The lure of Chanderi

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Jospephs Gate

An exhibition of exquisite handwoven sarees comes to Victoria, courtesy Kay collections

Delhi-based fabric designer Kushma Ram is returning to Victoria in September with an exclusive collection of handwoven sarees that capture the rich traditions of the various weaving communities of India. She has been working with weavers and embroiderers in different regions of India, designing sarees and re-creating traditional ones using centuries-old handloom traditions and techniques.

“The exhibitions have a special focus on Chanderi sarees, named after the small town in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh,” says Kushma. “In the town of Chanderi, weaving is the only source of income for some 3500 families,” she adds.

Woven from the finest cotton and silk, the Chanderi saree is a delicate gossamer fabric that is popular among the more discerning saree wearers. Chanderi sarees are pure cotton, pure silk or a combination of cotton and silk. Traditional motifs of coin, flowers, peacock and geometric designs are woven as additional weft during the weaving process. These days, weavers are beginning to experiment with other motifs that are equally popular.

“For handcrafted sarees, time is a luxury! It can take over a year to craft a good Chanderi saree. The more complex ‘jaaljungla’ work with zari is a good example of this.Some of the motifs and borders date back to time immemorial and are only woven through memories passed on within the weaving families,” says Kushma.

So what makes the Chanderi saree so special? “The Chanderi saree is very light with an organic texture that drapes and makes the wearer feel very graceful. It is an all time favourite and an essential part of the bridal trousseau,” says Kushma.

Kay Collections exhibitions are known for showcasing sarees that are original in design and unique in colour. For those with the ‘dhoopchhaon’ effect, a careful selection of dyes for the colours of the warp and the weft yarns are crucial. With the correct combination, the body of the saree exudes an elusive mélange of colours depending upon the direction and intensity of light falling on it. Achieving this in a Chanderi saree with its extreme sheer texture is work that can only be mastered by very skilled master weavers.

The exhibitions will also feature Chanderi sarees that have previously been awarded national recognition. Besides Chanderi sarees, there will be hand-woven sarees from other regions of India such as Banares.

For more information, log in to www.kaycollections.com

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