Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Embroidery from around the world

Today's post is about a fair trade artisan group in India. St Mary's is a mix of Christian, Hindu and Muslim women working together using traditional skills to create Gujarti embroidery which features mirror work.

The clips are just over 13 and 14 minutes respectively.  They provide us with a thought provoking look at embroidery in another culture and how through women coming together they have access to medical help, saving schemes, education and scholarships for their children.


Gujarat  is a state in Western India, sometimes referred to as the "Jewel of Western India". Gujarat was known to the Ancient Greeks, and was familiar in other Western centers of civilization through the end of the European Middle Ages.


Kutch Embroidery is a handicraft and textile signature art tradition of the tribal community of Kutch District in Gujarat This embroidery with its rich designs has made a notable contribution to the Indian embroidery traditions. The embroidery, practiced normally by women is generally done on fabrics of cotton, in the form of a net using cotton or silk threads. In certain patterns, it is also crafted over silk and satin.


The types of stitches adopted are “square chain, double buttonhole, pattern darning, running stitch, satin and straight stitches”. The signature effect of the colorful embroidery sparkles when small mirrors called abhla are sewn over the geometrically shaped designs. There are 16 different types of embroideries known in Gujarat, each belonging to a different community. All of these communities have their own, unique style of embroidery, different motifs, patterns that give them a visual identity. Even a person’s social status can be identified through the embroidery he or she wears.

From the geometric Kharek to the intricate Suf and to the thorn bush inspired Rabari, the identity of every Kutchhi person is woven in the stitches of these embroideries. Things seen in daily lives; flowers and bushes, peacocks and camels, women doing household chores and men tending to cattle, all these are inspirations for these beautiful designs.


The history of the Kutch Embroidery can be traced to the 16th and 17th centuries when people migrated from  countries such as Afghanistan, Greece, Germany, Iran and Iraq to Gujarat.


Kutchhi women embroider everything from garments to wall hangings, toran, bed covers, bags and even camel decorations. Mirror-work, which is a characteristic identity of Gujarat, is thought to be originated with the use of naturally occurring mica found in the deserts. It is used so much now that mirror glass is specially manufactured for this purpose.


Traditionally, embroideries were largely meant for personal use, dowry or gifts and are a generational art with the skills taught from mother to daughter. For the woman of the Gujart embroidery is just another part of their daily chores but one from which they are able to create a source of income.


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