Fashion

When craft gets a new language

Shilpi, Jaipur

Sanganeri textiles and hand-block prints

The beginning: Brij B Udaiwal, 52, is the fifth generation in his family to take up block printing. He assisted his father Madaolal Udaiwal from when he was 12. When he began, the family was involved in creating safas, turbans and pichwais, besides regular block prints.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: While it devotes time and effort to keep alive his ancestors’ work — mainly on orders from royal families — Shilpi has diversified into wearables and high-fashion, courtesy the younger members of the family. Work has gone into bettering dyeing processes too. The family sources natural indigo from Sawai Madhopur near Ranathambore National Park and also works with diverse fabrics such as modal and banana, bamboo and hibiscus fibre, besides cotton, kota and silk. The motifs have seen a sea change too — from bootis featuring soldiers and jaal, they now include geometry and abstracts.

M Pandaraiah, Puttapaka/Hyderabad

Gadwal and telia rumal saris

The beginning: Pandaraiah’s father and grandfather set the stage for him to become the third generation weaver in the family, despite a Master’s in zoology. He’s 54 now, and has been working for three decades. He started at a time when entire families would weave — the husband and wife would sit together in a pit loom and create gorgeous cotton fabric. Nine years ago, he was asked to help revive the telia rumal weave, known for its innate beauty and intricacy, and dating back to the early 19th Century.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: Twelve families work with Pandaraiah in Puttapaka, and one of them, Muthayalu Gajam, won the National Award in 2016 for a telia rumal (in photo) sari in the traditional shades of maroon, black and white. Despite the heavy demand, Pandaraiah has decided to stick to age-old techniques. Three looms out of 15 have been devoted to the telia rumal.

Soham Dave, Ahmedabad

Weaving and dyeing, reinterpreted

The beginning: Growing up in a small town in Gujarat meant that Soham Dave was constantly in touch with weavers and their traditions. It shaped the way he viewed fashion, he says, pointing out that traditionally, weaving is a rooted, sustainable process that leaves behind a minimal carbon footprint. An engineer, Dave, went on to study at NIFT, Delhi and later at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: Dave began his eponymous label in 2011 in New York, soon after graduating there. Both his origins and his multiple exposures are reflected in the clothes he designs. So while there is restraint in the collection (muted colours, minimalist designs and clean, unfussy cuts), Dave uses very traditional textiles and techniques to create it. “I design for the environmentally-conscious global consumer but I don’t compromise on the rooted, sustainability of traditional practices,” he says.

Marm, Delhi

Chanderi with a twist

The beginning: As a child growing up in the sacred city of Benares, Anoop Rai would often sit beside the Ganga ghats painting. “I always wanted to study design or art,” says Rai, who went on to graduate from Benares University and then joined NIFT, Delhi. It was at NIFT that he first encountered the Chanderi weavers of Madhya Pradesh. “I did my graduation project on the Chanderi and Maheswari weavers,” says Rai, who went on to work with an export house and then a design studio, before starting Marm in 2011.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: Marm means essence in Sanskrit. And that is what his collection is about — reinterpreting Madhya Pradesh’s Chanderi weave without impacting its essential identity. “I don’t touch the warp, for instance,” he says, pointing out that his design intervention comes in by changing the weft count or replacing the cotton of the weft with linen. He also plays with colour palette and uses a lot of contemporary motifs though he hasn’t yet given up on the regular bootis and rudraksh prints. “I want to keep the balance between contemporary and traditional,” he says.

MURA Collective, Delhi

Shibori: Japanese technique, Indian soul

The beginning: Kusum G Tiwari and Prabha Gahtori have always loved tie-dye fabrics. “The MURA Collective was started in 1998 as an organisation committed to exploring the use of natural dyes,” says Gahtori. They started with Ikat, before a chance meeting between Kusum and Prof Gulrajani, the then head of the Textile Technology department in IIT Delhi, introduced them to Japan’s shibori technique. Shibori is a form of tie and dye in which the fabric is folded, pleated, tied or stitched in different ways to achieve various designs, she says. Ever since, there has been no looking back.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: Mobilising local women from the village of Neb Sarai, the collective creates shibori that combines traditional techniques with more inventive stitch resist techniques. “The main focus is on exploring complex and artistic visual textures,” she says, adding that shibori motifs combined with the intricate and shaded detailing on the fabric surface are the compelling features of their designs. “We now occupy a very specific niche in the textile world,” she says.

Gamthiwala Textiles, Ahmedabad

Ajrakh fabrics

The beginning: Since 1958, the family has been involved in the art form called ajrakh that has graced innumerable fabrics and turned into wearable art of sorts. Salmanbhai, 35, started working in 2003 with his brothers Zuberbhai and Umarbhai, carrying forward the family tradition.

When craft gets a new language
 

Today: The brothers stock ajrakh fabrics in a riot of colours, besides indigo and madder. The design blocks have increased in number too, and runs into nearly 100. What Salmanbhai has done is stick to old designs, but space them out and render some boldly, so that they stand out. But, his vote is to stick to traditional patterns and colour schemes. “There is a permanency about them. They will never go out of fashion.”

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2021 5:06:04 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/fashion/six-artisansdesigners-working-to-preserve-their-craft/article17907853.ece

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