Curated by Rashmi Varma
This exhibition venerates the handmade as experienced through objects of utility ranging from recent innovations to ubiquitous objects found in public and private spaces throughout India. Matters of Hand: Craft, Design, and Technique includes objects such as kitchen utensils, storage, furniture, or lighting that are imbued with thought process and an aesthetic integrity that extend from the karigars/craftspeople/designers/artists/artisans themselves. The objects demonstrate that notions of ‘craft’ move along a continuum threaded into a dynamic past and a fast-approaching future. Whether an object has been in existence for millennia or created in our contemporary time, what is included in this exhibition exemplifies a resistance to the ongoing discourse of modern vs. traditional that pervades handmade design.
The hands, the eyes, the feet, or the movements of the human body are the primary tools for ingeniously transforming precious raw materials into objects drawn from the vast Indian landscape. The very essence of these natural, indigenous materials is integral to the design, such as the pliability of katlamara bamboo, the translucency of makrana marble, the sonorous rhythm of kansa bell metal, or the regional clays that transition from earth into burnt terracotta or milk white pottery. Environmental concerns and economic resources are further explored through the use of recycled materials, namely plastic and repurposed furniture that mirror the 21st century. Lost-wax casting, weaving, metal beating, marble carving, block printing, lathe-turning, embroidering or inlaying are some of the techniques employed. Geometry, symmetry, colour, and texture reveal the inherent nature of these elegant forms and announce their presence in an increasingly homogenized world.
Some works included here have been realized through formal working relationships within a two-way system of knowledge-transfer between practitioners and other works made independently in urban and rural environments. A profound respect is shared for traditional modes of techniques and cultural expression; however some works are not driven by these methods and thereby push process and find new expression. Others adhere closer to ideas which have persisted throughout time and space demonstrating refinement and artistry, whist some objects are spontaneously designed from a lack of resources.
Design is a cohesive attitude that applies to cultural, social, economic, and environmental systems that create and define “craft” which in turn inform a way of thinking and living.
Artists: AKFD, Claymen, Avani, Chato Kuosto, Heirloom Naga, Ira Studio, Ishan Khosla, Jeenath Beevi, Kamli Devi, Meena Devi, Olivia Dar, Phantom Hands, Pio Coffrant & JIO Foundation, Rajiben Murji Vankar, Ramju Ali, Rooshad Shroff, Sandeep Sangaru, Senthil Kumar & Jaya Kumar, Shed, SEWA Lucknow, Suraj Prakash Maharana, Swapnaa Tamhane, Salemamad D. Khatri & Muskesh P. Prajapati, Tara Books, The Kishkinda Trust, Tiipoi, Venkataka Krishna, Yasanche, Zilu Kumbhar
Exhibition Design: Reha Sodhi
Exhibition Photography: Philippe Calia
Jaipur Rugs Foundation
Wool & bamboo weft, cotton warp
The name Manchaha roughly translates to “whatever you desire” - the creative direction given to rural carpet weavers who work with Jaipur Rugs. The Kalash carpet was made as part of the Manchaha series, a Jaipur Rugs Foundation initiative which nurtures rural artisans to experiment and create their own original carpet designs using excess stock yarns from their commercial production. The only constraint is the colour palette randomly assigned. In designing Kalash, Kamli Devi translated the various hues of reds and pinks into motifs representing village life. Working at home on the loom, her friend and fellow weaver Bimla Devi assisted her. Rows of kalash, ceremonial vessels, as a call for good luck, diamond motifs within squares for the snack shakarpara, and a bandhanwar, a welcoming door hanging are motifs woven into the carpet. Rajasthani textiles patterns also inform the design. Given the random blends of yarn stock, colours are used resourcefully, sometimes blending with others or utilising specifics for certain motifs. At times, specific coloured yarns have been borrowed or traded for with other artisans weaving the Manchaha series. Employing the Persian knot or the Senneh knot, hand-knotting begins at the base of the carpets and Kamala Devi worked her way up while making daily design decisions of the evolving pattern which has a very symmetrical language. Each individual knot is asymmetrically tied and hand cut with a choori to create the pile-knotted carpet. There are approximately 64 knots per square inch. Kalash is Kamala Devi’s first ever original carpet in her 10 years of weaving.
