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Traditional Indian crafts woo international contemporary design Pia Wustenberg s avant garde style stacking vessels combine turned wood, blown glass and thrown pottery Craftsmanship and luxury have always played a major role in the legacy of India s rich cultural heritage. Architecture, ornate textiles, clothing, jewellery, carvings, art and so much more, predate even the patronage and excesses of the Maharajahs. While Indian artisans still practice a diverse and fascinating range of craft skills, they are sadly becoming a disappearing breed. Just a few years ago in Kutch, tribal women in Khatri communities were using wonderful techniques such as bandhani (tie and dye), block printing, exquisite beading, mirror work and batik. Their skills, as well as the handiwork was fantastic, but their final application (at least to the outside eye) was a little too folksy . However, today, growing numbers of contemporary designers, both in India and abroad, are utilising these and other techniques, including gilding, enamelling and embroidering, to create sophisticated and original work that has restored credit and dignity to these ancient skills. One of the foremost practitioners of gilding, Delhi based Gunjan Gupta, has literally, taken a gold leaf from the interior design book of the Maharajahs. Her furniture manufacturing company Wrap takes the Mughal throne as its inspiration, using techniques developed in Jaipur. The process involves wrapping a wooden frame with wafer thin sheets of precious metals, such as gold and silver. Gupta produces her own deconstructed furniture dining thrones and tables embellished with 24 carat gold and fine silver leaf which is a successful marriage between tradition and contemporary design. The success of her work has sustained a ugg infant boots community which was beginning to turn away from its traditional skills. In April, Gupta makes her debut at the famed Furniture Salonein Milan and is currently showcasing her new collection at Mehrauli Gallery, Delhi. Alice Cicolini s silk route shinkara pendant: Gold meenakari, hand carved ruby and gold beads Like Gupta, jeweller Alice Cicolini works with precious materials, employing centuries old skills in a new and distinctive way. Cicolini came to India in 2006 to work for the British Council in Delhi. She became intrigued with the art of enamelling in Benares and Jaipur, having visited the few remaining traditional masters of meenakari work. She now designs her jewellery in London using stones such as peridots, amethysts and aquamarines which are then enamelled by Kamal Kumar Meenakar in Jaipur. Cicolini admits that the real challenge is to replace this generation of craftsman with the next. This poses a problem, because the patience and commitment to learn is no longer there; it takes about 15 years of apprenticeship. The geographical diversity of India s craft skills makes it a treasure trove cheap ugg australia of inspiration for designers. Each region has its own specialty from the chikankari, wood and silver work of the north to the lacquering , bronze sculpting and silk weaving of the south. Tricia Guild, who works with handloom weavers in Kerala, is founder and creative director of the London based international home and lifestyle company Designers Guild. The richness of India s craft skills have long been an open secret in the fashion world too. Designers such as Coco Chanel appreciated Indian craftsmanship generations ago. Even Chanel s latest collection in Paris was styled as an ode to India. Enamoured with the quality and artisanship of the embroidery, textiles and threadwork in the areas around Chennai, he settled down here with partner, Patrick Savouret, embarking on training embroiderers from their studio and transforming Indian embroidery styles into creations for the rich and famous. Royalty, celebrities and their interior designers from across the world now commission bedspreads, curtains, upholstery, rugs and cushion covers made by Indian craftsmen from Vastrakeala (their export house). According to Lesage, "our aim is quality, and India has some of the best embroiderers in the world." Combining opulent beading and embroidery with silks and velvets, Sabyasachi Mukherjee creates textiles of timeless appeal which transcend national and cultural boundaries. Hours of exquisite craftsmanship characterise his designs which are hand made and specially woven in Benares. On his home territory in Kolkata, Sabyasachi designs accessories and sarees which are very Indian, and in the finest tradition of super luxury. His work makes no concessions to the trends of Bollywood or the short cuts of machine made items. His wedding sarees could grace the interior of any fine home as works of art in their own right. The designer s imaginative line goes on evolving, with jewellery, shoes, bags, caps and his own ironic version of the Nehru cap: embroidered and embellished. Ideally, the preservation of these craft skills by international designers should create a paradigm which sustains rural workers, ugg boot deals celebrates and safeguards their threatened skills and generates export revenues, while re enriching the cultural landscape of India itself. Designers, retailers and discerning travellers from all over the world are increasingly looking to India as a source of inspiration, for its lofty standards of hand craftsmanship. Indeed, it s true to say that India is at the top of its game and deserves to be proud of a continuing legacy.

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