Red, grey and burgundy stole scarf

Meet the artisan

Essness craft person

India

We travel to remote areas to work with crafts men and weavers , providing deasign inputs and help them market their products

SUNITA BALI works closely with weaver communities in Himachal Pradesh and Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh. She writes of how working with weavers completely changed her perspective of the worldSome years ago, I received a divine blessing in the form of an invitation from the textile ministry to work with the weaver community in Himachal, helping them design and market their colourful shawls and mufflers. Ever since, my life has taken on a new meaning and purpose. I began to realise that nothing can be more satisfying than work that helped others become self-sufficient and attain new heights. My work became even more special when Kamala, a weaver I had been working with closely, won a national award on Handloom Day from the prime minister.Calm And SereneInitially, I would often complain of the hardships that I had to face.For instance, I had to routinely trek to villages some distance away to reach villagers working on their looms.But over months and years, these arduous treks contributed to my strength, for I became stronger physically and mentally.

I could sense within a new calm and serenity; and each time I returned to my weaver friends, it is like a pilgrimage that connects me with God. What a rare privilege it was to work in such pristine surroundings, among tall pine trees, gurgling mountain streams with the fresh breeze of the Himachal mountains.Working with women of the cheerful hill tribes was another wonderful experience. I often had to stay overnight with my new village friends, as the days were long, with me having to explain to them the need to change yarn combinations, weave in new designs with trendy colours that were fashionable in cities. I had to teach them to create ponchos, stoles and natty jackets, apart from the traditional shawls and mufflers that they were used to making. When I first heard the news of my weaver friend,Kamala being honoured for her work, I felt a great sense of joy and elation. Her wonderful designs, created with such loving care on a loom laid amidst a backdrop of natural green forests in remote villages of Himachal, has now reached international fashion stores. Perhaps that is why she and her weaver friends remain so cheerful and rosycheeked, for although money is scarce, they have been graced by nature’s bounty all year round. There is music and rhythm in the movement of the looms and it blends harmoniously with the sounds of the river flowing not far from where they work; this perhaps is what inspires them to produce their best.Their work is so beautiful that it is like being blessed by God, himself.This, in turn, influenced me greatly and I took it upon myself to return to the villages regularly to continue the work. Recalling many of the principles that I had learnt at my alma mater — the Sir JJ School of Art in distant, vibrant Mumbai of the ’80s — I tried to apply them to my work here with the traditional weavers of Himachal,working out new, contemporary designs, transferring them to the traditional craft of weaving as they knew it. Using the traditional technique of weaving borders, the women learnt to transfer paintings of a Finnish artist Soile yli Mayry, onto stoles.The first sample took a couple of months to create, but thereafter, the orders came pouring in. Soile exhibited the handwoven stoles in Japan,New York,Paris, and Helsinki and, thereafter, we received many repeat orders. The weavers’ success spurred me on to experiment with traditional saree fabric from Maheshwar. They would make super sheers that would do great in the international market. In an exhibition in Helsinki where the sheers were displayed, the Finnish president was so impressed that he ordered some for his home. So there followed a breakfast with the First Lady and a measurement-taking session of her living room windows. Thus,Maheshwari sheers found pride of place on the windows of the Finnish president’s home.With new design ideas and new marketing opportunities, the weavers I worked with began to see a new future through their work and the new generation began to take pride in their work.They began innovating themselves and also came up with many more designs on their own. Let us not look upon an object made out of handwoven weaves as a dying craft. Let us take pride in buying these for their beauty, for something woven lovingly by hand has a distinct charm altogether. It is blessed with the weaver’s hand and woven with loving energy

More products made by Essness craft person

Red, grey and burgundy stole scarf

This stole is handwoven by essness weavers in the Northern Himalayan region of India. The stole is extremely soft to feel. Size-80"x30" Read more

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This stole is handwoven by essness weavers in the Northern Himalayan region of India. The stole is extremely soft to feel. Size-80"x30"