Summing It Up

India is not for everyone. Based on what we experienced in Rajasthan it is noisy, dirty, crowded and chaotic.  The infrastructure is deplorable, and I marvel at the ability of people to survive on roads where everyone is competing for space.  It’s not enough that that applies to every kind of wheeled vehicle but add cows, elephants, camels and goats to the mix and it gets more than a little frightening.

That being said, there is another way of looking at it. India is a way of life, one that I suspect is quite different from that of many visitors.  To enjoy what it has to offer one should go with heart and mind open to the experience.  One guide said it best when he advised not to just focus on the sights but to see the life.

The life has much to do with Hindu tradition.  Marriages are arranged, and couples share their life with the husband’s family.  While husbands have considerable freedom, wives typically stay close to home and are not to go out at night for fear of being labeled with uncomplimentary terms. 

For the most part, women are illiterate and according to one guide, cell phones have provided them a way to communicate with their friends and family.  They may not be able to read or write but they have learned to identify numbers.  Hopefully, the fact that young girls are now attending school will change that in time. Again quoting a guide, women who are educated and working outside the home are often castigated by family and friends for having broken with tradition.  All this leads me to believe it would be difficult being a woman in India.

Cremation is the norm except for children and unmarried young women whose remains may be buried or with girls between 12 and 18 set adrift on the Ganges.

Business is conducted on the street or in nondescript store fronts.  There is little evidence of malls or department stores yet there appears to be no lack of available goods and services.

There are many historically interesting sites to visit all of which add to understanding the culture.

If you are a textile loving person, India is heaven.  The beauty of the work is breathtaking though I can’t say much about the working conditions or the equipment.  When it came to weaving, I was blown away.  Compared to my sophisticated setup the looms are primitive yet I can’t imagine creating the intricate designs that were common.   Interestingly, much of the textiles are created by men though women working at home do most of what is hand stitched.

Let me conclude this rambling by saying that if you go to India, treat yourself to great hotels.  Some are palaces formerly occupied by maharajahs with decor that is over the top.  In addition, the staff is attentive, courteous and kind in a gentle way that is not always a characteristic of westerners.

Despite all its differences, I totally enjoyed the experience of India and am glad to have gone now when it still retains much of its old culture.  I suspect in years to come that will change and India will be a different place.   If you are one who enjoys immersing yourself in place and taking away what it offers, then India is a place to consider.

 

Next Up: Bikaner

After a very long and tiring bus ride, we arrived in Bikaner too tired to do anything other than shower and go to bed. Next day there were sights to see, but most of us didn’t have the energy to trek around. Bikaner was said to have some wonderful textiles, so four of us headed off to find them.

It didn’t take long for us to find ourselves in textile heaven!

Piece after piece was thrown on the floor in front of us. Each one was handmade exemplifying astonishing skills from weaving to appliqué to embroidery.

Some were of the finest fibers with the very softest being those from a baby camel. I never would have thought camel hair to be suitable for weaving.

Much of the work is done by women working at home, but here we saw these ladies sitting on the floor doing their lovely handwork. While I was in awe of their work, I did not envy their sitting on a hard floor while doing it.

I can’t tell you how long we were in this one shop, but I can tell you that we purchased so much that we were presented with a gift, a sari. Now that is something we weren’t going to buy for ourselves, but we are very happy to have this special memory of India and had fun going native that evening at dinner.

Back at our hotel, we were welcomed by this gentleman who was only too happy to have his photo taken. I was quite surprised when he pulled from behind his ears the rather dramatic extension of his mustache. I must say we’ve seen some pretty spectacular facial hair during this adventure!

Speaking of hotels, the ones we have experienced have been spectacular. Several are palaces that have belonged to maharajahs. In fact, some still claim ownership and lease the property to hotel operators. Quite a nice way to have all those rooms become income producing, wouldn’t you say?

In addition to being very plush the service is amazing. Every employee goes out of his or her way to be helpful and pleasant.

And let me not forget the food, always freshly prepared

and beautifully presented.

Yes, this trip is a kaleidoscope of contrasts which is what makes is so very interesting.

Bucket List Adventure

My bucket list isn’t long, but at the top for some time has been India. I am fascinated by its colors and textures to say nothing about the textiles and architecture. As if that’s not enough, there’s the food which I expect to be even better than Trader Joe’s Indian entrees!
Now the downside of India being on my bucket list is that it’s not on the hubby’s. That being said, I’m lucky to have girlfriends who have great spirits of adventure and whose spouses don’t always share their wanderlust. Four of us experienced Vietnam and Cambodia together and were dubbed the Traveling Sisterhood by Jeanne who writes Collage of Life. We plus several others who are joining the fun are off to make memories in India which will last a lifetime.
Our travel for Vietnam and now India is organized by another Jean who lives in Australia and specializes in travel for women. Take a look here at what she has coming up. Coincidentally, I learned of her through the other Jeanne which shows how blog friends can open doors for one another. I have to say Jean is a real find. She is wonderful to work with and does her utmost to make travel dreams come true. She is meeting us in Dehli, and I am very excited to become better acquainted with a woman who already seems like a friend.
There’s a long trip ahead before the adventure begins, and I’m hoping to sleep through most of it! During the next couple of weeks, if internet allows, I will share India with you and hope you will come along and enjoy the journey.

Beauty of Ikat

Are you familiar with ikat textiles made from threads that are dyed section by section?  No doubt you have seen the fabric used in decorative items and clothing, but have you ever thought about how the designs are created?

