Textile as art: craftsmanship and environmental preservation are essential nowadays

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An all black Tanchoi weft silk zari saree designed by Sanjay Garg and Saranya S of Raw Mango has miniature silhouettes of a lion with its full mane and a woman, often giving an impression of one who looks like the other and often different. Another constructive canvas of ek taar (untwisted silk threads) in Sindhuri textile by textile revivalist Umang Hutheesingh, founding president of Hutheesing Heritage Foundation, Gujarat, shines like a dupatta usually worn by brides or better decorated as wall art. A third by fashion designer Gaurav Gupta is a repertoire of chakras, flowers, temples in pashmina shawl worked in collaboration with master craftsman Waseem from Kashmir. The designer calls it a “kundalini awakening” because it “injects energy to revive textiles and can be draped by young and old alike.”

Gupta says he plans to make a fashion line out of this shawl in the near future. Hutheesingh presents his works as wearable, decor-worthy art forms or wall art created to revive age-old yarns and fabrics. All of these rare metaphorical interpretations of Indian culture and society have been intrinsically woven into traditional weaving, embroidery and craftsmanship to create products that have global appeal. “We have to stop thinking that textiles are just clothes,” says curator Lavina Baldota, who is a textile revivalist, environmentalist and the conceptual curator of the exhibition titled “Sutr Santati,” which features these works. textiles.

“It’s a great art installation, it looks fantastic in your home, it’s perfect for gifting. That’s why we decided to do Sutr Santati, we asked participants not to do of clothing, but to create pieces that could be used on the wall, on your body, or in your home. The interventions that happened were in the design language mainly because we wanted to go from being extremely ornamental to something something contemporary that would appeal even to the next generation and could have multiple uses whether local or global. We showed the best of craftsmanship in a language that could also appeal to international fashion houses,” said Baldota at FE.

Sutr Santati literally means continuity of thread. The exhibition is a bold exhibition of over 100 textiles from 75 leading artisans, artisans, designers and multi-disciplinary artists celebrating 75 years of Indian independence, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, across the continuum of textile heritage. It includes important voices engaged in the textile revival like Rahul Jain, Radhika Raje, Mayank Mansingh Kaul, Purvi Patel and Gunjan Jain. Students from top design institutes like Indian Institute of Craft & Design in Jaipur, Le Mark School of Art in Mumbai and Maharaja Sayajirao University in Baroda (MSU); and organizations such as the Chanakya School of Craft and Dastkari Haat Samiti, as well as fashion designers like Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla, Gaurang Shah and Manish Malhotra, as part of the show. The works are interspersed with an array of traditional Indian textile paintings and art forms which include expressions of Gond painting, kalamkari, kamangiri, kalighat, mata ni pachedi, madhubani, natural chintz, phad, pichwai, patachitra and warli, among others.

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Craftsmanship and ecological preservation are essential these days. All textiles are created with processes of hand weaving, embroidery, resist dyeing, printing, painting, and appliqué, among other forms of yarn and fabric manipulation. The fibers used in these commissions range from local varieties such as Kandu and Kala cotton, mulberry and wild silks, camel and sheep wool, goat and yak hair created using native natural yarns as well only natural and azo-free dyes.

“The idea is to promote organic and slow consumerism through the collaborative efforts necessary to achieve such goals,” says Baldota, who presented the first of Santati’s exhibits titled “Santati Mahatma Gandhi: Then Now Next in 2018. -19”, and marked the 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth, paying homage to his progressive views on sustainability and circular industries through textiles, fashion, literature, fine art and design.

But this time the exhibition is different from the previous one as the creative mentor based in Hampi calls it ‘textile centric’. Several people working in the field of textiles have been highlighted, especially during the pandemic. “I wanted to help weavers in any way, especially those who contacted me and created a plan around something lasting that stays with designers and consumers. Like many Indian fashion and design houses, workers have been retrained and rehired in the villages during the pandemic. They need to have ongoing jobs, but they also need design interventions and the narrative needs to change from being very traditional to a bit contemporary for people to see them. Craftsmanship can only survive if there is trade,” says Baldota.

While sustainability and the circular economy were cornerstones of the show, using indigenous yarns and supporting farmers, there was enough work to raise awareness among designers to engage in the use of Indian fabrics and working with artisans to create a design. Language. Indian natural yarns and the use of natural dyes are another step towards reducing the pollution that the textile industry is known to cause to the environment. But Baldota believes that whatever is good for the environment is good for the body, since it is made up of all five elements.

“Returning to these practices was a challenge, but we were able to push the boundaries,” Baldota says, citing Telangana as the best example for reviving an old “Telia Rumal” design that has 99 different patterns made in ikat using non-the mercerized cotton, which is currently used but hand-spun cotton yarn. Another is the Hyderabad-based textile designer Gaurang Shah who made patan patola pichwai painting a one of a kind piece because in patan patola ikat is usually done in repeating patterns. But making a pichwai in natural dyes is a huge step and promotes ikat into a different art form.

‘Sutr Santati’, the exhibition, will travel to various state museums followed by a digital show. The works are currently on display at the National Museum in New Delhi until September 20.

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