• Reimagining Crafts in Contemporary Times : An excerpt

    The Delhi Crafts Council (DCC) held its iconic annual exhibition-cum-sale, Kairi, on March 14-16 in New Delhi. This year, along with Kairi, the DCC also held an exhibition called Navodit Shilpi to showcase products made by artisans who have been awarded the Kamladevi Puruskar. These awards were instituted way back in 1986 and till now, over 180 young artisans have been awarded.

    Lac bangles by Tabassum Sultana from Jaipur, Rajasthan. Credit: Kabir Kidwai

    The event gave us an opportunity to have some thought-provoking conversations with craftspersons about the current status of handicrafts in India, especially at a time when there is a growing perception that handicrafts as a sector is fast losing its relevance.

    The general wisdom is that artisanal products will survive in limited circles such as exhibitions organised by NGOs indulging in nostalgia. It is also believed that crafts will not be able to keep pace with modern realities – like the rapid pace of urbanisation, the automation of production, digitization, and changes in tastes and consumer behavior. The overwhelmingly young population of India is aspirational and has little time to appreciate the detailing that goes into handicrafts.

    We had a free-flowing conversation about some of the perceptions with the motley collection of artisans present at the exhibition and also colleagues from the DCC.

    The artisans came from different regions of India and practiced a range of crafts. Syed Asif from Saharanpur got an award for wood carving. Saumya Kumari, who came from Bihar, was awarded for Sujani embroidery. Young Arpan Maity came with his beautiful mat weaving products from Midnapore in Bengal. Vishnudas Suryavanshi was awarded for the centuries-old craft of metal-casting. He came from Jalgaon in Maharashtra and Tabassum Sultana came with her colorful bangles from Jaipur in Rajasthan.

    The handicrafts sector falls under the category of the unorganized or informal sector for which there is very little reliable data. It is the second-largest sector in terms of providing employment after agriculture. The estimates for the number of people involved in this sector varies from 40-200 million.

    The size of the handicrafts industry is said to be anywhere between Rs 15,000-25,000 crore. As Manjari Narula of DCC says, one of the biggest challenges facing the handicrafts sector is the availability of reliable data. Whatever data is available is anecdotal.

    It was fascinating to hear that crafts as a sector is booming and keeping pace with changing times, in terms of the economy, fashion and its impact on sociology.

    Read more here https://thewire.in/the-arts/reimagining-crafts-in-contemporary-times

    Wood carving products by Syed Asif from Saharanpur, UP. Credit: Kabir Kidwai

    Unaffected by the job crisis

    We spoke about the present crisis in jobs in India, the lack of growth, the decline in exports over the last many years. About changes in technology, the emergence of new markets like malls, crafts exhibitions, policy intervention by the governments and so on.

    The artisans were unanimous in their view that there is a growing demand for their products both domestically and in exports. Their claim is supported by whatever data is available. The demand for exports for handicrafts has grown at a rate of 15% annually in the last decade. But more importantly, the data also shows that the handicrafts sector has not been impacted by the recent crisis in jobs.

    This is supported by the recently leaked NSSO data. According to that, since 2011-12, there has been a total loss of 3.2 crores jobs in the rural casual labour sector. The entire handicrafts sector falls in that category, yet it is said to have lost only 0.2 crore jobs.

    The two biggest policy interventions of demonetization and GST had a devastating impact on crafts. But the artisans took it in their stride and were quick to recover.

    Read more here https://thewire.in/the-arts/reimagining-crafts-in-contemporary-times

    Challenges for artisans

    Keeping pace with fast-changing fashion and designs is a major challenge for all artisans. Asif said that what is in demand for exports is different from what is popular in the domestic market. Then there are those artisans who specialise in selling very high-end designs that require better skills. There are also those who make and sell products in mass markets. Soumya has never exported her embroidery, but she showed us two sets of Sujni designs. Embroidered motifs that tell stories of festivals are more in demand in rural areas, but what are sold in cities are more contemporary geometric designs.

    They take the impact of the invasion of machine-made goods in their stride and are not bothered by it. They believe both machine-made and hand-made goods can coexist. They articulated the terms common in business schools like ‘value proposition’ and ‘return on investment’ in simple language. Like Suryavanshi, would always procures his raw material from scrap dealers to make his metal casting handicrafts. Sujni embroidery was always made on old and waste fabric. They highlight that their products are environment-friendly – and this is their value proposition.

    Purnima Rai, who has been working with the DCC as a volunteer, reinforces the fact that there is a growing demand for handicrafts. She cites the example of DCC itself and the popular showroom Kamala in upmarket Connaught Place of Delhi which does a lucrative business of handicrafts.

