Book Review of "The Indian Loom - A Forgotten Episode" by Dr. Lotika Varadarajan reviewed by Laila Tyabji

Tyabji, Laila, is a designer, writer and founder member and Chairperson of DASTKAR, a Society for Crafts & Craftspeople. She has worked in the craft and development sector for over 3 decades. In 2003 she was awarded the AID TO ARTISANS Preservation of Craft Award in New York the 2nd-ever recipient.

Laila's work with artisans includes the Chikan workers of SEWA Lucknow, Kasuti embroiderers in Karnataka, Mahubani painters and sujni quilters in Bihar, regurs in Rajasthan, and Banjara and Rabari mirror work craftswomen in Kutch and Maharashtra. One of her most rewarding projects has been the creation of new employment avenues through craft for pastoral communities displaced by the Tiger Reserve in Ranthambhore. A recent intervention has been in Kashmir, working with women victims of terrorist insurgency, using embroidery as a catalyst for social and emotional recovery.

Previous to DASTKAR, Laila Tyabji studied art in India and Japan and worked as a free-lance designer in textiles, graphics and theatre. She writes and speaks regularly on craft, design and social issues.

July 2012, Craft Revival Trust
The Indian Loom - A Forgotten Episode
Speaker: Dr Lotika Varadarajan, art and cultural historian IIC in Collaboration with: Craft Revival Trust - August 9, 2010 Reveiwer - Laila Tyabji

Dr Lotika Varadarajan is a passionate and quietly determined scholar whose seminal work on Indian textile and cultural traditions is a must-read for all of us. Her recent talk on the Indian Loom was awe-inspiring but also sad. Awe-inspiring because of the sheer range, diversity and technical virtuosity of Indian looms as well as the different textiles woven on them; sad because so many are already lost to us, while others are being abandoned for the ubiquitous but soulless Jacquard and Tara looms - often with active government encouragement. Sad too to see the depressingly low audience turnout - barely 20 people. A paradigm perhaps of the public's complacent indifference towards India's unique heritage of traditional skill sets. In her introduction, Dr Varadarajan ruefully compared this with the way China, Japan and Europe document and preserve their heritage knowledge systems.

Starting with an image of a pair of 3rd Century wooden spindles, Dr Varadarajan took us on an illustrated gallop through the many different looms across India -from the incredibly complex Kashmir kani weaving and their exquisitely penned talim weaving manual (an artwork in itself) to the jaala of Banaras and jamdaani of Bengal and the multiple pedal and shaft loom of Gujarat, and up again to Kinnaur, then the pit and panja looms of Rajasthan and Punjab, and the loin looms of the North East. Each corner of India developed its own distinctive loom, suitable to the local raw materials and wearing styles of the area. Hands and feet as well as treadles, shafts, pedals and pattern sticks, women as well as men, play a vital part in creating each woven pattern and fabric.

When presented with a feast, one always wants more! Close-ups of the weaves produced by each type of loom, something about the weavers who use them. And a bigger audience, responding to the richness of incredible India. Those who weren't at the lecture, read Dr Varadarajan's recent book OF FIBRE AND LOOM , written in collaboration with the textile designer Krishna Amin-Patel, and published by Manohar Publishers.

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