Location Scout III: Sparkle and shine

So here is one final post from my trip to India last month. I was in pursuit of locations to film hand embroidery in progress and visited a variety of workshops.  Many of these also specialised in applying a range of embellishments to fabrics in order to create the highly decorative garments favoured across India.

Decoration and embellishment have always been absolutely central to Indian textile production, particularly for the home market where decoration is widely considered auspicious.  The V&A collection includes a variety of highly embellished fabrics and garments some of which we plan to include in the exhibition.  My favourite is this border decorated with beetle wings – it is simultaneously beautiful and slightly disturbing.

Textile decorated with beetle wings, India 19th C.

Textile decorated with beetle wings, India 19th C. V&A 468-1992. © V&A Images

Gota work prepared for the court of the Maharajah of Jaipur.

Gota work prepared for the court of the Maharajah of Jaipur. © Rosie Wanek

Different techniques of embellishment have been perfected in different areas across India and have in turn have helped define regional identity as expressed through costume and dress. Rajasthan is particularly famous for the use of bright coloured fabrics which are then further embellished by the addition of all sorts of shiny and sparkly things.

Traditional to Rajasthan is a technique called Gota work which involves stitching on shapes cut from silver and gold ribbon.  These are surrounded by further stitching to create a detailed pattern.  In the finest examples of the work, such as the piece shown to the left from the fabulous textiles collection at the City Palace Jaipur, the ribbon is made from real gold and silver.

 

Gota work on a high end sari by Sankalan.

Gota work on a high end sari by the Sankalan workshops in Jaipur’s old city. © Rosie Wanek

 

There aren’t many people who can afford to have their garments decorated with real gold and silver.  However I visited one of the few remaining workshops in the heart of Jaipur’s old city that decorates a variety of garments using real gold thread and ribbon.  We will be featuring their incredibly fine embroidery in one of the films we are making for the exhibition.  Real metal ribbon has sufficient rigidity to stay in place when crinkled allowing them to add a three dimensional aspect to the design not possible with modern plastic based ribbons.

 

Gota work produced by Sankalan using folded silver ribbon to add three dimensionality to the design.

Gota work produced by Sankalan using folded silver ribbon to add three dimensionality to the design. © Rosie Wanek

Gota work in progress in Meharban Khan's workshop on the roof.

Meharban Khan’s Gota work in progress. © Rosie Wanek

I then spent an afternoon in Sanganeer, just outside Jaipur, visiting Meharban Khan who has a small embroidery workshop on the roof of his house. Meharban works on batch orders sent from local factories making clothes for the middle to lower end of the market.  He uses more economical materials and works very quickly in order to keep the price of the end product low.

Fabric is stretched onto frames to keep it taut and easy to sew.  The design, supplied by the factory, is then transferred onto fabric using chalk paste smudged through a design pricked in tracing paper.  A silver or cold coloured ribbon is backed with tape in order to prevent it fraying and cut into shapes which are held in place on the fabric using a tiny dot of glue.  Meharban and his co-workers then finishes the design with lines of stitching and couching.

Gota work and couching in progress

Gota work and couching. © Rosie Wanek

Meharban Khan doing gota work in the workshop on his roof

Meharban Khan doing gota work in the workshop on his roof. © Rosie Wanek

 

A gota work blouse ready to make up, Sankalan workshop.

A gota work blouse ready to make up, Sankalan workshop. © Rosie Wanek

In order not to waste work and valuable materials, the embellishment is only applied to exactly the area required before the garment is made up.  This creates rather wonderful pieces of fabric in which you can see the outline of the garment pieces starting to emerge.

An incomplete garment decorated with gota work for the court of the Maharajah of Jaipur, now on display at the City Palace Jaipur

An incomplete garment decorated with gota work for the court of the Maharajah of Jaipur. Collection of the City Palace Jaipur © Rosie Wanek

 

Whilst these workshops usually employ men, a lot of needlework and embroidery was, and still is, done at home by women.  On my way out of Kaladera a few days previously I caught this image of a woman sat outside her house in the evening light stitching a quilt.

A lady doing hand embroidery in the evening, Kaladera.

A lady stitching in the evening, Kaladera. © Rosie Wanek

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