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Home > Profile> Prespective > Textiles > Globalization > Government > Internet
The stroke of Kalam (the Pen)
The art of Kalamkaari

Recently I visited a fabulous web site www.marimekko.fi of Finland and I found to my surprise that there is a similarity between the Marimekko Corporation and Kalamkaari Art from Kalahasthi.  Well, there is a kind of diversification and clarity in the designs of Marimekko where as the art of Kalamkaari is truly complicated and critical and still following the ancient motifs instead of trying to do some innovation with young people.

The Art of Kalamkari is one which requires meticulous effort to draw the designs with a particular Kalam ( Pen), which is said to be made out of tamarind branches. 

It's a unique art - there is no doubt about that - but the organizations and NGOs who are supporting their cause should visit the Internet frequently to inculcate the innovation and creativity by which the art can take the next ultimate step of international recognition.  Well, you may argue that it has already been recognized internationally - but my question is how this art can be made commercially viable, branded and the artists as well as the area in which they reside can become one of the hubs like thing.

Following the ancient methodology and following the age old traditions are NOT reserved for these poor but classical weavers or artists. They need to support themselves instead of standing in the line at the MRO office. 

It's the duty of the Government and the agencies to see that the art is taking a different step and the major example is Marimekko.  This organization has become a corporation to promote a sizable number of native people and the products are so stunning and excellent.

The most important thing is that the colors used by Kalamkari artists are natural and vegetable colors and dyes. And it requires a kind of project - a process of dipping, boiling, soaking, drying and washing etc - takes enormous time and skills at every stage.

This kind of process is to be followed in every process of making a saree of different kinds - whether you call it Tie-n-Dye or Batik or Silk or Varanasi Silk, Printed saree or Block printing, dying etc.,  It was there centuries back and it is still there. In those days and in the days of Persian period - the fashion ( if I may be permitted to call it or tradition) was to use the Mythological concepts mixing in divine duty of the weaver or painter. But that is not seen in any where today - and every body cry foul if some foreign company uses a motif of Hindu mythological figure in any of their products.

It's we, our people under the excuse of promoting the art and handicrafts and handlooms, we started exporting these motifs and designs depicting the mythological figures.

The visitors of Italy Rome, or Germany will find that, - where the church will have the artistic motifs - depicting the Jesus and Mary in different forms and artistic forms and particularly the "The last Supper" is one of the most famous thing - similar to our Sri Rama Pattabhishekam or Sri Krishna Leela!

Ask them whether their artists are using the same Last Supper or Mary in their present day creations?  The change is visible and stunningly positioned before YOU.

The stipends and grants will do no good for these teachers or students and artists and encouraging them towards these freebies is like making them real beggars in the long time. It's true that some where in the line, some body is making money! It's a vicious circle! The situation is like these artists or students are being treated at par with AIDS or HIV patients.



  "Watching the intricate design was an endless joy. The children's pleasure at the golden letters even before they could work out the meaning was boundless. Somehow they were always pleasantly shocked by the sight of the mat: So delicate and so consummate the artistry of its weave." - from "The Mats" by Francisco Arcellana

An initial glimpse of her designs will remind one of the islands, the lively colors seascapes merging with the intricate fabric woven carefully by the local weavers.

Her passion for textiles and the Filipino weavers' original creativity have resulted in sublime art forms that transport the soul and the mind to some form of a dream.

Young British designer Rebecca von Gyer teamed up with regional producers from Ilocos Norte, Aklan, Bohol and Davao to experiment with the Philippines' traditional hand-weaving embroidery and other creative applications of locally available materials.
Through the Design Residency Program of the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) and The British Council, Rebecca assisted traditional Filipino weavers in developing designs for export quality products for the world market.

The resulting designs were featured in this year's Manila F.A.M.E. International, the country's premier exhibition in home furnishings, holiday decor and fashion accessories held in Manila twice a year.

"I went to the provinces and see what I can do then came back again to introduce new ideas, color ideas," said Rebecca, who holds a degree in Textiles at Central Saint Martins in London and an MA in Constructed Textiles at the Royal College of Art.

