Khamir, the crafts resource centre set up four years ago by Meera Goradia in Kutch (or Kachchh) in western Gujarat, had its third show of weaves in Delhi last week at the Aga Khan Hall and gave us one more reason to celebrate our jugaad genius —that superbly calibrated instinct for improvisation that comes naturally to us if we let it. You know already that Kutch has more art in its little finger in the textile, weave and embroidery department than many parts of anyway-textile-heaven India.
You also know that Kutch is a dry, arid land and therefore the cottons, silks and wools of Kutchi weaves burst with embroidered flowers, tiny starbursts and elegant geometrics, as if to compensate for Nature’s oversight. You may recall their bright, stripy brocades called ‘mashru’ that used to be the rage with dashing aunties for square-necked sleeveless blouses worn with plain chiffon saris in the days when Indira Gandhi was Sultana-e-Hind.
All the embroidery is done by Kutchi women after the day’s chores and unless we are culturally tuned out or plain allergic, no Indian can resist the sweet flower scents of bela-gulab-juhi-champa-chameli or not feel quite glad to see fields of mustard, patches of marigold and ponds of blooming lotuses. Nature shows us so much artistry here that our appreciative cultural response has been, “You do it best, we’re just having fun, drawing, stitching, colouring, to make our lives more interesting and to express feelings that we have no words for.”
That’s the particularly poignant thing about Kutchi craft: it is so full of emotion, not screaming and shouting yet with an exuberance and joie de vivre that keeps bolting over in its choice of motifs, types of stitches, laying out of patterns and colours. Hi-octane gladness, as if to say, ‘Well, God, flowers are absolutely necessary for our happiness, but you did not uncurl your fist enough to shower flowers on our bit of land, it’s clear you want us to make them ourselves.’ And they do!
The crafts resource centre has set up linkages with independent weavers and NGOs and intervenes only by way of suggesting urban gift ideas like writing sets, pouches, cushion covers and dhurries or working with some weavers on developing blends. Now the women of Kutch have gone and done something truly brilliant this year. They have made yarn out of waste acrylic and woven fabulous cushion covers out of them that feel like wool. As a recycling idea it works very well and the biggest, 24”X24” cushion covers cost Rs 390 each. A smart red muffler of fine, pure wool with fearfully subtle red-on-red embroidery is Rs 480, worth every stitch and a mor-gala (‘peacock-neck’ iridescent blue-green) pure silk sari is for Rs 8,000 while finely-woven shawls are Rs 2,500 up.
Kutchi craftsmen are also reviving mashru, which is very light and easy to wear with saris or as kurta/blouse material and they are experimenting with silk-cotton blends, taking both form and artistry forward. You can look at www.khamir.org to catch up on these textile treasures.