When done by hand, the threads are stretched on a frame and the pattern is marked off. Each section of the design is then bound off and dyed separately until all areas of the thread are covered.

Ikat textiles are popular these days, but they are not new.

Historically, they have been symbols of status and wealth much like tapestries were in earlier times.

They were offered to rulers, loyal friends and people of importance as part of a centuries old tradition of gift giving.

Some of the gifts were used to establish and cement political alliances.

Today, in some countries, ikat garments are part of the culture.

As a weaver, I am fascinated by the artistry of the fabric,

often woven with silk threads as fine as a strand of hair.  Knowing that I will never be able to duplicate such beautiful creations only enhances my appreciation.

Strand of Silk - Journey Map - Ikat - Producer Communities - padmashali

How grateful I am that the tradition of making ikat textiles by hand is being maintained in places like India, Southeast Asia, Japan and Latin America.  I was very happy to be able to photo these wonderful examples of ikat creations at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. 

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Flowers As Art

Beautiful floral arrangements are works of art, particularly when they are created to meet a challenge such as that demanded by Florescence, an annual themed flower show in Houston. For two days the entries are displayed at the Museum of Fine Arts where huge crowds marvel at the astonishing creativity. 

 With so many of you interested in tablescapes, how could I not share these with you!  The arrangements  were to depict a dining experience at an exotic destination on a functional table for two. You may not find every element of the tablescape to be practical, but there is inspiration on each for our at home tables.

This is a very formal table with layers of textiles complementing the gold accents on the stemware and china.

Unique features are the unexpected use of orchids on the candlestickand the fish jumping into bowls filled with iridescent baubles.

As with the first table, a tall arrangement is the focal point.   I couldn’t help but think of sitting at either and wanting to move the arrangement to the side.

Two things, the teacup as a containerand a natural leaf secureing the napkin, are features  worth remembering.

This table is all about fun and thanks to the clever arrangement I could almost forgive its size as a centerpiece.  The use of pattern and color is consistent in every detail

right down to the elephants suspended at the layered corners.  What sets this table apart is its touches of whimsey.

Here pattern is key,and the layered textiles define the color palette used in both the flower selection and tableware.  

Overall, this is a simple table made warm and inviting by color and texture.  Did you notice that the floral arrangement is on the side?

So, there you have it, four different looks.  Keep in mind that in each case the table is secondary to the floral design. As beautiful as they are, the arrangements are a bit overstated for an at home table, but there are wonderful ideas for presentation and flower selection. Hopefully, there is something on each table that would translate to your personal style be it flower selection, color combination, the layering of cloth, the mixed textures or touches of whimsey.   I’d love to know your take away.

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A Little Bit of History

For some time readers have asked about my weaving, so as I am pretty much housebound these days, this seems a good time to write about it and weaving in general.  Let’s begin with some background that I hope you find interesting .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADid you know that that the only surviving being that has been weaving longer than man is a spider?  History suggests that man discovered early on that lacing reeds, grasses and twigs together provided items such as clothing, shelter, vessels  and sleep mats that made life more comfortable. So it is that weaving is said to have preceded other skills such as pottery making, metalsmithing or glass blowing he/she eventually developed.  Knowing something of the history of weaving makes me very proud to continue this ages old tradition.

st-petersburg-191As time passed, weaving became not just practical but an art form.  Skilled weavers were held in high regard among royalty who frequently appointed them to court positions.  Here, weavers created beautiful tapestries that were used for decorative purposes as well as taken to battle where they made encampments more like home.  Often tapestries were prized spoils of war.  Thankfully, many survived various ransacks and have been preserved so that we might enjoy and marvel at the work done by hand in another time.

Now, here’s a little tidbit that may be fact or fiction.  Christopher Columbus’s father was one of those court appointed weavers.  As a youngster, Columbus was an apprentice, and it is thought that his dislike of weaving resulted in his going to sea.  The rest is history!

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While weaving is a respected tradition in other cultures and patterns are passed from one generation to another, in America it is less so.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly on in this country, hand loomed fabrics were for clothing and bed linens made of wool and cotton spun and dyed by the weaver.

FranklinSlaveholders often had an outlying shed where women and children spent their days weaving fabric for necessities.  

Today, much of what was once handwoven is produced by machinery which contributes to the scarcity of weaving in developed countries. However, language is peppered with references to weaving.   We speak of the tapestry/fabric of life, the threads that bind and tales/lives woven together.  A woman who spun yarn and remained unmarried became known as a spinster.  On an on it goes, but I’ll leave it at that today and come back later with a fascinating look at looms.  

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More Studio Frenzy II

Thinking back to my childhood brought memories of my grandmother and great aunt sitting in front of the fire quilting, and I couldn’t help but think she might be smiling at my crazy quilt stocking.    With that in mind, I decided to explore another technique, a simple one that would combine handwoven and purchased fabric.

Remembering Grandma  sewing strips of random fabrics together for what she called a string quilt was my influence.

The stitched strips were layered with a piece of batting and the shape cut from a template made to fit the styrofoam cone around which the strips would be wrapped.

To embellish the seam lines, once again I relied on the embroidery stitches found on the sewing machine.  It is such fun to try all the patterns, and it doesn’t take long to find that some work better than other.

Finally, the pattern piece is wrapped around the cone and hand stitched where the sides join.  A little sparkle is added at the top, a twig became a trunk which is mounted on a scrap piece of board cut into a small square.  Scraps really do come in handy!

Hmmm, now that I look at the trees I see the makings of a centerpiece for my nontraditional holiday table.  Come back tomorrow to see how it turns out.

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