Home PageAsiaAll in the Family: Indian Male Textile Artisans

Jun 05

All in the Family: Indian Male Textile Artisans

When we launched ClothRoads, our focus was to support women weaving cooperatives. And we do, mostly. But as we traveled the globe and met more artisans, it didn’t take long to realize the scope had to be expanded to include male artisans too. It became ever more apparent in India—a country rich with textile traditions.

You’ve met these artisans over the past year in my blogs, but as Father’s Day approaches, it seems fitting to honor these men who pass textile traditions on to their sons or other family members. They are also makers of tools, suppliers of resources, and transporters of goods (and women and children to and fro).

The Khatris are a ninth-generation family of Ajrakh block printers. The preparation of Ajrakh is a demanding technical art requiring perfection; the block carving itself a highly specialized craft.  In its most traditional process, the making of this cloth can include as many as thirteen steps from the tearing of the cloth, through mordant printing, resist printing (sometimes in combination with mordant), and the tannin/iron complex for dyeing black, indigo and madder.

Artisan Ramu Devraj Harijan of the Banni region of Kutch made his first quilt at 12 years of age. Traditionally, the Banni women make richly embroidered textiles for their dowries and men may also help with designing and sewing material pieces together. So it wasn’t unusual that Ramu learned all aspects of quilt making and embroidery from his parents. Ramu uses the naturally-dyed and block-printed Ajrakh fabric made by the Khatris, combining them to create a patchwork of contemporary quilts.

During our visit with Ramu, we learned that fellow Bhuj artisan Abduljabbar Mahmadhushen Khatri helped him apply to the Santa Fe Folk Art Market (Ramu doesn’t read or write). So it was quite rewarding to also visit Abduljabbar at his bandhani studio. Jabbar and his brothers stem from traditional tie-dyers, but their family had stopped the practice a few generations before. Mentoring under their uncles and cousins, who were still in the trade, they reinvigorated the family business.

We met Dayalal Kudecha Dayabhai from Bhujodi, a weaving village near the district capital Bhuj, this past November in Cusco, Peru, while attending a weaving gathering there. As a young child, Dayabhai’s family migrated to Bhujodi. After seeing the traditional arts of this village, he decided to learn weaving. His brother-in-law mentored him early on and then he studied under a master weaver. His wife and one of his sons now work with him. His mother, sister and daughter also help out. This year, the Santa Fe Folk Art Market has accepted Dayalal as a first-time artisan. See Dayalal’s Weaving.

Help us carry on these rich textile traditions too. Cozy up under one of Ramu’s quilts or adorn your table with a block-printed tablecloth. We have these now in our shop and would be happy to send you information–email info@clothroads.com.




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