A month long craft-escapade in Kutch, Gujarat

A record of my Fellowship with the UNBOX Festival anchored by CellDSGN from Jan 2nd until Feb 5th, 2012.

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I went to Kutch with a curious mind and with every new day I fell more and more in love with the passionate crafts people of kutch, their hospitality and love for sharing their stories.

 

Our goal for the month was to engage with  traditional artisans of Kutch and create handcrafted fabrics for the very hip and contemporary clientele of the Delhi based fashion brand 11.11 .

Besides the actual process of the craft, it was interesting to see how the lifestyles and ecosystem of the communities revolved around the craft they practised. An entire month with the kutchi craftsmen helped me build a comfortable rapport with them, to ask questions beyond technicals!  .

I learnt about how Jabbar bhai, Shyamji bhai and Ismail khatri’sfamilys started and sustained their practice. They also shared information on Govt loans available for them, their potential markets, competition, interests and ideas about taking their craft forward , about their families, their views on an ideal set up and working conditions, about their openness to modern designs and political views.

 

The craftsmen we associated with, were well established and in demand all over the country and abroad. It was probably their very enterprising nature, good business sense and the authenticity and beauty of their ancestral craft.  I also felt that unlike the craftsmen of Bengal, these craftsmen were not as underpaid and cheated by middlemen. A family or a member of the community itself took the craft forward as a business and the rest of the community followed or worked with them, with financial trust. These master craftsmen are also perceptive of the market and open to constant change. They have managed to meet the pace of the fashion world as well.

The post-earthquake development in Kutch is slightly disappointing. Also the concrete-spread out infrastructure and crazy rates of land are extremely alarming. On one hand the ministry of tourism of Guj is propagating Kutch as a major tourist and crafts hub, on the other hand there are badly kept museums and no attention is paid to the development of the authentic craft sector. Large amounts of land in Kutch has been sold to industries  instead of using it to develop the rich craft culture.

All said,  a winter escapade in Kutch is a must for every textile lover!Below is a photo documentation of some of the work that Durba and I did there as Unbox fellows.

 

 

 

Experiments with Marbling and Bandhni techniques at Jabbar Khatri’s workshop in Bhuj for 11.11.

 

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Contemporary Blocks designed for 11.11 to be printed by the Ajrakh Masters. Dr Ismail Khatri’s son Junaid was our master craftsman.

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Local Kutchi wool + raw silk handwoven fabric with uneven indigo lines, at Shyamji Vankar’s in Bhujodi for 11.11.

395361_10150678632480259_1384497512_nIndigo Striper Wool Silk

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