Kashmiri crewel work on cotton bags at Craftepreneur

At the Crafts Council of India’s annual fair in Chennai, age-old techniques — from bandha to papier-mâché — get a stylish update

Indian artistes have often drawn inspiration from Kashmir’s shikaras, chinar leaves and paisley motifs. Just this year we saw Rina Singh of Eka bring out a winter collection that took shape in the quaint Aru valley. Designer Ritu Kumar recreated Kashmiri shawls in her film, No Fathers in Kashmir, while Nilofer Shahid’s latest collection, showcased at Bridal Couture Week, paid tribute to the region. And let’s not forget Rohit Bal’s couture that consistently includes delicate embellishment techniques like crewel. So, it is lovely to see said crewel work on dosoot (thick Kashmir cotton) bags in Chennai, just in time for the holidays ahead. In fact, the lineup at Crafts Council of India’s annual Craftpreneur, at Lalit Kala Akademi, explores this and other age-old techniques, giving wool, sabaii grass, papier-mâché and woodwork a delightful spin.

The crewel-embroidered basket bags and stoles with aari work come from Commitment to Kashmir (CtoK), an organisation specialising in intricate hand-embroidered cushion covers and carpets. Founded by LC Jain (former member, Planning Commission) in 2011, the group specialises in an incubation programme where mentors help artisans create products using traditional techniques, but with new-age design inputs. Project head Shruti Mittal gives the example of namda felted craft, used to make woollen carpets. It got an upgrade when designer Gunjan Jain from Odisha introduced artisan Farooq Ahmad to the Australian technique of nuno felting. This was used to fuse wool and silk, resulting in lightweight stoles. Starting from ₹1,200 (garments).

The fair, which begins on December 12, has other gems, too, and we’ve listed a few that will make for great gifting ideas this season.

Kashmiri crewel work on cotton bags at Craftepreneur

Bandha stoles at CRO Ikat

Chittaranjan, 22, from Maniabhand village in Odisha’s Cuttack district, almost turned his back on his family craft of bandha (ikat from the State). But the artisan fine-tuned his craft of tying and dyeing yarn, after Antaran, the Tata Trusts’ craft-based livelihood programme, was started in his village. In Chennai, he will showcase his latest shades of red-violet and red-pink, besides a riot of pastels, in mercerised cotton (woven in his village). Starting at ₹400 per metre for fabric, ₹1,200 for dupattas, ₹800 for stoles and ₹2,000 for saris.

Kashmiri crewel work on cotton bags at Craftepreneur

Sabaii grass baskets at Kadam Haat

Grass products aren’t new to fans of handcraft shows. But the laundry baskets, gift boxes and mats crafted with cotton, bamboo, coconut, sitalpati and moonj grass from this Kolkata-based NGO, in a muted and mindful palette, are quite inventive. A member of the Fair Trade Forum of India, Kadam Haat (an organisation with a presence in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha) trains artisans in far-flung areas to work with locally-sourced natural fibres. Wayne D’Cruz of Kadam Haat says the intervention is helping craftspeople make utilitarian products using materials they are familiar with. For instance, a cluster in Sitapur near Lucknow, which made carpets, now also makes yoga mats and table mats out of thick cotton. Starting at ₹200 for table mats and ₹2,600 for moonj grass baskets.

Kashmiri crewel work on cotton bags at Craftepreneur

Ceramics at Minimal Indian

This home-studio based out of Bengaluru — specialising in minimalist hand-painted ceramics and home textiles — is all about old-world charm. “We went on an art residency in the Himalayas, and were inspired by what we saw there,” begins Adrita Sarkar, who started the brand this April with her husband Chintan Punjabi. “We adopted the brush effect to create [botanical] motifs on ceramics,” she adds. Their block-printed home linen line has a similar aesthetic, on fabric sourced from Kotpad (Odisha), Bhuj, Bengaluru and Jaipur. ₹650 onwards for ceramics and ₹999 upwards for home linen.

Kashmiri crewel work on cotton bags at Craftepreneur

Papier-mâché furniture at Pulp Factory

About 10 kilos of waste pulp goes into the making of their V-angled sitter! Specialising in furniture and paper textiles, this brand’s catalogue boasts round corner tables, toddler chairs and functional art pieces. It all started in 2010, when founder Spriha Chokhani directed her diploma project (while at Srishti, Bengaluru) towards exploring papier-mâché as more than a craft. Soon after, she set up Pulp Factory. They work with materials that are recyclable, have a tie-up with waste paper collectors for raw material, and their moulds are reusable, explains Spriha, adding that their products “can be pulped and used in the garden; even our surface texturing is good for the soil”. The paper for textiles, however, comes from the Kagzi community in Sanganer, that has been making it for centuries. ₹3,300 onwards for bags and ₹4,000 upwards for furniture.

December 12 to 14 at Lalit Kala Akademi, Greams Road, from 10.30 am to 7.30 pm

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 3:45:50 PM |

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