Grant Period: Over one year and six months
Dastkar Andhra is a registered trust working in the handloom sector. It’s working to establish the viability of household production of cotton textiles as an economic activity and ensure equitable dispersal of economic returns among the producer families.
Of the vast amount of cotton textiles produced in the handloom sector in India today, 10 per cent comes from Andhra Pradesh. However, the aesthetic sense of the producer communities of artistic Indian textiles is being gradually eroded. The dictates of the market, as interpreted by the entrepreneur, now dominate textile design, and the new generation of weavers has little or no access to the wealth of traditional design. The systematic delinking of the weaver from the market and from the local resources in the form of dye and yarn, has contributed to a loss of memory – of local histories and traditions of design practices – leading to a degeneration in the standards of textile production.
Dastkar Andhra has done significant design development work in the crafts. Over the last seven years, it has focused exclusively on handloom cotton textiles, in an effort to re-integrate design and documentation into the production process.
This grant supported Dastkar Andhra in the documentation of the traditional designs of the cotton handloom weaving industry of Andhra Pradesh. The aim was to reconnect the contemporary weaver to the processes of creating traditional design and re-integrating design and documentation into the production process. Dastkar vouched to strengthen methods and processes for creating quality products in the medium and lower price range of hand-woven cotton textile in a few production centres in Andhra Pradesh
Dastkar selected two or three young weavers to work closely with design consultants to produce specific designs for the weaving cooperatives and independent weaver groups with which the organisation is associated. These designs were based on regional design traditions recovered through archival research. The design consultants also participated in the production of both samples and the final products.
The work was undertaken in distinct phases. The design-documentation team first visited museums, libraries and production centres in order to track and recover regional designs. In the next phase, the designers, design consultants and the producer group developed a common understanding of the necessity for new designs, shared archival research results and set design targets. In the third phase, the designers and consultants collaborated to develop design concepts for each production centre. This was followed by the preparation of designs on paper, evaluations by the design team, work on graph drawings, colour and texture variations, experimenting with dyes and colour development.
The immediate outcome of the project was a body of designs for the middle range of cotton fabrics, based on Andhra design traditions. In the medium term, the project helped Dastkar Andhra set up a design studio that acted as a resource for several weaving centres. A dyeing, design and documentation team was also formed to provide consultancy services to several production centres. The project has also helped seed the nucleus of a design reference library and resource centre.