Informal or spontaneous acts of design are constantly forged throughout India given a lack of resources and daily challenges, which speaks to larger issues at hand - design, craft and human survival. Jugaad, innovative design thinking; quick problem solving with limited resources, combined with recycling and reuse, is a powerful concept as we consider our present situation and the future of this planet. Construct Deconstruct Construct, refers to the continuous cycle of reusing materials from previously functional objects to assemble new pieces of furniture; new avatars in perpetual reincarnation. Found in Goa and Delhi by Ishan Khosla, the furniture was sourced from public spaces, made and used by a variety of entrepreneurs, many craftspeople themselves. In their act of making a functional object, they unwittingly become designers. Furniture is rehabilitated by found scraps of wood, plastic, rope, and metal and hastily put together onto an existing though broken piece of furniture, almost like appendages. For Khosla, “These vernacular pieces of furniture are gestural in nature … the sitter and the seat, are in a strange sense, reflections of each other, they both represent the beauty of imperfection and the daily struggle, and that of honesty and transparency”
In response to these found pieces of furniture, Khosla, has created an object with a story rather than a prototype for a “designed” piece of furniture to be mass manufactured. Using the language of the street furniture Khosla sees this piece as a chance encounter that might or might not have happened - between a Portuguese nobleman and a Konkani fisherwoman. Or a carpenter working at a Portuguese mansion in Fontanhaas. Khosla worked in collaboration with Goa based Bihari carpenter, Komal Vishvakarma to construct this work.
With: Mukesh P. Prajapti, Salehmamad D. Khatri
Cotton, natural dyes, metal frame, handmade paper lantern, tassels
Swapnaa Tamhane’s drawing practice includes making her own paper from khadi cotton cloth to create surfaces and materiality with an embedded nature of political resistance. In tracing a through-line relationship of khadi to Ahmedabad, Gujarat (once known as the Manchester of India and home to Gandhi’s Ashram), Tamhane was drawn to the iconic Mill Owners’ Association Building by Le Corbusier with local architect Balkrishna Doshi, built in the mid-1950s. Tamhane renders Le Corbusier’s alien concrete invasion in India into a piece of soft architecture with decorative, endlessly repeating patterns. The graphic nature of the façade, the conference room, and a feature from the roof of the original building are translated and reinterpreted into three block print designs. Inside the tent hangs a handmade paper light fixture from mulched khadi cotton with a cut-out that includes the same façade design. As the building has no “hand” present, the hand is re-introduced through the lamp, the carved wood blocks by Mukesh P. Prajapati in Petaphur, and through the process of block-printing and dyeing by Salehmamad D. Khatri of Ajrakhpur, Kutch, Gujarat. The artisans are connected in their craft traced to a long ancestral lineage of block-printing, which involves a labour intensive process of scouring, mordanting, printing, lime resist printing, and dyeing the cloth multiple times in order to achieve a multi-layered repeat pattern. The structure was inspired by spaces of celebration like a shamiana, grandiose military tents from the Ottoman Empire and by the conference room itself with its sweeping ceilings like the interior of a tent.
How does one collaborate with generations of artisanal knowledge in India and ideas of existing design that engage the hand, but take take notions of “design” and “craft” into new directions? ‘Tent: A Space for the Ceremony of Close Readings is not merely a commission, nor a collaboration, but is instead, a proposition.
Bhiksa patra are alms vessels used by the monks of the Jain Svetambara sect. Hand-lathed by Kharadi craftsmen of Pipad and Pali, Rajasthan, they trace their ancestral practice of making utensils or paatra kaam back to Mughal times. The concentric nesting bowls of 1.5 mm fineness, are made in either sets of three through to sixteen, with each set of three carved by hand-lathe from a single section of rohida wood, that honours the spiritual nature of the wood and the object itself. The bowls are donated by the Jain community to the Svetambara monks to receive offerings of food as part of their non-materialistic way of life. When the bowls are no longer in use, they are broken into pieces and buried into the earth. Ayush Kasliwal of Anantaya worked with artisan Abdul Khalik to refine the overall finish, making the bowls thinner and smoother.
