. It is the exactness of the embroidery process that lends classic elegance to designs that goes back a few centuries,” he says. He says once the demand picks up, there is scope to improve production. “It takes about 20 days to get a Toda design done on a stole. We want to encourage more Toda women and people other than the Todas to learn Toda embroidery. And, help people from abroad to learn the craft too,” says Sanjiv.

He has plans to introduce an online platform for the Irula tribes too, who specialise in glass paintings.

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Printable version | Sep 17, 2021 11:05:50 PM |

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