15 Apr Meet our Master Embroiderer Mohd Gulzar Ansaari
The opportunities to work with highly skilled artisans has always made us appreciate an idea’s elusive – soulful journey to a finished product. The artisans are experienced in their crafts and are also opinionated about design. We share viewpoints, laughter, and sometimes disagreements while trying to achieve a similar outcome.
Marasim works with Master embroider Gulzar out of his own creative space. Thus, with time, Gulzar’s workplace has become our second home, and every detail about him and how he works has become an everlasting memory. The way he uses his stained but gorgeous old teapots and always sits and works by the window sill that is always half covered with an old embroidered mesh and how we make small conversations about our families, past, hopes, and our future. These relationships are the foundation of Marasim. Our collected glints of pure gold. In these unprecedented times, we are opening up our box of stories with the hope that they will inspire some hope and smiles. Gulzaar Ansari.
MEET GULZAAR ANSARI
Meet Mohd. Gulzar Ansaari an unsung hero of fashion.
Gulzar is based in New Delhi, India. Having been born and brought up in Delhi, he is a true ‘Delhiite.’ He lives there with his siblings, wife, and kids. They are a huge family and a very talented one too. Gulzar and his family have been practicing Aari and Zardozi embroideries at their home atelier for nearly 22 years. He vividly remembers his grandfather practicing these embroideries and fondly shares the memories of his mother spending hours on the hand embroidery frame. In his own words, “All of us, brothers and sisters, grew up playing around these frames and embroideries.”His first ‘commercial’ hand embroidery work was at 18, an embroidered purse that he sold for under $1. He could have made more money for his hard work. However, the hand embroidery on the purse caught the attention of a visiting designer from England. What ensued for Gulzar and his family was a series of stellar opportunities.
They got an opportunity to embroider a 100-year-old flag for Hatfield House in England. After almost 45-50 days of working day and night, they did a great job recreating the flag and earned around $3200 (nearly 17 years ago) for their work. Additionally, the same British designer offered them regular hand embroidery work for four years. As self-independent hand workers, this phase was like a dream for Gulzar’s family.
After this phase, opportunities became scarce, and the ability to work independently was challenging. The connoisseurs of genuine craftsmanship were rare, and the hourly wages offered were meager. Moreover, their fellow embroiderers were switching to masonry jobs to be able to put bread on their tables.
To escape this situation, Gulzar and his family designed their collection of embroidered bags and handcrafted accessories. They would work and stock up during the off-season and try to sell them during the wedding or festival season. But soon, Gulzar realized that ‘sales’ was not their cup of tea and they should focus on pursuing their art. Therefore, he started doing hand embroidery work for other designers.
His designer collaborations lend him new and challenging design work, which he relished solving with his extraordinary skills. Gulzar says, “There is a difference between sketching with the pen and embroidering with the needle. Suppose the designers want to create masterpieces and bring the best out of their collaboration. In that case, the designers have to make an effort to treat hand embroidery like a software technology and spend time to understand its language well.”
At 40, he feels optimistic about the future of his work, as he sees a trend for the revival of authentic hand work. He loves that the young generation values his talent and lineage and that he is approached by reputed museums, designers, students, and entrepreneurs to share his knowledge. Gulzar takes pride in his embroidery work and attention to detail. He works 10-12 hours daily, assisted by his siblings and extended family, who are also accomplished, embroiderers.
I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse of Master embroiderer Gulzar Ansari’s life. He is our biggest strength in Embroidery and a great teacher to the rest of our embroidery team.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nidhi Garg Allen is an alumnus of Parsons School of Design and Adjunct Professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is a technologist turned artisan entrepreneur and the founder and CEO of Marasim. Marasim based in NYC is committed to preserving artisanal textiles that make use of regional techniques without uprooting craftspeople from their native communities