With; Ahmed Ali, Jeena Yakub, Julekha Karim
Pottery is one of the earliest forms of making objects for everyday use. In the Kutch region of western Gujarat, the history of pottery traces back to the Indus Valley Civilisation when pottery was used for eating and drinking,rites of passage of marriages, birth and death, as is still today. Its importance lies not only in the craft itself, but more importantly, in the social relevance of the potter or kumbhar, referred to as prajapati, lord of the people. Pottery artisan Ramju Ali, from Bhuj, Gujarat explores the idea of pottery for aam aadmi, the common man, through examples of vessels used in the everyday - bhadak and bhabbhu for water, maati for churning buttermilk, paatar for eating or kneading dough, and karsiyo for drinking water or setting curd. Each object has a distinct shape according to its purpose, which Ali has created using several techniques; ghadai, hand-forming of large objects of pottery and beating them with a faraai, a flat wooden paddle, throwing, pinching, and coiling. The slip designs using black stone color have been painted by Jeena Yakub and Julekha Khan using geometric motifs - lines, waves, hatches and fish that are characteristic of Kutchi pottery. Painting is done by rotating the vessel by one hand while applying the slip color by the other hand. The red cording around the bhadak, called guthai, was made by Ali’s son, Ahmed Ali, which helps protects it from breaking and the sun, especially when bhadaks are taken out into the fields with farmers. Over the years, the number of potters in each village has dwindled to a handful namely because making a sustainable living is challenging when pottery is easily replaced by plastic and metals, and also because the younger generation is resistant to continue with the craft.
The Kishkinda Trust
Banana stem fibre
The dried parts of the banana tree which is widely cultivated in India, is designed into banana fibre objects, ranging from baskets, mats and bags. After the stems are collected locally, they are soaked in water overnight, cut into strips and hand-twisted into a yarn, which are then hand-crocheted into the final objects. The natural colour variations in the fibre adds to the textured feel and look. The Kishkinda Trust in Anegundi, Hampi, Karnataka was established as a craft initiative to develop local livelihood opportunities for women, based on the natural ecology of the region - banana fibre and water hyacinth.
Korai grass warp, cotton/nylon weft, natural chappan dye
The Labbai and Rowther communities in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu have long made korai grass pais or mats. Softened by the water of the Thamirabarani River, the reeds are hand split into super fine strips, naturally dyed with chappan wood and handwoven on floor looms. Horizontal bands of colour, geometric motifs and florals are characteristic of the mats which are inspired by sari designs and the Bhavani dhurrie. In this work Jeenath Beevi has woven a mullai poo, a jasmine bud repeat motif into the overall design demonstrating the high level of her skill and artistry. The finest mat is equivalent to 120 thread count, giving it a superfine or silky feel and allows for text to be woven in and is often applied to mats for wedding patrons called pattu perupai, with the name of the bride and groom. On this mat, the word ‘Serendipity’ has been woven in. Beevi comes from generations old community of Pattamadai mat weavers and hopes that her children will continue the craft.
Mango wood, lacquer
The simple, evocative shape, painted glossy red makes this hand-lathed wooden sindoora graphic and striking. Like many small objects, its form is based on Hindu temples and spires, believed to transmit cosmic energies into physical spaces and objects. The sindoora was made by a community of carpenters in Dumraon, Bihar and is sold across markets in Patna, Bihar.
Tamil cuisine that is liquid based such as rasam or sambar, are imparted with a pleasing flavour when cooked in iyaam or pure tin vessels, particularly in the aduku and chombu. The venna thazi is normally used for setting curd. Historically, cookware was handmade with a variety of materials such as tin, brass, copper, cast iron and has been mostly replaced by industrially produced cookware such as stainless steel, aluminium or teflon. In Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu there are a handful of metal artisans who are still making these special vessels. Venkataka Krishna is a 4th generation artisan who hand-crafts iyaam vessels by cutting and forming sheets of tin into these shapes. Final steps of hammering and polishing are employed to obtain the unique texture and finish on the metal and each vessel is engraved with his name. Iyaam vessels, being a labour intensive process can take upto 8-10 hours to complete. The tin has a low melting point of 232 degrees celsius and can not be left empty on the heat, it needs a liquid content to prevent it from melting down.
