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  • Shila Desai

Highlights of 2019 Gujarat-Kutch textile tour

Why is this our most loved tour, year after year? We let photos from 2019 tour answer the question.

Naranbhai in a Meghwal village plays host. His village on the edge of the Kutch desert, exemplifies cohesion and cooperation in marketing women's embroideries. Women from surrounding villages supplement their income from sales.

Matriarch of our Bhujodi host family. Bhujodi has a well-run weaving cooperative. Advanced though her age is, this lady never seems to take a rest. Here, seen sorting wheat from chaff for the midday meal.

In Bhujodi, abodes are traditional. They've discovered the best way to keep them warm in winter and cool in summer is to slather cow-dung on the walls. Gets washed off during the monsoon. No worries, start all over again and have fun doing it!

Everywhere in Kutch is a colour story. This house is washed with lime mixed with indigo dye to deter insects. And hey, why would its owner wear any other colour?

We added a visit to Kathi Darbar community for their amazing beadwork. All handmade of course. Spot belts, board games, toran (ceremonial door hangings), covers for coconuts used for ceremonial purposes, and much more.

We also added rug-making from old saris. Saris are cut up and woven into colourful rugs. Imagine how one would feel underfoot!

Beginnings of a single ikat patola sari at Sayala.

These women are sorting kala cotton, or indigenous, organic cotton. Increasing numbers of Kutchi farmers are switching to this variety from American cotton varietals for its drought- and pest-resistance, and lower water requirement.

Weaving at Bhujodi requires a very long pit loom. Weaver sits in the pit. Loom is tied low to the ground for stability. The fibres are often hand-carded merino and local wools, and cotton. Sometimes silk is used too.

Jodie gives a helping hand in Bhujodi. Spinning, as are other processes in producing hand made textiles, is a meditative endeavour requiring focus and patience. No wonder it was Gandhi-ji's go-to pastime!

My favourite pastime in Bhujodi --shopping! I buy textiles from Shamjibhai's lovely artisans and sell them at my annual Toronto textile sale. 25% of proceeds go back into these communities.

An indigo-dyer's hands never really lose that hue! In Bhujodi, they used to get their dyeing done by another community. But with increase in demand and fewer dyers, the Vankar brothers decided to establish their own indigo vats. It was a hit and miss for many years. Now the vat is established and tended like a child.

Invited to lunch by Shamjibhai. I can honestly say it was the most delicious meal of fresh-ground millet roti, dhal, pickle, and jaggery washed down by cool home-made chhaas (yoghurt drink)

The world's luckiest fridge. It has a hand-woven Bhujodi cover.

And then it was onto bandhni. Here a tied, undyed bandhani. Each tiny knot is hand-tied by women who begin learning how to in their childhood.

Once tied, the piece is dyed, sometimes several times until desired depth of colour is achieved. This one made me think of the night sky.

Meghwal belle of the ball is Naranbhai's lovely daughter. She is fourteen. Her mother and grandmother were long married off at that age. She prefers to get educated before saying 'yes'.

Our favourite stop at the edge of the Salt Desert. We always take a photo with the staff whom Niravbhai and I have gotten to know well over the years: their families, beaus, aspirations, and challenges.

Embroidery workshop in Meghwal village. These women were so proficient, yet patient -- and somewhat amused -- at our struggles.

Workshop in dabu or resist block printing in artisanal village near Chomu, Rajasthan. Every year I get bolder!

Our workshop scarves taking the sun after a dip in the indigo vat at artisanal village in Chomu.

Indigo everywhere!


Would you like to join us in 2020? Here's why you might consider this tour:

- four hands-on workshops : two in different types of blockprinting, one embroidery, one bandhni

- easy and familial access to world-renowned, award-winning artisans

- two festivals: Ahmedabad Kite Festival and Jaipur Literature Festival

- the incomparable Niravbhai will lead again!

Says Jodie Watkins (Australia) of 2019's tour:

"One of the most fulfilling experiences of my life."

Patsy Anderson (Toronto):

"An exceptional tour . . . I was the clear textile rookie in the group and I learned so much. Nirav was a superb tour leader."

More information, click here

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