    The following blog is an excerpt from an article written by Mr. Jamal Kidwai for the Wire. Read the full article here : https://thewire.in/the-arts/reimagining-crafts-in-contemporary-times
  • Cotton sustainable fabric The case for sustainibility

    We only have this one planet and we need to be less damaging. This Pandemic has brought this fact to light, stark and clearer than ever before. There’s not much to link the virus to sustainability except that the crisis has given us a taste of what global warming might be like.

    While it’d be very wise and conducive for governments to make laws and regulations to meet the sustainable development goals, it is time each one of us take up some responsibility. The current crisis and it’s effects both good and bad makes us reflect on this very cruelly. If we fall back to our regular routine, the institutional steps taken to promote sustainability will seem crel and harsh too.Cotton sustainable fabric

    The textile and fashion industry is notoriously one of the most polluting ones out there, but it was not always so. And it need not always remain so either.

    Here are a few things (fashionably speaking) that we can incorporate in our daily lives.

      1. Carry your own bags : Plastic pollution has a lot to do with single-use plastics. The Baragaon Weaves shop uses no plastic, Cotton bags are available for purchase. Nothing makes us happier than a patron carrying their own bags (sometimes the ones they bought from us). Many quirky and fashionable options of canvas jhola bags are now available, making it a statement of responsibility along with fashion.
      2. Repurpose & Reuse : Remembering our mothers and grandmothers getting Gudharis, bags and comforters made from their old silks. Reknitting or crocheting an old sweater into a placemat. Luckily in India examples of repurposing and reusing are plenty. Wasteful living is surely sinful. One can donate to an organisation who work with waste if DIYs don’t interest you as much.buy cotton handloom
      3. Support slow fashion : Shift in demand is the best solution to consumerism. Demand for Quality. Ask questions on who made the clothes and how much are they paid. Know the environmental costs of things you buy. What is usually cheap will be paid for by the next generation, and some seemingly expensive brands might be charging for the wrong reasons. Let’s shift the focus from brand names to brand impacts.
      4. Donate Don’t Discard : That slightly faded tee or the pants that ripped, let’s ensure nothing fashionable reaches the landfills. If a bit of repair work can make it fit to wear, why not? And in case you really don’t want it do donate. Organizations like Goonj, Uday Foundation, Share At Door Step, HelpageIndia, The Clothes Box Foundation have pick up centers in many neighborhoods.
      5. Natural Dyes and Organic fabrics: Natural plant-based dyes albeit limited in colour range and difficult to come across, are the best choice for an absolute impact-free clothing choice. There is also a range of organic, indigenous kinds of cotton to choose from. These significantly reduce the carbon footprints while providing huge employment to weavers, spinners, and farmers. Invest in Indian!
      6. Herbal/ Natural Detergents: Believe it or not detergents, bleaches and other washing chemicals are a big threat to marine life and a major cause of water pollution. It’s not only the industries but the wastewater for all our households when put together make a huge share. Reetha or soapnut is the best rescue for this one. Here’s a recipe from friends at Sasha.
      7. Less is More : As a business, we hate to say this, but we do truly believe the best way to be eco-conscious is to consume less, and consume smart. Buy only what you need, and what you simply fall in love with (eg: Baragaon Sarees :).

     

     

     

     

    May we leave behind a beautiful planet for the next generation, May we never see another crisis of this kind. Together, let’s look forward and step back a little.

     

  • The Last few Shuttles

    Our weavers back in Kashmir have been hoarding these shuttles. It’s a sad story why.

    It takes special skill and precision to make these shuttles that can pass between the intricate Pashmina threads without entanglement. The making of the shuttle is a complex process. It involves wood work and also metal work. The finishing needed is very complicated, since even the slightest slivers can cause damage to the shawls being made.

    GI certified pure pashmina cashmere shawl from kashmir india handspun handwovenGI certified pure pashmina cashmere shawl from kashmir india handspun handwoven

    Presently there’s only ONE LAST person alive who practices the craft. He’s old and soon the craft will die! Hence the hoarding of the shuttles. Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet the hands and mind sustaining the craft of shuttle making. But next time we definitely will, and till then we are on the lookout for some skilled young people to learn the craft, so the legacy continues.

    The making of each shawl involves a number of people: The person who collects the wool in Ladhakh, the spinner, the dyer, the warp maker, and finally the weaver. Supporting crafts include shuttle makers, graphic artists, loom makers and repair mechanics, the raffugar and many more. Each one is equally important. A highly skilled Raffugar for example, can save months of hardwork with his skillful repair job of expensive pieces. Post weaving art on Kashmiri shawls includes the block makers, the pattern printer, embroiderers, the washer man to name a few. Together they make beautiful pieces that are heirlooms.