Copper & tin alloy
Kansa, also known as bellmetal, is an alloy of 85% copper and 15% tin. According to Ayurveda, eating and drinking from kansa tablesware can play an integral role in one’s metabolism by importing iron into the body eliminating free radicals and killing bacteria. Vessels are used in everyday eating as well as for religious occasions. Suraj Prakash Maharana originates from the Kansari community in Kantilo, Odisha who have been crafting kansa for centuries. Mass produced items in steel, plastic aluminium pose a serious threat to the future of this craft and only a small number of artisans are still practicing in Kantilo and Balakati.
The molten alloy is poured into terra-cotta moulds (smeared with mustard oil) from which, small circular ingots are tapped out. The heated ingots laboriously hand-beaten by a group of 6-8 artisans in a highly coordinated manner into discs, creates a melodic sound, hence the name bell metal. The disc is continuously heated over an open fire so that it remains malleable enough to be beaten into the desired shape of objects such as the thaali, katori, handis and bela. The finishing process involves grinding, by hand and machine, to even out the edges and polish the interior. Traditionally vessels have weighed up to several kilograms, and Maharana has reduced the overall weight of each vessel to make it better designed for modern day use. The stark contrast of the golden gleaming polished metal and the near black matte unpolished surface to creates an overall striking beauty and richness.
The elegant and feminine form of the khophi basket, with its unique geometric design is a symbol of the Angami Naga man’s commitment to marry his future bride and is considered as valuable as gold. Chato Kuotsu traces his lineage to generations of Angami cane and basket artisans in Khonoma, Nagaland. Cane is collected from a nearby virgin forest and simple tools - a dao and a metal die - are used to split and cut uniform cane strips that are intricately hand-woven in a checkered warp/weft pattern. Bamboo nodes are carved to make the legs and cane strips are plaited to make the head strap. The square base of the kophi rises vertically and flares out towards the top circular frame which is formed over a bamboo mould that is later removed. This khophi represents a superior basket in regards to the tight density of its weave and smooth finish. Kuotsu is one of the very few artisans remaining working at this level of excellence.
Grass; Palm Leaf
Brooms are an essential part of our everyday lives, and are hand-made throughout India using a variety of natural materials such as grass, date palms, leaves, twigs and reeds . Made by artisans at the family-run level for mere sustenance, to micro-level businesses, the craft and technique going into each broom is unique. A variety of construction techniques are used, ranging from simple gathering, tied at one end, to a more complex process of braiding grass and rolling it into the desired shape. The basic process of designing a broom starts with procuring the strands of approximately same length. These are then formed into a bundle and tied together from one end. To increase the gripping comfort, around one fifth of the holding side of the broom is wound with thread or dried grass strips and tied. The process involves various simple tools, which are used to cut, slice or shred the base material into final lengths. Beyond its utilitarian purpose, the broom holds significant social, cultural, political and environmental value in India.
With; Bhoop Singh, Gyan Chiluvery, Shankar Singh
Aman Khanna of Claymen investigates the processes through which we struggle to restore the delicate balance missing from our lives and society at large. The use of clay, an inherently fragile material, is intended to evoke a sense of empathy, whilst hinting at the fragility of the human condition in a more general sense. In a world ruled by the normative logic of capital, where narcissism rules and commodities are fetishised, his works create a series of humble, hand-crafted objects to remind us not only of the subjective value of human relationships and human labour, but also of the social function of art and craft.
Mess is More, features cleaning accessories and supplies, perhaps amongst some of the most inconsequential objects of our time, made out of terracotta. Mundane cleaning agents represent the opposite of glory; they are readily available, cheap, plastic and discarded without much thought. Same goes for terracotta as a material, especially when used in everyday household objects such as vessels for food and drink. But by using terracotta, to create the objects, the collection aims to destabilise the way in which we assign value to certain materials and to handcraft itself. The beauty of clay is its omnipresence within time and space; pottery being one of the oldest forms of design objects created by us. In time, the clay dissolves back into the Earth, unlike plastic cleaning agents. The collection is hand-cast from two piece mounds made of actual plastic objects, using clay sourced from Haryana, just outside of Delhi and is fired at 950 degrees celsius.
