Just under three weeks in India absorbing all that was textile related and other things besides. I set off not really knowing
what I wanted to get out of the holiday but with scenes like these inspiration was all around me. For most of the time I was staying in Pushkar and was on a Creative Arts Safari organised by Fiona Wright. Not only did she have a small farm with a cow, (fresh milk) and a calf a couple of goats and kids, chickens, tortoises, a dog and a camel but at times there were nosy peacocks in the field.
Fiona looked after us very well and we were entertained one evening by gypsy dancers who were very colourful and elegant, the photo is a bit blurred but they were moving in the dark and dancing with burning post on their heads!
Each day we were collected and taken either to the farm or to Fiona’s workshop by Mr Satu in his tuk-tuk, he is lovely person and very chatty and towards the end of our stay brought his young son with him to accompany us on our bumpy ride (a tuk-tuk has no springs and the roads are full of speed bumps and potholes).
When we arrived at Fiona’s we were lucky enough to meet Sanju Devi from the Bihar region if India who was also staying, she showed us the Folk art of Sujani embroidery which tells stories of day to day life, it is fairly basic stitching but the messages are very strong.
Needless to say I chose to interpret in my own way, I am not overly keen on people and I wanted to stay with my trees so I challenged myself to do a small piece while I was there, I also decided to use thinner thread to finish the back-ground. Sanju was not very sure about what I was doing but I recieved this message when I sent her my photos
“it is very good,appreciated and unique designe.i am very happy to see it.
thanks for your concern”
One of our first tasks was to draw a design for a pair of slippers and then we headed off to see Mr Om so that he could make a a pair for each of us and before we left they were duly delivered, they are made without a left or right and one’s feet shape the leather to fit, the decoration is done with chain stitch and they are incredibly comfortable but are desert shoes so I will not be venturing out in them! This is not my design but is a good example of what they look like.After placing the order for shoes we went in to the village and found men turning and decorating metal plates at an incredible speed and a shop which sold really nice cotton, the latter of course meant spending money and the local children came to watch:
Towards the end of the first week we headed to Jaipur in a bus taking the highway, slightly alarming because the heavy trucks seem to prefer to drive in the fast lane and everybody just over or undertakes as they want. On our way we went to Bagru to indigo dye and also to do some mud resist beforehand. The mud is printed on the the fabric covered in sawdust and laid in the sun to dry. The fabric is then dunked in the indigo vat from where it comes out green which soon oxidises to be blue. The dyed fabric is then laid out in the street to dry (animals can be seen walking over it) and to get a deeper colour the fabric can then be re-dipped. Once it has fully dried you have to scrub the resist paste off, and I mean scrub, before washing the fabric to get the dirt and dye residue out. This process actually took a few days, the first two steps were done in the village and the rest was done at Fiona’s when we got back a few days later.
Mixing the resist, mud, old wheat germ and lime well trampled.
Printing the with the paste.Two of my pieces drying on the motor-bike which just happened to be handy.
Fabric coming out of the indigo vat….
Drying out in the street in the sunshine.
Dijanne Cevaal scrubbing her piece to remove the mud resist.
finally washed and hanging out to dry.
We then visited a paper factory that makes paper out of the off cuts from tee-shirt manufacturing, we had great tour of the factory which was quiet because the following day was Holi and most people had gone back to their families. The paper is stunning, fantastic colours and all totally hand made, unfortunately my camera was in the bus at this point…. but the paper is good for sewing so watch this space…. I managed to get a roll home although it was too big for my suitcase.
We arrived at our hotel where we had been upgraded to palatial suites, very spoiling and so many different light switches that turning off the lights was a game of its own. Four of us went to the bonfire and prayers that start the festival of Holi and the owners of the hotel came and explained its significance and we duly wrote out wishes on the sand around the fire and ate freshly roasted chickpeas. The next day was the festival proper and three of us went and bought white cotton pyjama suits so that we could join in, suitably clad we went via the main gate to be welcomed by a couple of elephants and a band with a man dressed as a dancing horse (can’t quite remember the significance of this!)
We then approached the tables laden with piles of powder paint, sadly the fine dust was such that my camera stayed in its bag inside a plastic bag most of the time. Some of us were more involved than others and I decided to be selective about the colours thrown at me and seem to have missed the greater amount of water which was sprayed from water pistols to mix the paint well and truly. It was mainly over the fifties letting rip.(except of course for Zak who had far too much energy). The reason that we stayed at the hotel was that they organised the festivities for the guests and it was much tamer than if we had been in the streets. There was a good buffet lunch and after a great deal of scrubbing the afternoon was spent lazily in the garden.
On our way back we went to the Anokhi block printing museum which has some wonderful fabrics and examples of block printed items, we also had a walk around the village to visit the most incredible step well.
Back at Fiona’s we split our time between the workshop and her farm, there was plenty of chance to have a go at block printing but it will take some time before being able to print like Mr Mahindi who was really kind and helpful and even gave his approval to a dress that i was trying on which of course meant that I bought it! I don’t know where the time went but it was a really good relaxing time to get the inspiration flowing, I went in to Pushkar
town twice and was rather startled to discover a bath(with toilet) open to all comers lurking behind a tree growing out of what I think was a small temple on the fringe of the market.
The evening light over the lake was stunning as was the sunset….
Then of course the ladies went shopping in Ajmer.
All good things come to an end and we took the train back to Delhi with dinner served en route. We visited the Delhi quilter’s group for coffee and lunch and had a show and tell session. We visited the haberdashery wholesale market where photographing the porter’s back to show his back protector became a bit of a game because he wanted to pose face forwards, I managed it though and snapped Dijanne in her new indigo top at the same time.
On our last day Dijanne and I headed out to the craft museum which had wealth of things, particularly wall paintings and textiles to look at, the restaurant wasn’t bad either!
Now back at home trying to find the time to put all that I learnt it practice and wondering how soon I can return!