Our bags were already bursting and overweight. Shoes and well-worn clothes were being left behind. Why did our visit to the village of artisan Ramu Devraj Harijan in the Banni region of Kutch, India have to be at the tail end of our leaving this textile-rich region? Somehow we could wedge a few more pieces into suitcases, couldn’t we? Especially once Ramu and his family unfurled their newly-made quilts and quilt squares, pillow tops, and intricately embroidered textiles before us.
Once I saw the quilt designs, it dawned on me that I have been sleeping under one of Ramu’s quilts for years, purchased at the Santa Fe Folk Art Market. And just like quilt blocks, the pieces all started to fall into place, connections made. Ramu explained that the main fabric he uses is naturally dyed and block printed by another local artisan family, the Khatris, a ninth-generation of Ajrakh block printers, who I introduced you to here. Ramu chooses the combinations of color and design and lays them out to create a patchwork of contemporary quilts.
His family helps with stitching and he has taught the craft to other villagers, so they too can earn a living. With the help of his brother who studied in the village’s new school, Ramu hopes to expand his market and create more jobs. Even though Ramu is illiterate, he has made his way to Santa Fe Folk Art Market a number of times.
This visit was not complete without a tour of the village where he proudly showed us the new community workshop and the water system being built—all from his earnings made at the Folk Art Market. His daughter tagged along, willingly posing for our cameras. And then, she brought out her stitching to sell and, miraculously, we still managed to find a bit of room in our brimming bags along with a few large quilts that we set aside for ClothRoads trunk shows. If you’re interested in a hand blockprinted and stitched quilt brought home from India, I’d be happy to send you a photo and pricing. You too could dream away under one of these gems.