Reviving the dying art of making shawls

Reviving the dying art of making shawls Textile designer Varuna Anand

Having born and brought up in Delhi, textile designer Varuna Anand was clueless about Kashmir's craftsmanship. After getting married in Jammu 15 years ago, she realised that there's more to Kashmir than Pashmina and the art of making shawls is eventually dying.

“When I got married, my mother gave me shawls and she thought she was buying the best of Kashmir. I only realised the difference when I came to Jammu after marriage and wore them. I saw that mine were nothing as compared to what other people were wearing. Theirs had fine craftsmanship and intricate works. I realised that in the name of shawls with Kashmiri embroidery, people were selling something else. So I took up this task of reviving the dying art,” she says.

Since her husband, Parveen, knew about her background in textiles, after getting married, he introduced her to people who were doing finer works. “These were the craftsman living in villages of Srinagar who were a part of the cottage industry. I met them and realised that Kashmir is not just about pashmina. It is the art of doing that kind of embroidery on a fragile fabric like pashmina. And this art form is slowly fading away as people no longer want to take this forward; since they were unable to sell those pieces,” she says.

In Kashmir, weaving became popular when the turmoil began. At that time, there was not much to do. One source of earning was weaving since it expected craftsman to sit in the house and work continuously. Some even started their selling businesses. Amidst that also came the people who moved away from the actual fine craftsmanship.

“During that time, the works of people practicing the age-old art became unnoticed as they did not had enough manpower to sell their works outside. So such works kept on lying with them. I got in touch with these weavers to revive the art of actual shawl making by involving the craftsman,” she clarifies.

Keeping up to her promise, in her upcoming showcase 'Heirloom Collection' set to be launched on November 8, Varuna, founder and designer of The Splendor of Kashmir is set to educate the customers about the value of the workmanship on the shawl. “The value of the workmanship on the shawl is what we want to educate the customers about. I have restored shawls that are not on pashmina but ruffles,” she says.

The collection will come with classic traditional patterns. Anand will be showcasing a piece of art in her every piece. “The pashmina is embroidered into two forms — sozni embroidery (single stitch) and paper mat stitch. There will be unbelievable extensive embroidery that will be done to perfection. We have played around with all colours from mustard yellow to baby pink, deep green, bright red. We have moved beyond the orange, black and grey.”

Defining the collection, Varuna says, “The Heirloom Collection has an edge over the rest. These are pieces that come with no mistake and the workmanship is very minute and intricate. They are seamless and done with extensive works.”

An average jamawar takes maybe 12-13 months to make. These pieces have been made in 14-18 months to complete. The reason? “The intensity and extent of work is much more than this and the work is much more neater. It's an impeccably done embroidery that was available 50 years ago and these pieces have become very few now,” she stresses.

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