"The available materials and the weaving techniques were all very individual. What I was able to do was help them in color and product range," she added.

Under the Design Residency Programme, Rebecca worked with local weavers and came up with a full range of products hand-made from local materials such as abeliloco, abaca, raffia and piña.

She partnered with local companies in her product designs for cushions, bedspreads, mosquito nets, notebooks and garments.

Some of the companies she worked with were - Nagbacalan Loomweavers Multi-Purpose Coop, Inc. and Aida Fernandez in Ilocos Norte; LP Workers' Association of Pandan, Bohol Kalidad Handicrafts, Tubigon Loomweavers Multi-Purpose Coop, Inabanga Loomweavers and Ely O. Monte Cottage Industry in Bohol; and Babatalias MNC, Astorga Handlooms Crafts and Tadeco Livelihood and Training Centre in Davao.
Other companies involved in the project were Manila-based companies namely, A Greeting Card Company, Evolve Designs, Marrieta's Embroideries, Inc. and S.C. Viscarra, Inc. as well as exporters from Aklan such as Heritage Arts & Crafts, La Herminia Piña Weaving Industry and Dela Cruz House of Piña. The project was also supported by Coats Manila Bay, Living 'n Style and Metropolitan Museum of Manila.
Having traveled to Okinawa and India where she did research on traditional crafts of dyeing and weaving as well as design fashion fabric range respectively, Rebecca said she took immense interest in the Philippine piña cloth, which she turned into mosquito nets and bedspreads with the help of local weavers.

"I enjoyed working with piña because it's more indigenous and it's unique to the Philippines."

She said, however, that the material cost can be quite expensive and could push up the price of any products.

"I still think though that there's a niche for these products because it's unique. People can pay a certain amount if the design is different. If you're doing the same thing year in and year out, buyers will never stay.

"But there's room for expensive goods, if the design is good enough. That's what I'm trying to do with the bedspreads and mosquito nets with piña."

The only limitation for natural materials like piña, according to Rebecca, is the texture once it is turned into garments.

"It can be very stiff and you have to think of what fabric to line it with. But I'm very interested in using natural dyes in the Philippines especially with piña."

The Special Setting at the lobby of the World Trade Center during the recent Manila F.A.M.E. was testament of Rebecca's creative energy and the Filipino weavers' original artistry.

Her bedspreads and mosquito nets from piña were draped over a wooden bed ... on top of an antique table were note pads with woven covers made by A Greeting Card Company, that could inspire even Virginia Woolf.

"My intention is to look for ways to develop locally available materials into export products and not just into tacky tourist souvenirs. That's why I think these three areas that should be constantly addressed - design, color and quality of the products," said Rebecca.

The barong, for example, Rebecca says, could be developed further through new colors and design ideas.

Using piña, Rebecca worked on designs for hand-woven tops in elegant colors, which "people can actually wear on occasions and not just for the show."
Among her designs were a hand-woven top with an embroidered cockfight design illustrated by Filipino artist Egat Trinidad melding local appeal and cultural sensibility and the special bead necklace by the Mandaya tribe attached on the neckline of a woven top.

Meanwhile, aside from redesigning Filipino weaving traditions, the CITEM and The British Council project was also meant to generate more jobs for the local folks.
Her residency program in the Philippines might be over but Rebecca said, "The Philippines definitely a country I'd like to come back to. Maybe next year if I get the funding, I can introduce new technology to the loom weavers."

Manila Bulletin Sat, 13 Nov 2004

Karnataka Handlooms unveils Zodiac Sarees

NT Bureau
Chennai, Nov 5:
        Priyadarshini Handlooms, a unit of Karnataka Handloom Development Corporation Limited (KHDCL), brought alive the art of weaving exquisite handloom silk cotton and polyesters by launching the Zodiac Printed Silk Sarees yesterday at its showroom in Spencer Plaza. V K Subburaj, commissioner of Handlooms and Textiles, government of Tamilnadu formally released the new product.

