Sunday, 23 December 2012

Safely gathered in

Above - burnished indigo-dyed hemp paper and 100% cotton rag squares with 4 deckle edges
Below - burnished catechu-dyed hemp paper and a variety of papers incorporating grass, seeds, straw
Most of my pre-Christmas chores are done and I am itching to get started on new work. I have built up a stash of handmade papers from various sources and selected a few space-dyed threads to experiment with. 
Perhaps I'll even have something to show you in a week or two.
First, though, there are a few festive events to enjoy and a glass or two of port to savour!
If you are celebrating too, I wish you a very happy time. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Plans for February

I am really pleased with how February is shaping up.  The month is all about working on the projects we have each devised so Jeni and I will be going our separate ways for much of the time.

The discoveries I made in October about khadi and several other 'k's have fused into a plan. I have the opportunity to stay first at Khamir's Craft Resource Centre where I will be working with a dyer and a block printer to produce some large textile pieces featuring indigo dyes on Kala cotton. 

A little explanation might help...

Khadi - khadi is not just a cloth, it is a whole movement started by Gandhi who began promoting the spinning of khādī for rural self-employment and self-reliance. True khadi cloth is handspun and handwoven. Khadi paper has a high percentage of cotton in it, usually now from recycled clothing.

Khamir  -  An NGO formed after the huge earthquake of 2001 which devastated the city of Bhuj and the surrounding area. In its own words, Khamir works  'to enable rural creative industries in Kutch to become profitable and a model of sustainable economic practice.' It also provides 'a common roof where artisans and experts with a commitment to craft practice can exchange knowledge, build capacities, offer supportive services and conserve natural and cultural heritage'. Khamir means intrinsic pride in Kutchi.

Kala cotton - an old world cotton which is mainly grown in Kutch. It has a much lower ecological footprint than modern hybrid cottons. Khamir seeks to reinstate old world cotton fabrics, involving farmers, spinners, dyers, weavers and designers to create products which promote the local economy.

I'm pretty pleased that this exhibition will be in progress when I am there too...

Monday, 19 November 2012

Selling and Stitching

I have ideas in notebooks, on scraps of paper and bouncing about in my head for the work I want to create based on my experiences in Gujarat so far, but still no time to put any of it into practice. 

the old - close-up of elephants and parrots on a toran I bought in Bhujodi

Had a very successful two days at the Art & Design Fair in Kelso this weekend, which means I now need to spin and stitch up some new stock for the next events. 

the new - a contemporary quilt stitched with shot silks for Qasab
I'm not wishing my life away but seriously looking forward to Christmas so that I can start on my new ideas!

Monday, 5 November 2012

All talk...

 ..on the India front. Plenty of plans, of course, and dreams and scheming, but lots and lots of talk! I enjoyed catching up with friends at my stall at St Abbs on Saturday and more while stitching at the Woolgathering on Sunday, not to mention showing off photographs and some of my Gujurat creations and purchases. 

This Saturday I am off to Dumfries to the Guild Gathering where I'll have my stall and, yes, be yapping some more about the last month's exploits. 

 And then, before you know it, the Crafters Art & Design Fair in Kelso will be my home for a couple of days mid month. I'll be spinning yarns there  - both sorts.

More dates popping up after that and on into December.
Really looking forward to taking forward my ideas for new work inspired by what I've seen and learned so far, but NO TIME yet!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

A few of my favourite things!

 A textile selection to share with you - all returned to Scotland squashed in my luggage...
The tiny stitching on the bags above is Paako and Mutawa work, while the one below is Jat work. It's like a cross stitch but done in a faster way and used to produce very dense patterning.
 These fabrics are all khadi cottons, handwoven. If you click on the image you'll hopefully see how lovely and subtle the stripes are
 And these are just the tiniest sample of the simplest block prints. My own colour preferences are all too evident here but, as you can imagine, every colour is available. These are chemical shades but there are a myriad subtle natural dyed ones too.
 Jeni has been putting some great images up on this blog so you can get more of an idea of the sheer exuberance of Rabari embroidery, as well as watching a video clip of dancing at the Navratri Festival last week.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

eternal summer to long winter

Back home in the foggy damp Scottish Borders, I'm reliving my adventures as I unpack the treasures I acquired over the month. I'm transported back to the khadi shop where I snapped up so many different subtly striped cottons, and to the market stalls where I succumbed to a bit of bling. Then there's the vintage toran richly embroidered with elephants which will be hung up shortly. I'll take some pics of the textiles and post them soon. 

A great buy was Judy Frater's book 'Threads of Identity' which I was delighted to have signed by her when I was at Kala Raksha.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Last Post....