Manchaha Rug Series, Jaipur Rug Foundation
Wool & bamboo weft, cotton warp
The name Manchaha roughly translates to “whatever you desire” - the creative direction given to village-based carpet weavers who work with Jaipur Rugs. The Hara Bhara Jungle carpet was made as part of the Manchaha series, a Jaipur Rugs Foundation initiative which nurtures rural artisans to experiment and create their own original carpet designs using excess stock yarns from their commercial production. The only constraint is the colour palette randomly assigned. Hara Bhara Jungle is Meena Devi’s vision of the natural environment based on the jungle scenes she has alway seen on television. Designing her very first original carpet in base hues of greys, her jungle comes to life with peacocks, elephants, rats, rabbits and florals in pops of colours in a an organic design narrative. Meena Devi used every resource to look at animals, on television, in books, on her mobile and even used the floral patterns on her bed sheet. Working at her home based loom in Karana, Rajasthan, Meena Devi has used the Persian knot or the Senneh knot, where each individual knot is asymmetrically tied and hand cut with a choori to create the pile-knotted carpet. There are approximately 64 knots per square inch. The design of the carpet comes to life with the rows of knots and she secretly hopes that her jungle will someday come alive.
Teak wood, natural cane
Bamboo, stainless steel, brass, kumkum vegetable dye lacquer
Phantom Hands, a Bangalore, Karnataka based furniture company works with a multitude of artisans and designers and commissioned Milan based furniture designers Kyoko Inoda and Nils Sveje exclusively for the Muṅgāru Series. The furniture is made by an intensive hand-crafted process with artisans from craft communities throughout India, carpenters from Rajasthan, a single family of cane weavers from Karaikudi, Tamil Nadu and wood polishers from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
Muṅgāru, the name given, is a Kannada word used to describe the gentle yet rejuvenating pre-monsoon rains that had arrived while the series was being prototyped and designed. The name aptly suits the gentle un-assuming curves of the wood, which was made by Mangi Lal. The chair and side table both use new and recycled Burma teak wood, which suits a multitude of climates, and the Assamese cane adds to the airy lightness. Cane is obtained by peeling flat strips from the outer edges of rattan reeds and was carefully hand-woven into a classic 6-way weave pattern by Thiyagarajan Haridas. The design draws inspiration in equal parts from the modernist legacy of Nehru’s & Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh and the mid-century furniture, designed namely by Pierre Jeanneret and the level of precision that Indian hand-craft offers. Pierre Jeanneret himself was inspired by local materials, techniques and objects, incorporating these into his furniture designs and a similar ethos is reflected in the Muṅgāru series.
Bamboo grows abundantly and sustainably in North Eastern India given that is one of the wettest regions on the planet. As a material, it is a way of life. Most households engage in constructing bamboo objects for everyday use including those for agriculture and fishing. Sandeep Sangaru has been working with artisans that best understand the material, both in Tripura and at his studio in Bangalore, merging craft, design and technology. Challenging the perception of bamboo as a low-brow material, Sangaru elevates the material to a lightweight sculptural form. Known for its high tensile strength and durability, these hand-made modules act like a truss, a lightweight load bearing frame structure. The structure uses the bamboo-bending method which employs a heating and cooling technique to flex the wood into the desired shape. Highlighting the form of the Truss-Me Wallscape, red kumkum lacquer is hand applied in layers, one layer a day until the desired colour is achieved, which can take upto ten layers and ten days. Wallscape is part of larger Truss-Me collection of bamboo furniture.
With: Pongben Wangsa, Lipila Sangtam, Zuthiu Riame, Jesmina Zeliang
The loin-loom, common to the tribes of the Northeastern India, also referred to as backstrap or body-tension loom is one of the oldest devices for weaving cloth. The weaver’s body is integral to the loom and weaving is done without mechanical parts. The simplest of looms, it comprises of bamboo sticks, rope and a strap that is fastened around the weaver’s waist. Weaving is strenuous and labour intensive and the maximum width encouraged is only 22”, after which panels are stitched together to make wider panels. A great deal of flexibility lies with the backstrap loom, as it can be set up anywhere quite easily - the warp beam is fastened to a wall or a permanent structure in the house, often in the kitchen (while tending to cooking), in the courtyard, or outdoors while tending to paddy fields.
