When one uses sewing to incorporate a line on a fabric, it is much more labor-intensive than simply drawing a line with ink and yet women have embroidered fabric for ages… is it because of the more permanent aspect of it? That even if the colors were to run, the embroidery will adhere no matter how delicate, it will remain, worn and steady?
I taught myself back stitch for the sake of this project because I wanted to draw a parallel between a line drawn in ink and a line sewed into the fabric. Producing these pieces were a journey in and of itself…the repetitive careful rendition made it somewhat premeditated, yet each stitch was one of a kind tracing the contour of the figures rendering the softness and the angles in different ways. Making these works were A journey in more ways than one. My grandmother on hot afternoons would sit under the ceiling fan sewing kantha, A blanket made by layering well-worn cotton sarees with a very simple running stitch free form patterns. She never really sketched out anything, she did what she pleased and that’s how she passed her afternoons in making something creative with utility and she never thought to sign her name on any of them
I incorporated Kalamkarii folk art style into the works thus adding a layer of traditional story telling form. The borrowed motifs were drawn with a bamboo pen in keeping with tradition. “Kalamkari or qalamkari is a type of hand-painted or block-printed cotton textile, produced in Iran and India. Its name originates in the Persian, derived from the words qalam (pen) and kari (craftmanship), meaning drawing with a pen. Only natural dyes are used in kalamkari and it involves seventeen steps. Started originally in the Sasani era in Iran (almost 2500 years ago), there are two distinctive styles of kalamkari art in India – the Srikalahasti style and the Machilipatnam style. The Srikalahasti style of kalamkari(Kalankari), wherein the “kalam” or pen is used for freehand drawing of the subject and filling in the colors, is entirely hand worked. This style flowered around temples and their patronage and so had an almost religious identity – scrolls, temple hangings, chariot banners and the like, depicted deities and scenes taken from the Hindu epics – Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas and the mythological classics.”
What’s ironic is that this craft whose origin was in the Mughal world, Persia, was lovingly embraced and utilized in craftsmanship done for themes originating in Hinduism. Something to think about in the current climate of India where there are fundamentalist leaders proposing to change the name of the Taj Mahal, built by Muslim rulers!