 Unless I am really bored in Dubai airport en route, I'll be home by the time I post again here. It has been a wonderful experience and I have learned a little about a huge variety of subjects, from textile techniques to laundry costs, squirrels to geckos, rice dishes to rickshaw driving! 
 My homeward luggage is probably double the weight of the outward trip, and that's not including the stuff that's being sent back... 
I'll leave you for the moment with these kite images and a close-up of Dayabhai's extra weft detailing on a blanket.


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Kutch and Kites

Kutch was full of great experiences and the opportunity to work directly with skilled artisans on their own territory. So we sat on people's doorsteps to stitch, or under the shade on a rug, or in an open air dyeing workshop. The weather is a huge advantage for all the arts involving water as you can dry fabrics and yarns quickly in the hot sun between processes. 

Back in Ahmedabad, we visited the Kite Museum yesterday, established in 1986. Ahmedabad has a famous annual kite festival in January where people take to the rooftops to pit their kites against each other. It's a fight to the 'death' as the strings are coated with ground glass paste!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Back from Kutch!

The wanderers have returned from the west of the state to the heat of the city. Ahmedabad is launching into nine days of festivity for Navratri and will get progressively busier and noisier as our final week here slips away. And it's a loud city already with every vehicle from scooter to bus enthusiastically peeping horns, roadside music machines blaring at seemingly random times and a sea of people and animals moving every which way at once.
All this after the rural calm of Kutch. It's an area of great contrasts in landscape and habitation and home to many different tribes and communities over thousands of years. Still hot, of course, but where we stayed for the majority of our time there was a welcome little breeze reaching us a few miles from the sea.

Blogger and iPad are not on good terms today and I cannot edit this post, only add to it. So the bottom two images are Jeni being shown how to wear a particular stitched bag, and one of the girls who were studying at Kala Raksha while we were there. Jeni showed them how to knit and it was a great hit. The girls are Suf embroiderers. Suf work is done from the reverse of the fabric in a satin stitch over counted warp and weft threads. They are accustomed to thinking work out as they do it, retaining numbers and shapes in their minds, so knitting came easily to most of them last week.
Rabari stitchwork
Mungiben patiently helping me with a seemingly easy form of chain stitch, miniature scale.

These are random images. I'll put more up when I can but wi-fi is a bit hit and miss at the moment.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Paper and Rioting

Never a dull moment in this city, and a several new experiences a day! Today's were very varied and started with a visit to the doctor's for Jeni who's been poorly for a while, then we were off at last to Kalam Khush paperworks. Sadly for the blog pics, we chose a day when grey and blue papers were much in evidence so not perhaps the brightest of images. The paper itself, thounada as pleasing qualities and we both acquired a stash of it. Transportation will be interesting...

Other tasks today included trying to secure 3G access for my iPad and Jeni's tablet. We failed. So no blog posts for ten days or so till we return to Ahmedabad. We stopped for some lunch and I had scrumptious pancake type rolls filled with spiced greens and paneer. Must find a recipe. Johnny had a baked rice and lentil type dish which I tasted and it was pretty fine too. Definitely fancy trying to recreate some of these dishes when I'm home. 

There was the recurrent drama of muslim rioting today in the city over the recent US film, so we were all hustled out of one shop so it could lock its doors, and the market stalls that Johnny took me to to find Tarty things were also shutting up shop and heading out of the way. 
So tonight we are staying home and packing for tomorrow's early start and long drive to the west. Ten days of embroidery and block printing, tie dye, weaving and dyeing await us!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012


Some of my fellow creatures in the city. 
The little Indian palm squirrels are everywhere, even in the pol where are staying, despite any obvious sources of food for them. They are considered sacred though because of their association with Rama. There's a legend to explain the stripes on their backs. During the construction of the Adi Sethu (bridge) at Ramaswaram by Lord Rama a little squirrel also contributed by rolling in the beach sand then running to the end of the bridge to shake the sand from its back. Lord Rama, pleased by the creature's dedication, stroked the squirrels back, leaving the three stripes with his fingers. 
So now you know!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Quick update

Monday was a good day. Not without its frustrations, of course, but I am getting used to that. But as a good friend had advised me, these become part of the whole experience and you should just live them and enjoy the moment. So I did. None of the rickshaw drivers I used could find any of the places I was looking for at first but we always got there in the end. And I was looked after and told how marvellous such and such a thing would be for me, and shown lovely fabrics and other textiles. Nothing to complain about there.

Today too I had the pleasure of meeting Anupriya, an NID post grad student with a passion for paper. She told me more about khadi paper and the Kalam Khush paper works which I am visiting today.
If Blogger permits, I'll post some images of it tonight.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sunday Sizzler!