Jesmina Zeliang of Heirloom Naga, works with a large community of female artisans based on a vast repertoire of geometric motifs - lines, squares, diamonds, lozenges, and colour bands, that are used on the many uncut garments worn by the 16 tribes of Nagaland. Weaving is primarily dominated by women and historically they would weave cloth for their families. As western garments replace Naga wear, the need for hand-weaving is diminishing. The context of textiles has changed with Heirloom Naga, from draped garments for the body to accessories for the home. The motifs have been translated from memory using a colour palette drawn from shawls, wrappers, scarves in whites, reds, blacks. The throw is particularly inspired by the shawls of the Konyak tribe, featuring a unique braided weaving technique called shongpong and is woven by Pongben Wangsa from Lungwa Village.
With; Rajendra Gohil
Palms move from one concave bowl to another, counting the assets through touch. In a game where hands transform into hunters and gatherers, scouting through the plains and valleys, winning is a calculated attempt to amass as many seeds of labour as possible. The movements are fast and continuous, leaving room only for strategies that arise from the gut through experience. It is the weight against the closed fist that determines the path forward.
Priyanka Shah of Shed, creates a series of elegant and streamlined board games based on centuries old games that are pan-Indian. Pallangulli dates back to the 6th -7th century AD from southern India and is still played today throughout villages. The idea of playing as a slow analogue experience combined with a hand-crafted object broadens our sense of time creating a closer connection to the hand and body. The board game is integrated with the practicality of a table and inlaid with sheesham wood on teak wood. Shah works with Rameshwarlal Suthar whose comes from a lineage of traditional Rajasthani woodworkers at their Surat, Gujarat studio.
With; Pankaj Saroj, Ranjeeta Dhal
Sabai grass, steel
Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district is home to sabai grass that has been used in making ropes for centuries by the local tribal communities. The locals source this grass from nearby forests and paddy fields to make ropes for their own cots, for tying thatched roofs and for agricultural produce. The Jiyo Foundation saw potential with the craft skill to expand it into creating other functional objects, such as stools, baskets and lampshades to generate a greater livelihood for the craftspeople, ensuring that the skill has a viable future. They began to train the community of mostly female rope-makers to weave, twist, and macrame the sabai grass into these various objects. Pio Coffrant collaborated with Pankaj Saroj of Jiyo on designing a range of stools, tables and chairs. This stool example is derived from ubiquitous baskets technically modified into seats that sit elegantly on curved steel legs. The seat structure has been hand-woven, twisted and braided by Ranjeeta Dhal into a coiled radial pattern.
Recycled videotape plastic weft, plastic bags, nylon warp
Materiality and resourcefulness are elevated to artisanal practices through the weaving of recycled plastic waste in Kutch, Gujarat. The most common method of plastic disposal in the region is by burning larges piles of plastic releasing toxins in the air. An environmental solution as well as a income generating skill for mid-level weavers, a recycled plastic weaving programme was initiated by Khamir, a platform for the engagement and development of the regions creative industries. Providing employment to plastic waste collectors, area committees, schools, and nearby industries to collect plastic waste, Khamir cleans, sorts and segregates used plastic based on its colour and quality. Cleaned plastic is cut into long strips by women from villages near Kukma. The plastic strips of different colours are woven into durable textiles; nylon is used for the warp, and plastic forms the weft, creating a thick dense material useful for mats, backpacks, or cushions. Weaving is a skill intrinsic to Kutch, and the recycled plastic is woven using a technology ancient to the region, the pit loom. Rajiben Murji Vankar, has been weaving for the past 25 years and began working with recycled plastics 2 years ago. For the Chomukh Chatai, Vankar wove the floral geometric motif, the chomukh, with white plastic bags and the shiny black surface woven with obsolete videocassette film tape. The shiny starkness of the mat reflects and contrasts with the natural landscape of the arid Kutch region, from its deserts to its salt flats, which will hopefully remain plastic free.
