Textiles, Stories of a Culture

Like biryani, India is a culmination of many flavours, each ingredient adding something unique to the recipe. Textiles play a vital role when it comes to this country’s culture, from when traders came via the Silk Road bringing fabrics and spices to the Indian Independence movement where khadi played a major role. Today many villages still thrive on the handloom and cottage industries, with artisans and weavers carrying on the work of their ancestors. 

Textiles are seen by many as material memory and are often passed on as heirlooms, the same piece of cloth being recycled and re-styled over the generations. Designs and drapes form their own language, telling tales of tradition and identity. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, every region has its own handloom, dye and embroidery techniques - Banarasi silk from Varanasi, tie dye of Rajasthan, silk-cotton woven in Madhya Pradesh, kantha embroidery from Kolkata and pashmina of Kashmir, for example.

It is rani pink that I am most drawn to. Translating to ‘pink worn by the queen’, this vibrant tone is mainly work in the north and, while it came into fashion during the Mughal period, remains popular amongst women for special occasions like weddings and festivals. Especially popular in Punjab, it’s a wonderful reminder that everything in India, even particular shades of chiffon, comes with history. 

Art of Living

I started a styling project as an ode to the colours and textures of Indian textiles and crafts and also re-thinking slow local ways of living and supporting independent cultural enterprises. Over the years I have brought back crafts, art, design objects and vintage materials from my travels. I found a way to use these at my studio. Through this project I wish to embrace diversity in our culture through materials.

Textile Crafts like Bandhini, Zari, Ikat, Block prints, Kantha, Phulkari, Pashmina, Banarasi silks and more from various cities in India are now part of my personal collection. I have also added objects made of materials like wood, leather, stone, clay, paper, metalware, cane. Other collections include patterned and up-cycled objects, blue pottery and vintage metalware, jewellery etc. Some key styling techniques used are cluster-ring and layering objects with colour palettes ranging from shades of blue to golds and nudes.

Taking forward the essence of slow mindful living, after touch, I have focused on taste, smell and sound.I created a tea and coffee corner offering different varieties fro India and a collection of Hindustani Music and Jasmine scents close to my indoor plants. Some of the sections in the studio are the library that homes indie publications and books on travel and design, Classic literature and contemporary Non Fiction. The art wall exhibits prints and postcards of artists like Tagore, Shergill, Monet, Munch, Picasso, Van Gogh and more.

Explore crafts in Delhi

Craft and textile enthusiasts have long flocked to Delhi’s National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum, as well as Dastkari Mela (Dastkari being the Hindi word for ‘made with hands’), a makeshift bazaar that invites artisans from across India to showcase and sell their wares.

Bedaubed with hand-painted Warli art murals and carved wooden doors, and boasting a bayan tree and terracotta elephant dotted courtyard, the museum is a celebration of regional art and diversity. Cafe Lota - where I’d recommend indulging in aam panna (mango juice) and dal baati (dough balls with curry) - before perusing their handloom and handicrafts collection and marvelling at the pottery, paintings and artefacts on offer from a range of states and eras. If you time your visit right you can catch one of the museum’s dance and music performances, or watch as craftspeople give live demonstrations, allowing the opportunity to buy pieces directly from the makers. 

Dastkar Mela is a true treasure trove full of kolhapuris and jutis (handmade leather shoes and sandals) silk kurta and dupattas (tops and scarves), terracotta tea cups, Ikat rugs and silver jewellery. Usually held in January, it gives visitors the chance to meet artisans, understand their process and discover their stories. You will not come back empty handed.Some Indian labels like Anokhi Jaipur, Good Earth, The Shop, Dastakar, Fabindia, Kamala retail these products that are directly sourced from artisans and made available in the city.

editsayali goyal