Today was hot, as in even hotter than yesterday, or maybe just because we were walking about rather than in a car most of the day. Jeni and I explored Manek Chowk market (we were there quite early so many stalls were not yet open when we started our wanderings) and on into the Fernandez Bridge area where students go to buy second hand text books and stationery. I made a few additions to my stash of Indian paper ephemera and Jeni didn't do too badly either. 

We checked out the big Sunday market too. Ideal if you need huge metal pans in an assortment of sizes, or maybe a new handcart or pair of jeans, but not so good for raw textile hunters.

The heat drove me back to base though Jeni lasted longer. After a few hours back home though, the day started to cool a little so we set off out again and got some exercise before dinner. Dinner was hot too...

Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Sun Temple

This awe inspiring temple was built at Modhera in 1026AD. We visited it today en route to some equally inspiring weavers in the town of Patan. 

Patolas are double ikat cloths - I will tell more about them when I have some pictures to show you, but suffice to say that one exhibition piece the Salvi family worked on took three and a half years to weave. Also in the town we met mushru or mushroo weavers. This a is a double cloth with an often intricate jacquard silk design backed with a cotton weave. Originally constructed for Muslims, who do not wear animal fibres next to their skin. This family have woven both this fabric and pure cotton ones solely for one outlet for the past thirty five years...

Friday, 28 September 2012

Home sweet home

Two quick pics of the lovely place we are staying in. Just Jeni and me here and next week she will be staying on for a few days on her own when I head west to Kutch. We are well looked after by Devi Singh and Mohan who cook and clean and make sure we go out with a chilled bottle of water each day!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Arts and Markets

Yesterday we first spent looking at the work of a family of award winning master craftsmen who paint fantastically detailed temple hangings using natural dyes applied with sharpened bamboo sticks onto mordanted cotton. You can read more about mata ni pachedi in an earlier post, but Sanjay and his parents and siblings are all hugely skilled in this art. After a quick demo by Sanjay, we all spent a very concentrated few hours creating our own small simplified versions. The most complex designs have multiple colours, each applied separately then fixed over many days. Ours were one and two colour versions, varying in style rather dramatically from one another.  Here you can see Jeni focused on creating a mermaid surrounded by fishes while Sanjay dashes off a miniature masterpiece!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ahmedabad experiences...

I'm in a strange new world with not too many familiar elements at all! 
We've been here just four days and already we've seen so many weird, wonderful and inspiring places and people. Seen elephants in processions, the vast display of textiles in the Calico Museum, tried our hands at the detailed and skilled Mata Ni Pachedi painting and found a textile book treasure trove.

 Jain procession encountered en route to the Calico Museum
Succumbing to glorious textile books over cups of chai in the tiny but well stocked Art Books Centre

Long days in the heat and dust and busyness of Ahmedabad are taking their toll. I know we are missing flooding at home, though, so I shall not complain!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Packing it all in today

... vital stuff into cases, that is. 
It's been a busy week of meeting people and talking about our work and what we hope to do and see when we are Gujarat.

Local press coverage for the University has been good and some of the images are liveable with (even if my brother thinks that one of the pics of me should be entitled 'The Alternative 50 Shades of Grey').
It's suddenly very real and Jeni and I are both home this afternoon, making final decisions on what to take with us in the way of work examples and materials.
Stay tuned, folks, for images of the first impressions of Ahmedabad...

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Skills in Abundance

Last week I missed a trip to Preston (with Swati and Murji) to meet two skilled artisans who are participating in The Cotton Exchange. 

This image (which I snaffled from ReSIde's Facebook page) shows Murji and Shamji Vishram with Shamji's award winning work! An amazingly fine and intricate woven piece. Both men are from Bhujodi in Kutch, where I'll be in a fortnight's time....;)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Scottish Side...

...of the residency/exchange is something you can catch up on here where Swati has set up a photo blog to record Murji's and her explorations in the Borders and beyond.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Counting Down (ii)

Three weeks today I'll be waking up in Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad.....
Murji with his wonderful woven work
Meanwhile Swati and Murji are here in the Borders exploring mills and workshops (and The Taste of Spice restaurant in Selkirk!). They have met alpacas as well as lots of humans, and displayed their impressive woven scarves and shawls and more at the Textile Towerhouse in Hawick. It's such a treat for us all to be immersed in textile talk, and I have so much more to look forward to!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Counting Down (1)

Just a week till Swati and Murji arrive from Ahmedabad to begin their month in the Borders. Trips to mills and workshops await them, and a little sightseeing too.

So they are arriving to this (hope the weather's kind)

and this (Heriot Watt Campus at Galashiels)

A wee bit of a contrast to Jeni and me, in five weeks' time - heading first to Ahmedabad, 


but also to quite a bit of this!