Textile as art: Craftsmanship and ecological preservation are key nowadays | The Financial Express

Textile as art: Craftsmanship and ecological preservation are key nowadays

Indigenous textiles are as much art and craft as they are garment

Textile as art: Craftsmanship and ecological preservation are key nowadays
“We have to move away from thinking that textile is only clothing,” says curator Lavina Baldota, who is a textile revivalist, conservationist, and the concept curator of the exhibition titled ‘Sutr Santati’, which has these textile works on display.

An all-black silk zari sari in Tanchoi weft 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 that looks like the other and often different. Another constructive web of ek taar (untwisted silk yarns) in Sindhuri textile by textile revivalist Umang Hutheesingh, the founder-president of the Hutheesing Heritage Foundation, Gujarat, shines like a dupatta usually worn by brides or best decorated as wall art. A third one by ace 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” as it “injects energy to revive textiles, and can be draped by the young and the old”.

Gupta says he plans to make a fashion line out of this shawl in the near future. Hutheesingh ticks his works as wearable and décor-worthy art forms or wall art pieces created to revive age-old yarns and fabrics. All these rare metaphorical interpretations of Indian culture and society have been intrinsically woven in traditional weaving, embroidery and crafts to create products that have a global appeal. “We have to move away from thinking that textile is only clothing,” says curator Lavina Baldota, who is a textile revivalist, conservationist, and the concept curator of the exhibition titled ‘Sutr Santati’, which has these textile works on display.

“It’s a superb art installation, it looks fantastic in your home, it’s great for gifting. That’s the reason when we decided to do Sutr Santati, we asked the participants not to make garments, but to create pieces that could be used on the wall, on your body or in your house. The interventions that have happened are in the design language mainly because we wanted to move away from being extremely ornamental to something contemporary which would appeal even to the next generation and could have multiple uses, whether it is local or global. We have shown the finest of the craftsmanship in a language that could appeal to international couture houses as well,” Baldota tells FE.

Sutr Santati literally means the continuity of yarn. The exhibition is a bold display of over 100 textiles by 75 prominent artisans, craftspeople, designers, and multidisciplinary artists celebrating 75 years of Indian independence, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, through the continuum of textile heritage. It includes significant voices committed to revival of textiles like Rahul Jain, Radhika Raje, Mayank Mansingh Kaul, Purvi Patel and Gunjan Jain. Students from top design institutes like Jaipur’s Indian Institute of Craft & Design, Mumbai’s Le Mark School of Art, and The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU); and organisations including Chanakya School of Craft and Dastkari Haat Samiti, besides 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 dye chintz, phad, pichwai, patachitra and warli, among others.

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Craftsmanship and ecological preservation are key nowadays. All the textiles are created with processes of hand weaving, embroidery, resist-dyeing, printing, painting and appliqué, among other forms of yarn and fabric manipulation. The fibres employed 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 natural indigenous yarns as well as natural and azo-free dyes.

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

But this time the exhibition is different from the last one as Hampi-based creative mentor calls it “textile centric”. Several people working in the field of textiles were brought to the forefront especially during the pandemic. “I wanted to help weavers in whatever way, especially those who reached out to me and created a plan around something sustainable that remains among the designers and the consumers. Like many Indian fashion and design houses have re-skilled and re-employed workers in villages during the pandemic. They must have continuous jobs, but they also need design interventions and the narrative has to change from being very traditional to a little contemporary so that people could see them. The crafts can only survive if there is commerce,” says Baldota.

While sustainability and the circular economy have been cornerstones of the show, by using indigenous yarns, and supporting the farmers, there has been enough done to create awareness among the designers to engage in using Indian fabrics and work with the crafts people to create a design language. Natural Indian yarns and the use of natural dyes are another step towards reducing the pollution that the textile industry is known to cause in the environment. But Baldota feels whatever is good for the environment is good for the body, since it is made of the five elements.

“Going back to those practices was a challenge but we were able to push boundaries,” says Baldota, stating Telangana as the best example to revive an old ‘Telia Rumal’ design which has 99 different motifs done in ikat using not the mercerised cotton, which is currently being used but the handspun cotton yarn. Another one is Hyderabad-based textile designer Gaurang Shah who did pichwai painting in patan patola, a one-of-a-kind piece, because in patan, the patola ikat is generally done as repeated patterns. But doing a pichwai in natural dyes is a huge step and leads to promoting ikat in 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 till September 20

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