By Hand From The Heart is a curated makers market event in Chennai, South India. UPCOMING EVENT: 24th – 25th, AUGUST, CROWNE PLAZA, CHENNAI
Tell us a bit about yourself.
“Karomi” is one part of the Sanskrit phrase “aham karomi” which means ‘I do’. It stands for commitment to work. Karomi Crafts n Textiles, an organization run jointly by Sarita Ganeriwala, a postgraduate in textile design & development from NIFT, New Delhi and Sarika Ginodia, has been working for the past 8 years specifically with the weavers of West Bengal…concentrating primarily on Jamdani weaves.
Working with rural and urban artisans, in West Bengal, India, our pledge is to produce ‘quality handicrafts’ in hand-loom weaving, hand-block printing, hand embroideries and combined techniques. Karomi entered the hand loom weaving sector through a single weaver in a village in West Bengal. Today we deploy more than 100 looms in several villages in West Bengal, weaving saris, stoles and dupattas.
While design and colour sensibility is our strength, our ability to create textile textures through a combination of different types of yarns and weaves, distinguishes us from others in the field. Our fabrics are characterized by subtle nuances of layering, colouring and texturing. We only work with natural fibres like silks, cottons and linens. Our yarns are always hand dyed. We also work with natural dyes – an eco friendly process of production.
How would you describe what you do; and how long have you been making and creating?
One of the weaving techniques widely used by us is the well known Jaamdani (extra weft) weaving, a style unique to Bengal…literally like “hand embroidery” on the loom. The method of weaving resembles tapestry work in which small shuttles of coloured, gold or silver threads, are passed through the warp. Jamdani, because of its intricate patterns, has always been a highly coveted product. According to historical accounts, Jamdani fabric was essentially meant only for the affluent nobility.
Over the years, it has been a real struggle to continue to produce the kind of intricate jamdani that we would like to preserve as the heritage of Bengal. In just a matter of 8 years we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the mindset of the weavers towards Jamdani…especially high quality, skilled jamdani. Despite facing various trials, we continue to work with this medium because we sincerely believe that some of us need to make that endeavour to bridge the gap between the traditional and the contemporary…and make the Jamdani weave of Bengal a fashion statement in the eyes of the average customer…and a lucrative profession for the weaver. . ‘Naturals’, a collection in high count khadi, is our attempt to revive the past glory when Jaamdani was traditionally woven in muslin.
At Karomi, we also specialize in hand block printing. The base fabric for print is hand-woven by our own weavers in natural fibres. This is important because our hand block printing is characterized by the unique method of “print over print” or layering. By this technique, a piece of fabric that would ordinarily be printed once over…is sometimes printed almost as many as 6 times over in order for it to be complete. The end result is a very fine “texture” effect…an almost translucent base effect wherein several layers of print are visible…one on top of the other. The texture effect is created through careful use of very fine traditional as well as contemporary blocks…each pattern designed and developed in our workshop. We also specialize in Shibori – a tie and dye technique originating in Japan.
We have, so far, showcased our handcrafted range in exhibitions -organised by Crafts Council- in Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Coimbatore. We have also successfully exhibited in Bombay, Kolkata, Lucknow and Bangalore. Our pieces are being marketed across India through FabIndia, one of our major buyers. We are also supplying to several other stores in Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Coimbatore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Delhi etc.
In the year 2012, Karomi was awarded the UNESCO Award of Excellence for handicrafts, for one of its silk Jamdani stole, in recognition of innovation and quality in this field. In the year 2014 we again received the UNESCO Award for one of our khadi Jaamdani stole in the ‘Naturals’ collection.
Tell us about your recent works.
We are constantly innovating with respect to not just designs but also yarns to create new fabrics. We believe that we are fabric makers and hence in our product you will find a lot of play of different kinds of yarns and weaves that help us create different textures and designs.
Can you describe your work place / space?
Our major work happens across the looms in various villages in Bengal. Our designs are created in our workshop/ studio in Calcutta. It is here that the inception of design takes place beginning from the look, the colour, the yarn, the feel, the texture, the graphs etc. Our team of seven people work hand in hand to bring each design from its inception to its completion stage including quality control and checking.
What/who inspires you? Or how do you find inspiration?
At Karomi, our strength lies in design innovation. As far as design inspiration for a collection is concerned, it can be very generic or something very specific. Sometimes…it is a desire to simply explore yarns and twists and blends…and that can lead to a collection…at others, it could be a desire to work within the parameters of a certain palette…then again certain times it’s the old Indian/Chinese/Egyptian/African, etc cultures and civilizations that form the basis of inspiration. But at the end of the day, the basic hallmark of all that is produced at Karomi is a blend of the OLD with the NEW. “Traditional” is what inspires us…and the challenge is always to present it within a contemporary context.
Can you describe your creative process and what is the most rewarding part of the creative process for you?
Starting with the design concept which starts on paper, there are challenges to be faced at every step of the way. If its a Jamdani sari, there’s extensive paperwork involved. Designs are conceptualised and converted to graphs. And after the graph is in place, the details of the fabric to be woven are decided (this process is critical since it defines the ultimate look and feel of the end product) – warp and weft yarns, reed, pick, weave and colours. Once the warp has been laid as per specifications, experimentation on the loom begins. After several tries, the look of the piece is frozen in place. The sari is woven, taken off the loom…cleaned (unwanted residual yarns need snipping off)…the fringe is made and then the piece is packed and sent to our workshop.
What’s the best thing about being a designer?
The joy and pride to be had in creating a truly beautiful handmade piece is incomparable. We take a lot of pride in specifying ”handmade”. We also feel that there is considerable interest in hand-woven textiles. There have always been and always will be patrons of hand woven fabrics. Today, amidst a certain section of society, it is a matter of pride and joy to be dressed in hand-woven fabrics.
What would you say to someone thinking about selling their work?
Ensure good quality of work. Our first allegiance is to the “craft” itself…to preserve it…to continue to work with it in such a way that “skill sets” are enhanced….and that is not an easy job. We need to strike the right balance between the market and the craftsmen.