Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yoga Journal "Guilt-Free Glitter"

Yoga Journal December 2009 Page 30

In Yoga Journal December 2009 issue a scarf produced by Indigo Handloom for Eileen Fisher was featured for their "Guilt-Free Glitter" segment. This scarf is gold "zari" (a yarn made from gold metal wrapped around a cotton core), cotton, and silk. It is hand-woven and has a shibori detail. Shibori is when the fabric is segmented and wrapped to create texture, it is commonly used as a dye technique, but in this case it is purely aesthetic. This scarf is being sold at Eileen Fisher locations, and as Yoga Journal says, it is a good guilt free holiday buy!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Traditional Handloom Weavers Get Eco-Friendly

In this article by The Express, it is clear that the eco-friendly title is being more closely associated with handloom. In many ways, handloom is leading the way to sustainable products.

Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi checking out the artefacts at an exhibition organised by the Handloom and Handicrafts Today Karigar Society

CHENNAI: The eco-friendly bug has now caught the traditional Indian artisans, who have long been trying to draw the attention of the city dwellers to their products and capture the urban market for handicrafts.

Several NGOs like the Handloom And Handicrafts Today (HAST) Karigar Society that organised an exhibition of 35 product lines from 16 different States in Chennai, are educating the traditional artisans to use reusable and waste materials.

“The artisans use vegetable colour for block painting on their products, jewels and slippers made of jute and other fancy products using renewable and eco-friendly raw materials,” said the Secretary of HAST Karigar Society, Sarmistha Lahiri.

“The handicraft product that were usually known for preserving the country’s tradition and the source of income they provide for several economically backward families, will now have a new tagline to promote their market,” she added.

The sales manager of Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation Ltd (Poompuhar), Gopalakrishnan, said the State government has been stressing the need for renewable products for quite some time now.

“The government funded handcrafted products make use of re-melted brass scraps for making lamps and waster paper, which are then mixed with chalk powder to make paper dolls,” he said.

The Madras Craft Foundation has been conducting workshops for artisans on products made of renewable and waste products at the Dakshina Chitra.

“This trend of eco-products is picking up slowly as the workers are new to such raw materials and also lack funds to experiment on them.

Dyes from vegetables and wasted paper are the popular fields they are looking to develop now. The other developing area is reconstituting fibres from scrap fabrics,” said Deborah Thiagarajan, President, the Madras Craft Foundation.

Banana Fiber, Aloe and Hemp Lead Weavers To Create New Fabrics

Chennai, Nov. 2: A weaver in Tamil Nadu has come up with saris made from the fibre of banana stems, and a host of other natural products, apparently taking the cue from his counterparts in Bengal.

Today, thanks to C. Sekhar’s inventive mind, women willing to try out something new can also wear a sari made of the succulent plant Aloe vela, jute, hemp and a dozen other natural fibres.

Sekhar, 45, from Anakaputhur, a town about 45km from the Tamil Nadu capital, had read about jute being used to make saris in Bengal and began using the plant as a substitute for cotton to create linen material for a French exporter. That was about 10 years back.

“I then read about weavers in the Philippines using cloth out of fibre made from the stem of banana plants. I started experimenting and soon mastered the technique of extracting fibre after drying the pulp into thin strands. Initially I could weave only small segments and hence used the banana segment as the pallu. But now I have almost a dozen looms weaving full-length saris made of banana fibre,” he says.

The saris, which have a light lustre, are lighter and also breathe well, were an instant hit ever since Sekhar launched them two years back. The price varies from Rs 700 to Rs 4,000 as some customrs also want silk strands woven into them for visual appeal.

Asked if banana saris last, his wife Padma pointed to one that has been part of her wardrobe for more than a year. She had also washed it many times, the 36-year-old added.

A few months ago, Sekhar started experimenting with Aloe vera, a thick-leaved plant whose extracts are used in beauty products and herbal medicine, and managed to weave a sari out of its fibre. “It is even cooler and a customer who tried it out said “it is like wearing nature’,” Sekhar recalls.

So what led him to alternative natural fibres? The answer lies in the old saying: Necessity is the mother of invention.

Cotton yarn had become expensive and the arrival of powerlooms had virtually robbed handloom weavers of their livelihood.

Anakaputhur, once home to over 10,000 looms in the ’60s, has fewer than 400 now. Moreover, the staple product of the area, Real Madras Handkerchief — a six-yard-long, three-foot-wide brightly coloured cloth used as the national dress in Nigeria — went out of production after the African nation banned imports in the ’60s.

So Sekhar’s search for an alternative made him use fibres of virtually anything he could source from nature — jute, bamboo, pineapple, flax and reed grass. He is now weaving a single sari made of 25 natural fibres.

Sekhar sells his products through the local jute weavers’ association so that everyone profits from the venture and is also reassured that there’s money to be made from natural fibre.

“Unless the entire community gets involved, it would be difficult to revive the handloom industry to its glory days,” Sekhar says and swears that his two sons will be weavers like him.

Asked if he expected anything from the government, Sekhar said, almost reluctantly, money for research and decent housing for the weaving community. “We can take care of the rest.”

Hunger forces artisans to commit suicide

VARANASI: While the members of the consultative group of experts for handloom and handicrafts sectors constituted by the Planning Commission will review and critically assess the performance and progress of the programmes implemented by the development commissioner (handloom), the weavers of the famous silk industry of Varanasi region are exposed to problems like hunger and malnutrition.

Lenin Raghuvanshi of Peoples Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), who is also the member of the group, has documented suicide and death cases within the weaver community. According to him, over 100 cases of death, suicide, and malnutrition death of children due to acute poverty have been documented in last three years.

According to a rough estimate, due to slump in the silk industry about 60 per cent weavers abandoned their traditional occupation, and either migrated to other cities in search of livelihoods as unskilled labourers or became rsrickshaw pullers or brick-kiln workers. In 1995-96 there were 1.24 lakh weavers and 75,000 handlooms in the district, and it is estimated that about 60,000 handlooms are currently in operation.

Even the officials of handloom and textiles admitted that thousands of handloom units in Varanasi have been closed. They, however, claimed that the situation is improving with the programmes of the government.

According to KP Verma, assistant director (handloom), several intervention programme are being run for the economic and social development of handloom weavers.

The weavers are encouraged to take benefits of these schemes like Integrated Handloom Cluster Development (IHCD). The central government has begun a mega cluster programme for handloom weavers in Varanasi with an investment of Rs. 70 crore. However, the programme is yet to be launched. The mega cluster programme would cover about 25,000 handlooms.

Experts to Meet In New Delhi To Decide Fate of Handloom Weavers

Across the country, there are approximately :
- 3.5 million handlooms
- 6.5 million people are employed by the industry
- 62.4 % of the workers are women
- 35% belong to lower castes and native tribes.

However, the sector is beset with various problems such as:
-obsolete technology
-unorganised production system
-low productivity
-inadequate working capital
-conventional product range
-weak marketing links
-overall stagnation of production and sales
-competition from power looms and mill sectors.

Here is the full article