Reviving traditional art in interiors

Tapestries, cushions and wall paintings are highlighted in the Madhurya initiative. A look by Nandhini Sundar

It is about expertise, craftsmanship, skills passed on over generations; it is about traditional occupations fast becoming extinct in an IT-driven age where mechanisation and swiftly altering tastes have ushered in lifestyles that look towards products with limited shelf life and preferably a non-desi tag attached.

We are talking about our traditional crafts and craftsmen, who have become a rarity, the younger generation no more disposed to hone from a young age the family skills passed on over generations.

Perceiving this precarious state, some volunteers of Art of Living took up an initiative, christened Madhurya, for the revival of a range of rare crafts, from intricate hardwood carving to exotic handwoven silks and embroidery to traditional paintings. The objective was not only to train but also connect the craftsman to the market to ensure a sustainable income stream.

Handwoven techniques

One such intervention is the exquisite Aravalli saris from Gujarat that require exceptionally skilled weavers to weave using different techniques of weaving for the different segments of the fabric. Says Bharathy Harish, Coordinator of Madhurya, “The number of weavers currently practising this multiple technique is just a handful and unless steps are taken to preserve it, these fabrics can be seen only in historical records.”

Similar scene prevails in the looms of Banaras, with many having shut down in the recent past with fake brocades crushing the original pure Banaras silks and the Chanderi silks.

The Assamese silks, handwoven by women weavers in their homes, likewise have barely any takers, with retailers refusing to stock them. The case of the Kalamkari silks is no different.

Madhurya brought all these under its wing to ensure that traditional weaving techniques do not perish.

Handcrafted interiors

States Interior Designer Mahesh Chadaga of Space Lift, “These exquisite handwoven fabrics are excellent pieces to decorate an interior, where they can be used as tapestries, cushions, throws, wall art. The superb handcrafted work brings in a bouquet of cultures into the spaces from different States, lending a flavour that is unmatched.”

For instance, the Kalamkari and Ajrak, with their rich arresting hues of organic dyes and block prints, would serve as stunning fabrics for soft furnishing in a cheerful vibrant décor, he says.

The technique used in Ajrak incidentally is in imminent danger of extinction given that it is currently practised in a lone village in Gujarat.

Fabrics are not the only ones facing extinction; traditional paintings too face a similar fate.

Unique flavour

Says architect Yamini Kumar of Kumar Consultants, “Introducing traditional paintings into an interior totally alters the language of the space besides displaying our rich arts and skills. While the paintings add a unique flavour to the space, some of the crafts such as grass and bamboo baskets, traditional potteries can be customised to meet the requirements of a contemporary lifestyle. This way, the traditional art is preserved while addressing contemporary needs.”

For instance, table lamps can be made using traditional pottery techniques, Basoli art can feature as painting motifs on side tables and cabinets, bamboo and grass baskets can be designed as standalone art pieces or vases to house dried flowers, she suggests. “Traditional paintings, when featured on partitions used to demarcate a large space, infuse art and exotica into an otherwise mundane element.”

Traditional paintings and art can also feature as exotic mural on the walls of intermediate spaces such as verandahs.

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