What's wrong with this picture?
This is a game we played as children in American elementary school. It teaches observation and analysis. On the train to Bagalkot, Karnataka, I suddenly noticed that my white cotton/polyester bed sheet was proudly labeled with a "Handloom" tag… and I wondered, what's wrong with this picture?
I am relatively new to handloom, though I have spent decades working with textiles in India. After one decade of working with hand embroidery artisans of Kutch, I began a design education program for artisans. That is when I expanded to hand weaving and printing. And after directing that program for eight years, I expanded it to share what we had learned and achieved with artisans in regions less exposed than Kutch.
Kutch is in many ways a fortunate island. Many hand weavers there today earn a viable living, and those who have graduated from our design education program have excelled in the better urban markets in India and abroad. In Karnataka, the picture of the majority of hand weavers in India became clearer.
Here, I saw men working for minimal wages under "Master Weavers," from whom they had borrowed more than they would ever be able to pay back at those wages. Ilkal sari weavers were being convinced to leave their traditional handlooms and use jacquard looms to make copies of Varanasi textiles. Many had power looms back to back with their handlooms as well. In some villages it was hard to find even one handloom. And that loom was devoted to plain white cotton/polyester yardage destined to be government school uniforms.
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