    Pashmina KashmirIt’s humbling to see how much these craftsmen love and respect the tools of the trade. And also each other. There is truly no hierarchy, just mutual gratefulness for each other’s trades and skills.

    There’s so much to learn from societies that are yet to be altered with the ramifications of development. There’s so much that was done right traditionally and now face extinction. While change is important and unavoidable. It is also equally important to hold on to pieces of history, especially the beautiful parts.

     

  • dhaniyakhali taant saree handmade The Bengal Taant comes to Baragaon!

    dhaniyakhali taant saree handmadeThe tiny village of Dhaniyakhali in West Bengal is recognized for its simple cotton handloom sarees. Our Handloom Hunt being extended to Bengal took us to this quaint little place. With huts lined with colorful yarns and the pathway echoing with the music of the looms, Dhaniyakhali welcomed us.

    One can reach here after about an hour’s drive from Kolkata, or a couple of hours on an eventful local train ride. We’d recommend the train if you know your way around the main line & cord line between Howrah & Burdwan and enjoy some folk music with jhalmuri. Dhaniyakhali will welcome you with a horizon lined with coconut grooves and hearty Bengali sweets.

    dhaniyakhali taant saree handmadedhaniyakhali taant saree handmade

     

     

     

     

    All saree enthusiast would know of the village and would love to own one of the fish motif sarees. The extra weft technique might have traditionally been used to make the fishes. The technique has graduated to adding a small dobby mechanism to the pit looms in the village as fishes are woven. The colors are primarily red, black and the natural white. One can now also find the same patterns in shot colors of grey, black, mustards and oranges. The fish pattern is what the sarees of the village is known for, fishes in many sizes are seen swimming around along the warp direction. However, with the introduction of dobby, we see a whole lot of other patterns including flowers, conch shells, paisleys and more. Most of these patterns see a range of bright pleasant colors. To our delight, we spotted a pile of pastel-colored beauties with plain stripes for borders and shot colored bodies.

    A lesser known feature is the “Khejur kata” – a detailing easily overlooked. The entwining of threads makes for a line that is a technical marvel when it comes to weaving. Found in the pallav, these lines consist of the weft threads twisting around the warp threads in a braid like fashion to give the multicolored “Khejur kata”, literally referring to the thorns of the date tree which they are meant to be.

    dhaniyakhali taant saree handmade What is curious about this place is the fact that very few weavers have ventured outside the scope of sarees! Not many stoles and dupattas flow around here and only a few looms have begun weaving fabrics to the order of patrons from Kolkata. A little bit of silk, with the warp remaining cotton, is woven. Every weaver (taanti) seemed to respect the sarees they make, to the extent of taking offense if one suggested using their craft to fashion garments.

    We have hoarded a small collection of the fish sarees and a few plain ones. These pretty pieces await you at the store @ E-28, Hauz Khas main market. See you there soon.

    dhaniyakhali taant saree handmade

  • Katgih : The village of colours

    Just a small village, a little dot on the map of this great nation, but Kotgih is not just another village. A lesser known chapter of the Indian saree- story lies sheepishly hidden in its lanes, amidst the rhythm of the loom- many looms. A facet of information about the Sambalpuri Ikkat.

    In the clamoring call of the numerous looms (100 plus on the last count) lies a music that sings a happy tune. The sarees are received well, by the locals and more. In the bright hues of the homes one can see the vibrance of the hearts weaving these lovely textiles. Every house has a loom, every house has a weaver, more often they have many weavers; some young one in the making too.

    (We even spotted a golden yellow hut with fuchsia doors and windows; and we can’t admire it enough)

    As you walk into the village, the sheer joyful vibe enraptures you. Every house welcomes you with bright blues, yellows and green doors opening to joyful music blaring from within. The weavers are not afraid to let the colours of the sarees to bleed beyond into their walls. Metaphorically only that, since the sarees themselves are woven out of yarns expertly dyed with fast colours, by dyers in Sambalpur, Orissa.

     

     

     

    If you thought the visual delight ended here, hold the thought. We also have a river (Jonk Nadi) flowing with temple bells pleasantly chiming nearby. The blue of the skies , the green of the trees and all the other colours are right here : woven into comforting cotton sarees.

        

    From each home one hears, the weavers favourite music floating, the volume is turned up quite a bit to override the clamoring of the looms. What energy the music and the looms bring to these lanes. Oriya, Chattisgarhi, Old Bollywood to the latest dance numbers; each weaver picks his individual favourite, making his speakers blare. They are paused to exchange greetings and gallantries, as we walk into any home. Every weaver smiles at us briefly and gleefully continues their task. A saree is to be woven by the day’s end, one thread at a time.

