Tag Archives: India

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

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Searching for Natural Indigo in India

The next day and a visit to Dastka Andhra, a project supporting and promoting hand weaving in Andhra Pradesh. We bought some samples of natural dyed fabrics and I purchased some handwoven kora (natural coloured) dupattas (shawls) for workshops next year. They will be good for both the mud resist and shibori.

Dastka samples

Dastka samples

Though hand weaving is their priority they are promoting the use of natural dyes including indigo.  Most of the indigo you come across in India is synthetic though presented as natural. Dastkar’s indigo fabrics are yarn dyed in fermented vats by a master dyer who is 90 and still working. Unfortunately, though he has taught over 300 people, there is no one to take over from him which is very sad.

I was lucky enough to  purchase some of his natural indigo to bring home. A tip I was told to test the quality of your indigo cakes. If you drop it in water they should float.  I can’t wait to experiment with different fermentation vats using this, next year

indigo cakes

Then on to Chennai and monsoon rains where between downpours I managed to buy some hand spun and woven silk before traveling down the coast to Auroville to visit  The Colours of Nature.

The founder of The Colours of Nature, Jesus Ciriza Larraona, went to Kashmir many years ago to produce silk carpets. Disappointed by the polluting dyeing methods he witnessed, he started to collect information from all over India on traditional dyeing techniques.

Eager to put his knowledge into practice he started a Research & Development Unit in Auroville, an international township dedicated to human unity, located in the south of India. The Colours of Nature is one of only few remaining natural dyeing units in the world, who are entirely focused on an environmental friendly, vegetable dyeing process. Their research in natural dyes is ongoing. Their specialisation is developing natural indigo fermentation and his dream is to develop his indigo fermentation on an industrial scale.

As well a his commitment to natural indigo fermentation Jesus has been experimenting with  other natural dyes for twenty years and claims to have a quick and fast alum mordanting process which he is keeping secret for the moment.

 

 

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