An exchange project organised by A Fine Line involved two artists Lokesh Ghai, textile artist and graduate of National institute of Fashion Technology in Ahmedabad, and teacher at Kala Raksha in Kachchh, and Shamji Vishram, a weaver from Bhujodi, Kachchh exhibiting their work and carrying out workshops in various galleries in the North West. These included the Harris Museum, Platt Hall Gallery of Costume, Queen Street Mill in Burnley and Manchester Art Gallery. An opening at the latter gallery involved craft demonstrations, music, Gujarati food and chai, as did the closing party at Platt Hall two weeks ago.
The project LOkesh worked on during the residency was inspired by Lancashire’s historic textile industry. He used old wallpaper printing blocks retrieved from Darwen in Blackburn. The area was a textile manufacturing centre during the industrial revolution and Gandhi visited the factories here in the 1930s. With the blocks he printed shirts, arranging the pattern in different ways and embellished them further with machine stitch and added the traditional Indian style fabric button. The crisp white with the subtle addition of blue in the pattern was reminiscent of the traditional dress of the Rabari herding community of Gujarat.
Along with Lokesh’s own work, he also brought along some pieces he had commissioned of artisans from Kachchh, being in close contact with them during his teaching at Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya, a design school for artisans in Kachchh. The course at KRV was particularly life changing for ajrakh block printer from Ajrakhpur, Khatri Khalid Amin, who has also become internationally known since graduating from the course. He moved dramatically away from the tight geometric patterns traditional to ajrakh and employed a lively expressive style, applying the dyes freely and producing bold abstract art works. His scarves were featured in the June 2011 issue of Wallpaper magazine.
Shamji was also giving weaving workshops using a small table loom he lugged on the plane with him all the way from India. It was nice seeing Shamji adapt so easily to a completely different environment – a busy, cold and wet city rather than his dry, warm and peaceful village where he lives. But he reminded me that he has travelled a lot before, to the US, China, and Europe. This jetsetter lifestyle comes with being an internationally renowned craftsman.
Shamji also visited London so together we went along to Joss Graham‘s shop, where it was exciting to see many woven shawls by members of his family and then a Shrujan shirt made with fabric woven by Shamji himself. If you’re in the London vicinity, Shamji’s shawls, shirts and fabric yardage can also be found at Maharani on Fulham Road, and The Cloth House on Berwick Street.
I was pleased to see that LOkesh had tried to showcase as many of the huge amount of craft traditions of Kachchh as possible, including beautiful bandhani (tie-dye), applique and embroidery.