        Established in 1975, KHDC has over 20,000 looms, each dedicated to weaving a splendid work of art. It provides capital credit high quality silk and cotton yarn and other raw materials to skilled weavers who produce enchanting designs and textures, ranging from 'Sensuous' to 'Earthy' to 'Geometric'. These breathtaking fabrics are available at Priyadarshini Showrooms at Spencer Plaza, Anna Salai and Anna Plaza, Anna Nagar.

        The Zodiac Silk Sarees were designed with the guidance and approval of reputed astrologer and vastu consultant. Every saree has been designed each Zodiac sign Color, Flower, Symbol, Angles, Rasi signs and gems. The sarees will be available in five different colors and customers who buy sarees will be given free computerized horoscopes in Tamil, English, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam.

        The price of each Zodiac Printed Silk Saree with blouse piece is Rs 2150. Economy range of cotton sarees in Priyadarshini Showroom and furnish details of your name, birthday, birth place and you will get a computerized horoscope in the language of your choice for free.

        Priyadarshini's ambition is to give exposure to the work of its creative crafts persons and the weavers in the global market. Zodiac Sarees is all set to attract beautiful and fashion conscious women of Chennai. It also has plans to open more showrooms across the State, a press release issued by KHDC said.

ZARI  The Traditional Thread

- The Telegraph - Calcutta

It's a simple thread coated in silver and gilded in gold. And it can work wonders when intermingled with just about any kind of fabric. The luster of real zari is truly unparalleled and it's this splendor that will unfurl itself at Finesse studio in Alipore on Tuesday.

The studio on New Road is hosting Tantuvi, a one-day exhibition of hand-woven heritage saris by Mumbai-based designer Smriti Morarka between 10 am and 7 pm. The exhibition will be inaugurated by first lady Anjana Shah.

"This is my third showing in Calcutta. I have been hosting exhibitions here every alternate year since 2000," informs Smriti, whose association with the city goes much beyond her exhibitions. Sister of industrialist Harsh Neotia, Smriti was brought up in Calcutta and moved to Mumbai in 1984 after marriage.

The student of history always had the passion to do something with a "social overtone". "I belong to a family of art collectors and oil painting was a hobby since childhood. I wanted to do something using my creativity as well as give back a little to the society. But I didn't see myself actively involved in social service. So, I somehow landed up reviving the traditional weaves of Varanasi and supporting the weavers' community there," she says.

Smriti's label, also called Tantuvi, primarily produces saris and some lehngas by order. All the saris are woven in handlooms by weavers in Varanasi, using traditional elements like brocade, meenakari and jamdani, all with real zari. Brocade is a weave that intermingles gold and silver zari, while meenakari uses colored thread along with zari and jamdani is a zari version of the traditional weave used in Dhakai saris.

The fabrics Smriti uses are silks and various derivatives of silks like organza, georgette, chinon and Chinia (a particular kind of Chinese silk with a matte texture) and some cottons too. "I myself wear saris 365 days and I think the fall of a sari is most important from the wearer's point of view. So, I experiment with threads till I get the perfect fall for a sari," she adds.

For this exhibition, Smriti has worked with a lot of vibrant colours since she feels "Calcuttans like a lot of bright hues". So, the palette includes everything from reds, pinks and yellows to purples, greens and blacks. She also has a lot of thick silks in her kitty, ideal for winter.

so on display is a range of accessories that Smriti has put together for the first time on an "experimental basis". There are exquisite shoes, purses and cell phone holders, created from the same weaves as the saris. "I am not into designing accessories seriously. But I just wanted people to look at handlooms in a more comprehensive manner and understand its scope. My purpose will be served if people make use of handlooms in more ways," she smiles.

Business has been difficult for the shrinking weavers' community of Varanasi. "While the government protects certain families who are pioneers in certain kinds of weaves, there are hundreds of others who are extremely skilled, but don't get proper support. Many of the younger ones are moving on to other professions because they think weaving is no longer profitable. I am trying to expand my unit whenever possible to accommodate as many as I can," she sighs.




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