Weaving together tradition
Gunjan Jain is happy and content experimenting in weaves. As a Bhubaneswar-based textile designer, she is making efforts to revive and give a contemporary touch to the Odisha handloom tradition.Having done her designing course from Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi, Gunjan set up ‘Vriksh’, an alternate design studio in Bhubaneswar, in 2008 to produce works in handloom using natural materials and traditional practices. Working directly with weavers’ groups in Bomkai village in Ganjam, Gopalpur village in Jajpur and Nuapatna village in Cuttack district, Gunjan explores and blends native crafts with contemporary designs and aims at promoting traditional weaving communities in the State. She started her studio with cloth scraps and moved on to khadi, jute and golden grass before working on handloom, her ultimate goal. “Although Vriksh works directly with weavers, we do not make it just labour-oriented. They are provided with the base design and given a free hand to accentuate the design patterns because I believe they are the actual custodians of Odisha’s textile designs,” says Gunjan. She says she started the venture by collecting scrap cloth from tailoring shops across Bhubaneswar. “I used to collect discarded cloth pieces and stitch them together to form waist belts, folders and slings. We prepared bags from khadi and jute using Ikat patterns on them and dying them with vegetable colours,” she says.However, two years back she gradually shifted to handlooms and started working with weavers at the grassroots.
The designer has now come out with a collection of sarees, stoles and home furnishing items. It includes sarees in finest tussar woven in Jajpur in the Jala (extra weft) technique, rare thick Bomkai sarees; cotton and silk ikats, naturally dyed sarees and stoles from Kotpad. “There is also an interesting blend of tussar with organic cotton khadi and tussar sarees woven in Jajpur, printed with natural-dye Dabu blocks in Kala Dera, Rajasthan, and further accentuated by intricate Kantha work of West Bengal. This is an experimentation of how traditional weaves from all parts of the country can be brought together,” says Gunjan.The collection will be showcased in an exhibition titled ‘Nadambika’ in Kolkata this month. It took the designer around a year to complete the collection.