    We stopped the longest at the loom of a state awardee weaving family. We are questioned by their young daughter who we learn proudly weaves sarees in between college tests. We also meet a young Dewangan, teacher at the village school by the day, a weaver in the evenings. The Dewangan’s are the weaving community of the state. His students learn to weave too, in their homes; becauce as they say in this delightful, colourful little village in Chattisgarh “Yaha to sab Bunkar hai” (Everyone is a weaver here).

    Either that or they sell the produce of their fellow villagers in a secret market! & That’s our next story. Stay tuned. Till then the simple cotton sarees most humbly demand all your attention. From ikkats to booties in simple jala weaves, Katgih is weaving them all. Coming soon to the Baragaon Weaves showroom!

      

  • Designers Delight

    The design process is difficult, when a designer’s imagination runs free and execution is bound by limitations. The limitations are further enhanced, when one decides to make the processes traditional and handmade. We are forever in awe of Designers who push for the handmade despite endless difficulties, delays, misgivings. And thank them for keeping the handloom industry Fashionable.

    weavers of baragaonThe weavers of Baragaon are not the kinds frequented by designers unlike the more popular clusters of Maheshwar, Benaras or Chanderi (We do hope to change that soon). So three years ago when approached by a designer with the simplest concepts, the weavers had refused – a strong voiced no, not possible. Three years of rigorous work later, we have them brainstorming over designs, trying their level best to do the difficult. All they ask for is extra pay for the extra difficult. A fair bargain.

    And so we sat it took hours to simply make them understand the design, many many more to translate them on textiles. Simple cotton, plain weaving, minimal and supposedly undemanding, but what is significant was the attitude of the same group of weavers. It’s a delight to see them come this long way to taking up challenges, to feeling meaningful and appreciative of their own efforts. Fabric lengths with repeats of 70 inches, saree with full length gradation, ombre-effects with seven colours on a single warp, they have made it all this year.

    We thank Deepti Toor for her designs and trust; we do hope to have done justice to her efforts. The team including the weavers are curious to see the final collection and wish her good luck for the same. We do hope it was as much a delight to her as it was for us.

  • Manzoor & Faiyaz

    The Kashmir valley has mostly been in the news for the ongoing violence. Besides causing pain and trauma to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the conflict has also adversely affected the lives of the Pashmina weavers and spinners. They have lost work and become more vulnerable to the exploitation of middle men. Continue Reading

  • Pashmina & it’s magic

    Baragaon Weaves has been working with Pashmina weavers in the Kashmir valley since last April. We have, thus, been asked by many of our friends to give them a brief introduction to Pashmina and how it is woven.

    History

    Pashmina comes from the Persian word

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  • The Gen Next

    Crafts among the many other things, animals and practices are the endangered lot. With mechanisation, globalisation and a few more serious words, culture has seen a massive change. While it is the natural course of evolution one argues, there is no denying. It’s a joy to see Parents getting along their young kids to the craft exhibitions. Continue Reading

  • Handloom Stories-1

    There are 43.31 lakh handloom workers in the country, out of which 36.33 workers stay in rural areas and 6.98 workers stay in urban areas. According to the Handloom Census 2009-10, handloom Industry in India employs over four million people in India. Handloom is the largest sector providing employment to people in India after the agricultural. Continue Reading

  • Fakhrul and Aisha

    Baragaon village, district Barabanki is an assortment of craftsmanship exhibited through its variety of crafts traditionally practiced by its artisans. This small village is loaded with creativity that is exhibited in the work of artisans spread across the region. Apart from handloom weaving, the other famous forms of craft are

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  • Pride of Masauli

    Masauli tehsil, situated adjacent to Baragaon village, district Barabanki is one of prominent home to handloom weavers. Here, most the families rely primarily on handloom weaving as their source of livelihood. Taranum’s family is one rare family headed by five female traditional weavers in the village of Masauli. Out of five male membersin the

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  • The Rain and the Artisan

    Splitter splatter fell the rain, We stood over a balcony looking into a street full of dripping homes, trees and wires! Soon wondering what our weavers would be doing at this kind of a time! We know how the showers mean a lot to the farmers but what does it mean to our artisans? As the summer heat rises, the folk spend most of their

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  • One Challenge at a Time

    While everyone thinks of monsoons as a respite from the angry sun, at the studio we sat sombre; planning ahead for the months of no work. Dying wont happen, the threads wont dry and nothing new gets woven!
    When at the field next time, we were discussing the production planned and pointed out the monsoon months
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  • 8 Cotton Sarees to Own Before You Turn 30

    We’ve compiled a list of 8 absolute must have sarees what we consider easiest to drape, maintain and wont pinch your newfound saree love. At Baragaon Weaves we have been happy to be the choice of many first time saree buyers. Young girls sporting sarees always encourage us on. Cotton is definitely the evergreen choice as formal Indian

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