Cross-Stitch – The inspiration for this article came from our cross-stitch expert Shobha, who joined as our first full-time cross-stitch artisan in June 2021. Shobha has been practicing this craft for the past 17 years. When she was in her twenties, she joined the training group led by father, Colombus, and has never looked back. The crafts were introduced to her village by father Colombus almost 70 years before. Father Columbus visited India through a missionary and trained women in more than 25 villages.(more…)
Afghan War Rugs: I made my first-ever Afghan friends in 2017 in India during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit co-hosted by India and the US Department of State. I remember my excitement to meet so many fellow women founders solving problems in their communities worldwide. However, I want to emphasize the challenges amidst which our Afgan women friends were building their companies were beyond our imagination. They were building their companies amidst the looming threat and past scars of ideological and military war.
Smocking: Those of us who grew up in the 1960s and the decades before then have all worn gingham dresses, very often with smocking. I know that I associate smocking exclusively with dresses for little girls. But that’s not how the craft started. In a reversal of timelines from most forms of embroidery, which have been the province of the elite, smocking began as a means to render peasant clothing practical. And this is what makes it unique among all the forms of embroidery.
In 2019 we did a lot of research and development in hand knitting, knotting, smocking, and bead-making techniques. We worked with a group of women artisans in the villages of Western Uttar Pradesh in India. Before making the trip to these villages and meeting these women, I was under the impression that these techniques are almost similar to each other and created similar looks. However, once we worked with these masters, we learned about the nuances of different techniques and various design possibilities associated with them. Together with the artisans, we co-created beautiful and chic panels.(more…)
Lace Making: My fascination for handmade laces started three years back in the summers of 2018 when I searched for artisan groups in India to help us recreate old collected laces and trims from Europe. Until then, my knowledge of high-quality handmade laces possible to accomplish in India was limited only to cotton crochet work. However, to my surprise, we found groups of women based in small villages across different states of Southern India, practicing a variety of high-skilled European lace making techniques. (more…)
Enameled Jewelry: In the story of my career, I’ve had much to do with the popularising of fashion jewelry in India. But that’s another story, which I will tell one day. For the moment, I want to start a new blog series on the various genres of jewelry, not just in India but worldwide. (more…)
Chikankari Embroidery from India – As a child growing up in Lucknow in the 1960s, I recall being dragged along to the stores when my mother and aunts shopped. Much to my boredom. Except when we went to the chikankari shops. Even as a child, I found the gossamer tenderness and transparency of the craft fascinating, and I’m not alone in this. In 1903, George Watt described it as “the most artistic and delicate form of the indigenous needlework of India.” Laila Tyabji compares it to a dragonfly wing.
If there is any embroidery that is solely in the realm of women, it is phulkari, and that too the women of Punjab. Translating to ‘flower work,’ it is vital in the history and culture of its state of origin, steeped in its history, its customs, and rites of passage ceremonies. More than any other embroidery of India, it is significant- less for commercial reasons and more for the insight it offers into women’s lives historically.
Zardozi Embroidery: There is something about embroidery that has held the world in thrall in all of recorded history. Is it the human urge to beautify and improve? Is it a stress buster? Whatever the reasons, India probably stands at the forefront of the world in terms of both the variety and the complexity of its embroidery traditions. Many of the embroideries found on garments on the international catwalks are developed in India, though this may not be known or acknowledged.
Embroideries of Kashmir: A couple of weeks back, I shared a breathtaking video made by the Google Arts & Culture Institute on the Sozni Embroidery from Kashmir. The video gathered a lot of love and likes on Facebook and Instagram.
The valley of Kashmir with its beautiful flora and fauna is resplendent with nature. Therefore the embroideries or textile designs from Kashmir have always been largely inspired by the floral beauty of the valley.