Book: Exploring ‘Travelling Patterns’, a Celebration of Handmade

I’m excited to share my experience participating in a fun and unique project called “Travelling Patterns,” a collaborative initiative by the Goethe-Institut, Tarabooks, and Dakshinachitra. This project brought together four artists – myself, Ruchi Shah from India, and Verena Gerlach and Henning Wagenbreth from Germany – to explore the fascinating world of block-printed textiles and their “travelling patterns.”

The project’s theme emerged from the rich history of block-printed art in Machilipatnam on the Coromandel Coast in India. I had covered the block making process earlier from my visit to Pedana. My journey with the project was enriched by my prior collaboration with Kalakshetra on the book “The Printed and Painted Textiles of the Coromandel Coast.” The book beautifully exemplifies the impact of culture and trade on artistic evolution.

Dakshinachitra held an exhibition on Kalamkari textiles and that was a treasure trove of imagery, showcasing the many influences on this craft. One particular artwork, with its intricate details, left a lasting impression and became my starting point for delving deeper into this art form’s visual style.

V. Geetha from Tarabooks shared a photo showcasing the oriental influence on the block-printed textiles, possibly due to the silk route. This image highlighted the remarkable creativity of the artisans with motifs that were oriental made by Indian artisans, prompting me to imagine the intriguing conversations between artisans, patrons, and traders. As a weaver at heart, I couldn’t help but wonder about the role of weavers in this intricate journey of patterns. 

The project culminated in a beautiful book, “Travelling Patterns,” where each artist explored their interpretation of the theme. The discussions and ideation with the lovely folks at Tarabooks was an very enriching. My contribution focused on weaving, using the language of block-printing to document the process of hand spinning and hand weaving. This theme continued into an exhibition at Dakshinachitra, where I had the opportunity to exhibit my journey and exploration as a textile designer. I believe, to truly appreciate the handmade, we must also engage in the act of making ourselves. Anita and Prarthana of Dakshinachitra, made sense of our each of our very diverse artistic expressions and brought them together beautifully.

The book itself, published by Tarabooks, is a testament to the beauty of handcrafted objects. It combines various traditional practices – hand block printing, letterpress printing, and screen printing – on both handmade paper and fabric, resulting in a truly rich sensory experience.

Get your hands on a copy here.

This project wouldn’t have been the same without the incredible women who supported me every step of the way. A huge thank you to Katharina Görgen from Goethe-Institut for getting things off the ground. Ruchi and Verena, became close friends throughout the process, and our brainstorming sessions were always a blast! I’m also incredibly grateful to my aunt, Pratibha Jain, who was my sounding board throughout the entire project.

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