With; Sudershan, Puran Lal, Durgesh, Narsi
Hand-carved from single blocks of Makrana marble, Rooshad Shroff’s Marble Bulbs are a play on the traditional filament light bulb. The geometric designs sculpted into these bulbs are reminiscent of crystal glass patterns which beautifully reflect light. The creation of these light fixtures pushes to the extreme the limits of craftsmanship in its carving and hollowing techniques. The marble which is quarried around Makrana, Rajasthan is renowned for its translucent whiteness and is ideal for sculpting. The geometric designs are stencilled onto the marble bulb which is hollowed out to a thinness of 6mm so the light can filter through the intricately carved design while revealing the natural veins of the marble. Upto 50 bulbs were broken in the prototyping process. Each bulb is made by a group of marble karigars in Jaipur, led by the workshop Master karigar and his team of polishers, carvers and hollowers.
With: Abdul Kuddus, Tinku Ali, Raju Ansari, Sekh Akbar Ali, Asgar Ali, Nasreen Siddiqee, Rukhsar Khan
The humble mosquito net is reimagined as an object of nocturnal dreaminess by Olivia Dar and is elevated by two forms of craft, ari hand-beaded embroidery by Dar’s studio in New Delhi & by chikankari hand-embroidery from Sewa Lucknow in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. Moustiquaire traces back to India’s textile histories; royal patronage and traditions that have been in an ongoing cross-cultural dialogue, especially with France during the 17th and 18th centuries. During this era, Indian chintz, florals that were hand-drawn, mordant and resist-dyed onto cottons, were exported to France. When the demand for Indian chintz’s became so high, the French began to domestically produce Indian inspired prints - les toiles indiennes - to curtail imports. The design of the net also references Queen Marie Antoinette’s extravagant tastes during the late 18th century, from fine French silks woven in pastel colours, to the softest cotton muls from India.
Chikankari, practiced predominantly in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, found its patrons in the ruling nawabs of Avadh and reached its zenith during the 19th century. It is believed the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan, with her luxuriant tastes, introduced the craft to the courts in the 17th century. A delicate white on white cotton thread embroidery with a repertoire of 36 stitches rendered in floral designs, trailing stems, and fine trellis patterns, on a base of fine cotton mulmul creates the impression of lightness and sophistication. Now, cheaper versions with thick and rough stitches have become ubiquitous for chikankari, however there has been a revival of in recent years to bring back the exquisite artistry of the craft, one example being the work of Sewa, Lucknow. Ari embroidery which uses a fine tambour needle is practiced by artisans throughout India, especially in New Delhi. Both forms of embroidery involve a printing/stencilling of the motif on cloth before embroidering over.
With: Malti Devi, Munni, Godavari, Kamla ,Maya, Shobha, Rekha, Prema
In the high altitudes of the Himalayan region, wool is is a way of life. For generations, the once semi-nomadic Shauka and the Bora Kuthalia communities have been involved in the craft and design of hand-spinning and hand-weaving woollen garments, blankets and carpets. Avani, a community based creative programme has been working extensively with the Shaukas on the preservation and revival of the traditional craft of weaving, spinning and natural dyeing for a sustainable livelihood in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. The thulma blanket is handmade by a group of female artisans working with Avani, led by weaver Malti Devi. Like many hand-crafted objects the thulma is in a precarious position as synthetic blankets in bright colours are readily available and are much cheaper to purchase.
Tibetan sheep wool is obtained locally and goes through a transformative process to create a single thulma blanket. Hand-spun on the droop spindle, the wool yarn is then set on a 4-peddled frame loom and is hand-woven. Approximately 1.5 meters is woven per day, generally in long panels, which may be seamed together at later time to create a wider blanket. After weaving, it is removed from the loom and washed and brushed repeatedly to bring out the soft bushiness of the wool. Thulmas are often dyed using natural dyes - browns, yellows and pinks (or the yarn is left in its natural off-white color). In this example, natural indigo has been used to ombre dye the wool yarn prior to weaving, exploring newer possibilities of the thulma.
Copper & tin alloy, sheesham wood, brass, cork
Steeped in myth, spirituality and science, aranmula kannadi was established in the village of Aranmula, Kerala. Focusing on its technique and material nature, Spandana Gopal of Tiipoi has been working with S. Aravind Aranmula whose family has been making kannadi for 8 generations. Made of a secret copper-tin alloy, kannadi mirrors have been in the making since the 15th century. The process of casting the molten alloy in mud, using the lost-wax method, produces a 3mm thick mirror, the surface of which is laboriously hand polished using oil and water over the course of 2-3 days. Cotton and velvet are used in the final stages in order to produce a flawless reflection. Unlike regular glass mirrors in which light is refracted from the back, the kannadi reflects light directly from its surface. The direct reflection of the pristine image is regarded as more pure and auspicious.
