The landscape of Kutch (also spelled Kachchh) acts as a stark backdrop for some of the most vivid and colourful textiles in India. With a range of diverse yet syncretic communities, it is also one of the country's biggest hubs for crafts and textiles. The region is known for the exquisite embroidery work of nomadic tribes as well as for textiles made of "kala cotton", one of the few genetically pure cotton species remaining in India. Indigenous to Kutch, kala cotton is one of the only species of old-world cotton that is still around. It is a rain-fed crop and does not use any pesticides or synthetic fertilisers. The best part is that these organisations sustain local craft livelihoods and use local resources. If you are ever in the area, these are the places you must visit to experience the art of some of the most stunning examples of ancient textile traditions in the world.
Khamir showcases the crafts, heritage and cultural ecology of Kutch. They were founded after the 2001 earthquake and are renowned for their innovations that fuse ancient Kachchhi crafts with different textile technologies and unconventional raw materials. One such example is reflected in their use locally sourced camel wool sourced from unt maldharis, or camel herders, to make textiles, carpets and ropes. According to Khamir, a number of concerns are currently facing camel pastoralists in Kachchh, including decreased grazing supplies that have caused a decline in herd populations. Khamir created the Camel Wool Project to improve these means of subsistence and protect the local camel populations. Pastoralists have historically used the wool.
Khamir is also known for its assortment of kala cotton textile products, which promote the sustainable cotton textiles in conjunction with regional ecosystem. Then there are the Kutch Weave Craft items made by the local Vankar community. It is distinctive as it employs a nearly 600-year-old tradition of extra-weft weaving and the manual insertion of decorative supplementary wefts that resembles embroidery. Other ancient Kutch crafts can be found here as well, such as Reha metalware, which is produced using one of the oldest casting techniques known&mdashsand casting&mdashin which recycled metals are melted and poured into previously-used moulds made of river sand.
Address Crossroads Post Village, Behind BMCB Social City, Lakhond, Kukma Rd, Kukma, Gujarat 370105
They make exquisite hand embroidered and patchwork products using only natural fibres and wherever possible natural dyes. The product range includes exquisitely hand embroidered, patchwork and applique garments, home furnishings, and accessories. Kala Raksha is known for sewing schools that empower rural women and girls through skill development. They also have a museum which focuses on tshowcasing the traditional arts of the communities they work with, from embroideries of Rabaris, and peoples of the Thar Parker, to replicas of Kachhi Rabari and Maru Meghval ornaments. The collections has nearly 800 objects.
You can pick up salwar-kameez sets (tunic and pant suits), shawls and scarves, patchwork quilts, toys, purses, and gifts. They are particularly known for a range of stunning embroidered jackets. Their raw materials are sourced from other artisan groups. The handloom fabric is dyed locally with natural dyes brewed from roots, flowers, leaves and fruits and hand embroidered by women artisans. The embroidery and patchwork motifs draw on the rich traditions of the artisans' indigenous styles. Many of their designs are passed down generations. Some designs are revivals based on their permanent collection, and others are contemporary innovations.
Address Sumrasar-Dhori Rd, Sumrasar, Gujarat 370001
This organisation works with artisans in Kutch to revive the age-old art of hand embroidery. It was established in 1969 to support the work of Kutchi women artisans. You can pick up bags, textiles, and home decor items embroidered with their trademark tiny mirrorwork. Their products reflect the various embroidery styles that are unique to each community. There is the dense and bold work by the Ahir community, animated with floral motifs, mirrors, peacocks and parrots the Jat-Garaasiya and Jat-Fakiraani of the Jats the Sodha-Pakko of the Sodhas the Soof and Khaarek of the Meghwad-Maarus and the Rabaari of the Rabaaris. &ldquoEmbroidery is like an identity&ndashpeople know when they see a particular kind of embroidery that this person comes from that tribe,&rdquo says Ami Shroff, director of Shrujan. &ldquoBut this has been changing gradually. One, many people wear synthetics now. Second, the tribes have begun borrowing from each other so the distinct styles are getting mixed.&rdquo
The Shrujan Crafts Museum honours the traditional artistic expressions of the numerous indigenous people in the area. The building is home to what is arguably India's largest craft museum, which features the needlework creations of 12 Kutchi communities. Walk through the museum, read the blurbs, watch the wall-mounted videos and photo displays, and scrutinise each embroidery panel. The whole thing is like a narrative of the communities&ndashembroidery being the medium.
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Address Shrujan Creations, LLDC Living and Learning Design Center,. 705, Bhuj-Bhachau Road, Ajrakhpur 370 105,. Bhuj &ndash Kutch .
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