The days have been flying by here in India. Today was a particularly fun time with the agenda full of entertainment. We started off the day (“sleeping in” a bit) and traveling to a gated community that was of higher status. We came to a stop and got off at the bus at a place called Craft Village. Here, we were given an introduction about the area we were soon to enter. The whole goal of this space was to encourage different types of craft and give innovation to each work as individualized pieces. There were many different kinds of work being done here and one was not limited to their creation. Another large introduction piece dealt with sustainability and how craft improves this idea. Our introductory gave us information on the sustainability of the buildings as well as the products that were being made and how their traditions kept sustainable nature.
Once we were familiarized with the setting, we got down to embroidery business. We were given a brief introduction on how the craft started, which was mainly layers of used fabric, put together to make quilt like structures. “Kantha” was the type of embroidery we learned to stitch which was very specific, not to mention difficult. The whole goal was to stitch small to medium running stitches, making a picture to tell a story. After creating the picture and making sure to only puncture the top layer of fabric, not going through both, you use white thread to fill in gaps and outline your picture, going through both layers. Sound easy? It was far from.
After a full day of practice, we had a little award ceremony. Each of us received a certificate for the workshop, along with a handmade painting as a bonus. After this daily event came to a close, I can recap on how this was such a great learning experience. This special craft is a dying one, like most across India. From a local’s perspective, this type of embroidery not only is beautiful, it means something on a spiritual level. When a child is born, they want to make sure the baby is not harmed with new, scratchy or stiff fabric so these quilts are made from soft, worn out cloths. As I was making my own embroidery, I didn’t think to tell a story or focus on doing it just right, where as someone who is learning the craft to pass it down along their family line would probably pay a lot more attention to detail and produce something that was very meaningful to them rather than just a design they enjoyed. I feel very lucky to have been taught something like this, knowing how important it is to help keep craft work alive.