Category Archives: textiles

Lucknow and The Lanes

The last week of our trip was spent in Lucknow with the hospitable and generous Tandon family whom Denny has been working with for over 40 years. The family have a long history in the textile trade as merchants of the traditional Lucknow chikan. This is fine white on white embroidery which Denny Andrews has always sold in the form of beautiful kurtas and night dresses. Ramesh, who took Denny in, all those years ago, when she had heat stroke, became an invaluable friend and fountain of knowledge on Indian textiles. He  took her all over India to seek out traditional textile production and they brought the fabrics back to Lucknow to be made into clothes. Raja, his son, now leads the quest for fabrics and the production and export process.

As decisions are made and tailors cut samples in the living room, Ramesh’s wife, Preeti and Raja’s wife, Pinky look after us all and cook wonderful meals.

A visit to the Lanes is always an essential part of our visit. A series of narrow medieval streets are crammed full of life and cubby holes containing purveyors of everything from ribbon to silver, perfume to eyes of the Gods tempt you in. It is untouched by tourism and a slice of Indian life at it’s most vibrant.

I have been curious about India’s diverse and ancient culture and religions for a while and love the shrines found in nearly every shop and home. The Tandons, whose family shrine can be seen at the top of this post, kindly sent me home with a Ganesh which has been dressed with some decorations from the Lanes as a fond reminder of their hospitality and India.

Ganesh

Searching for Cloth in India

I’ve just returned from another Indian journey searching for cloth for Denny Andrews and myself in India. A trip filled with the new and old and surprises on the way Arriving in Delhi after a night flight we spent a couple of days in the hurly burley, travelling around in tuck tucks through streets filled with noise, smells and crowds.

Firstly visiting the regional Government shops including the newly reopened Khadi emporium which is a must for all visitors. It sells everything from handycrafts, clothes, soap, food stuffs and all at fixed prices.   This means you are assured a fair price and no haggling for those who are averse to this. I was on the look out for khadi silk, khadi being the hand spun and hand woven textiles and a legacy of Gandhi. There were coloured Dupion silks and the raw Matka silk though none of the lighter weights I was looking for. Then on to the highly recommended Craft Museum where there are constantly changing exhibits as well as a very interesting permanent display,shop, a very good restaurant. We were able to see a tribal art exhibition and for those who have a vision of the intricate and ornate and familiar Indian crafts would be amazed by the vast and varied tribal imagery from the paintings from Andhra Pradesh which resemble Australian aboriginal paintings in their dotted painting style to the dung grounds with rice paste images from Maheshwar.

Then a 23 hour train journey to Hyderabad.

Revisiting Siripuram the ikat village in Andra Pradesh where Denny Andrews has been buying ikat for many years. Wonderful hospitality and fabrics in a beautiful and traditional village. I have visited this village several times and seen various changes. From the pit hand looms to more power looms and an apparent  reduction in weaving. Bedspreads are still the main production here and dress fabric which Denny has always loved for her dresses and kaftans is deminishing. The weavers are getting older as their children move away and seek out work in the cities

Then on to a village which weaves silk ikat. We arrive at twilight and are seduced by the glowing colours. IMG_8502

Visiting the Masters in Kutch

I’m still working on the a new website for Denny Andrews.  The photographs of the new seasons garments and shawls remind me of last years buying trip to India.

Always an adventure, I love traveling on Indian railways. Long train journeys, often overnight  in two tier second class air conditioned.  You are provided with a paper bag containing sheets, pillowcase and towel to make your bed. Meals are brought to you and in between there are always chai wallahs and snacks being sold. Families bundle themselves into small spaces and the carriages burst with people and luggage. The Indians have the capacity to sleep on a shelf in a sari, stay amazingly still and leave the train in the morning looking serene and composed. I on the other hand toss and turn, get tied up in the sheets, look crumpled and baggy eyed and emerge from my cocoon looking, well, less than serene. Still, I believe it is the best way to travel to  experience the luxury of hours spent reading and looking out of windows at vast landscapes and the extremities of life.

After a couple of days in Delhi our first adventure was a 27 hour train journey west to Bhuj, Kutch a part of Gujarat. The purpose of this trip was to visit the Ajrak printers in Dhamadka and the weavers of Bhujodi. Gujarat has an amazing textile tradition, renowned for its printing, weaving and intricate embroidery.

The Khatri family are generations of master printers and dyers and represent the longest and finest of printing traditions in the world.  As we are shown around advice and knowledge are generously shared as I take pictures and ask numerous questions about process. Though they have been supplying Denny with wonderful block prints for years some things have changed. Synthetic indigo has taken the place of natural indigo fermentation vats and alizarin for madder. Other vegetable dyes such as pomegranate, turmeric and even rhubarb are still evident.  Myrobalan is still used for it’s tannins to mordant cotton, which with iron rust gives black. Traditional and complex methods of mordent and resist printing continue, with pastes made from lime and tree gum, tamarind and alum.  Though things are changing business is thriving.  There are concerns, however, about ground water quality and levels since the earthquake in 2001 which devastated the region. Lack of water does remain a threat to traditional dyeing practices all over India.

Back in the village we are shown new bedspreads designs, printed and dyed with rhubarb and indigo on organic cotton grown in Gujarat. Hand printed fabrics in indigo, Indian red and Kasis (iron and tannin) are chosen for suits, dresses and shirts.  They show us printing on both organic and non organic cotton and explain how the organic cotton seems to improve the take up of dyes and intensify the colours. After a very informative and productive day and a  lunch of chciken, goat and vegetable curries with rotis seated on the floor of the office we leave with our bundle of sample fabrics and cotton stoles.

The next day a drive to Bhujodi to visit master weavers and choose shawls and stoles. We are shown yarn dyed this time in indigo fermentation vats in the ground . They are kept to an even temperature by burying the vats in goat dung which keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The master weaver noticed a shawl that Denny was wearing. One which she bought in 1996. He recognized it as his work and so a wonderful reunion took place followed by a celebration meal seated on the floor of his home. Wonderful hospitality in such a beautiful place.

A visit to the legendary, Mr Wazir, who shows his amazing collection of textiles to those who share his passion and might help him with his dream of opening a museum.

Mr Wazir

Mr Wazir

Next day we head off on the 12. 25 for the next18 hour train journey of books, twisted sheets, calls of the chai wallahs walking the corridors and food sellers calling “ommelit, cutlit “. In the morning the Pink city awaits.