French Connection, Visiting Brigitte Singh
I am not a thinker, I am a doer.
So when I first came to India, I came to study miniature painting which was a scholarship by the Indian and French government. I was sensitive to things around me and because I come from a family of women who love their textiles, I was immediately drawn towards them. India is a bottomless treasure of textiles, I thought india was inspiring for any creative person. It was all very exciting.
I think india is country of many millions of artisans who are highly skilled, I would imagine half of these work in textiles i.e spinning, weaving or surface decoration. Some of these artisans come to crafts by traditional and necessity as mostly it’s in the family. In Europe people take up crafts as vocation not necessity, and here we have them in abundance. So here was a challenge as I wanted to do fine work, and firstly it was a cultural challenge. I did not have many keys to understand how people function at the bottom. For me it was an exciting discovery of this culture and the language. I am now in tune with the design vocabulary, because I fell in love with it and I was amazed when I discovered printing in jaipur, Sanganer and Bagru. I soon learnt about the trade journey between Indian and Europe and made connections that everything in Europe pretty much came from India. For me this was a start to something new, a design and culture process.
I started with what was available locally. My husband and Father in law are collectors of paintings and textiles, so I got inspiration from that. The market wanted to pay less so there was only cheap product available, as if you want a quick job then you can’t get a great product, but most times you have to pay for something that is crafted with time with better colours, cloth and better design and better tools. So when I wanted to create that, Initially the printer thought I was foolish as I wanted to pay him more. I will quote judy frater “To be a good calligraph, doesn't make you a writer” . I knew I wanted to make the finest but that meant more money.Today too, It makes me happy to do beautiful things.
Art and Design in Crafts
Art is mastery over technique and skill and design is using it in a creative vision. I don’t believe there is bad art. Some people have talent for design and some don’t. When I was 20 I asked myself, if I am an artist or not. I am grateful to life, that I have found the tools to be good at something and that adds value to my life.
Dealing with people continues to be a challenge. Going back to the meaning of Design, now people title them as designers. But design is putting things together when you have a thought with a meaning and in context. You aim at something, a projection or a vision is important as a designer. You have to learn to watch and observe and give it back with an interpretation. I feel the quality of design has not improved. People google and copy but are not responding to their surroundings. People are thieves but the difference is that you digest something and you bring out a little bit of yourself in that. I have worked with ancient designs but I have made them mine by re interpreting them with techniques. Even today I like my old designs the most, and they are being made since 35 years and they are classics. I did not bother about copyright ad people in trade can be dishonest but I have lived with it. What saved me was that I am small and I am involved in every step and look into the detail.
I am open to what my eyes can read. I am taking in from all forms of art. I am my own master, I run a small corporation and boutique business. I print only 30 meters a day, so I am like the chef in a kitchen, who does her own thing, and there are no rules to follow and I only follow my instinct. I have travelled to some places in India and Hyderabad Madhya pradesh and Kashmir inspired me the most.
Travel and Textiles
Everything is for sale, so is travel. Upper Class with a culture varnish, who want to visit my workshop come to learn. I don’t mind it as it does take the craft forward.
I am taking it by the day and In the next few years, when I stop being the chef and maybe I want to do something else, I will stop. I have come to an age where I want more space for my garden, my family and my brushes.
At our workshop, we have a water recycling unit as block printing needs a lot of water. We provide a clean and well ventilated and lit environment for the artisans.