06 June, 2011

Dovecot Studios visit Kolkata

by Naomi Robertson

I am a Master Weaver at Dovecot Studios and in February 2011 Deirdre Nelson & I visited Kolkata as part of collaboration with the Crafts Council of West Bengal (CCWB) and the Edinburgh International Festival. Our host in Kolkata was Ruby Palchoudhuri, Director of the CCWB, a great host who gave us a real taste of India through textiles, art, food, architecture, entertainment and even a family wedding!

I had imagined that India would inspire me in a colourful way but have come home more inspired by the wonderful patterns and design I saw. Not only in weaving, embroidery and saris (our favourite phrase being “nice sari”) but also in the metal-work on windows, carvings on temples, even pavement designs!

We were taken to visit many different textile projects during our stay including Jamdani weavers in Kalna and Fulia, both projects set up by the CCWB to preserve the traditional weaving techniques of the area. In the village of Kalna we visited a weaving and cotton spinning studio where the most beautiful, fine delicate cloth was being woven. In Fulia, a slightly more commercial setup where as well as beautiful cloth for saris and scarves they also dyed the cotton.

Visiting Jute weavers in Santiniketan was also very interesting, rugs in all colours and sizes, woven by women, in contrast to the other studios.

Kantha embroidery at the Kantha Centre in Kolkata was another very inspiring visit. Kantha quilts are handed down among families and were traditionally embroidered on old Saris, using the coloured threads from the sari borders as the embroidery thread. They often depict everyday images and happenings and use quite naïve imagery, interlaced with lots of decorative borders. These days at the Kantha centre (another CCWB project) the women use new cloth and embroidery thread. Quilts can take a year to make and be shared by more than one embroiderer.

We took a trip to a small village outside Kolkata called Bauria, which specializes in Zari embroidery, heavily beaded and sequined cloth usually used for wedding Saris. Even the pavements sparkled in the sun, covered in tiny sequins!

My brief on return from Kolkata has been to respond to my visit to India by producing a piece of work to be included in the contemporary side of the ‘Heirlooms’ exhibition. The design of the tapestry which I am in the process of weaving has been loosely based around a Kantha quilt format. I am using lots of decorative borders and weaving techniques drawn from both cloth weaving and tapestry to achieve the patterns. I have kept my imagery simple, depicting the people, transport, animals, insects, temples and villages seen on my journey.

See images from this trip and drawings from Naomi's sketchbook inspired by Kolkata on Flickr.

Heirlooms is presented by Edinburgh International Festival in partnership with Dovecot Studios.

Thursday 4 August - Sunday 4 September
Dovecot Studios, Infirmary Street, Edinburgh
Open daily 10.30am-5.30pm


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