Gopal worked closely with S. Aravind Aranmula to create the world’s largest kannadi mirror, which becomes difficult to make as the size increases. Gopal also decided to expose the uneven raw edge of the mirror, traditionally encased in ornate brass frames, which Aranmula was reluctant to. After five unsuccessful attempts, Mirror 6, a 55cm diameter surface emerged and the two mirrors shown here are a continuation of this relationship between Gopal and Aranmula.
Part of everyday life, yet rich in symbolic meaning, renderings of the sun and the moon are present in all folk and tribal art traditions of India. They are always in tune with each other. Agrarian societies keep track of time by referring to markers in the seasonal variations of the sun, moon, and the planets. Over the course of time, they have also woven wonderful stories and myths around them. Sun and Moon is a collection of unusual stories and exquisite art from some of the finest living artists, on this most universal of themes. The in-house printing studio houses 25 artisans, working on screenprinting and hand-binding the books. It takes around 3 months to produce 3000 books. Tara Books is based in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
Zinc, copper alloy, brass, copper, silver
Metals from the earth and the unique properties of soil are instrumental in producing bidri ka kaam or bidriware, an age old technique practiced since the 14th century when Bahmani rulers settled in Bidar, Karnataka of the Deccan region. Inspired from the inlay techniques of Persian crafts (possibly the first generation of artisans were of Persian descent), bBidri was developed with its own indigenous techniques and processes that became known for its unique matte black finish.
Inspired by the landscape, architecture and cultural hubs of Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Kutch, The Table Collection, draws on geometry, tone and materiality. The matte black surfaces are inlaid with three striking patterns in different materials; silver, brass and copper. The urban planning of Chandigarh in translated into a square grid, the bandhini and shisha ka kaam practices of Kachchh in a grid of dots, and the angled lines of Jantar Mantar and leheriya patterns of Jaipur.
When dipped in the boiling slurry of this mud, indigenous to the Deccan region, its chemical composition renders the zinc black. Bidri objects are hand-cast using an alloy of zinc and copper which gives the surface its distinctive part lustrous and part matte black surface. There are five stages in the production of bidri: casting, polishing, engraving, inlaying and blackening. Once the object is formed, a metal stylus is used to hand-etch the design/motif, which is then inlaid with the desired metal using either the tarkashi technique or the tehnishan technique. Bidriware was made in a great variety of shapes and sizes, including trays, cups, hookahs bases and wash basins. The Table Collection by Manasa Prithvi of Ira Studio and bidri artisan M.D. Rauf explores the possibilities of newer functional objects and their physical scale.
Palm leaf fronds
A harmonious coming together of the natural and the hand-made. The khaak is tied around the neck and protects the wearer’s back from getting wet. Mostly made in eastern Nagaland by tribal communities, this example originates from the Konyak tribe. Palm fronds are cut into strips and intricately hand-knotted on the back to create the main structure of the garment. The rain cape is ideal when bending forward during farming, keeping the back dry. Such rain capes are increasingly rare to see on the body and have been replaced by nylon, polyester and plastic raincoats. Its context is shifting from a once-worn garment in harmony with nature, to a hand-crafted souvenir item, purchased by tourists.
Bamboo, cotton cord
Environmental and sustainability concerns have led many designers to explore and work with bamboo, which grows rapidly and has a low environmental impact. Bamboo grows abundantly in North Eastern India particularly Tripura, from where Yashesh Virkar sourced his bamboo. It was Virkar’s desire to create a unique and environmentally sound piece of outdoor furniture which is often made of plastic. The curvilinear structure is made using the bamboo-bending method which employs a heating and cooling technique to flex the wood into the desired shape. Heavy cotton cording braces the seat to the legs. The Lounger construction is an example of extreme bending to force the bamboo to its greatest potential and was produced by Sandeep Sangaru’s Studio.