“We work for that day when the word ‘handloom’ connotes neither cheap…nor imperfect…nor does it bring to mind visions of poor artisans with underfed children. We look forward to that day when ‘hand-loom’ is associated with pride and joy…and rightfully acknowledged as the very backbone of our culture and heritage.”
– Karomi Crafts
Life seems to have woven pretty artfully for Kolkatta based Sarita Ganeriwala. The lady and her sister Sarika Ginodia, who takes care of the finances, are busy making the Indian woman, in times of climatic crisis, feel more comfortable in naturally dyed silk, linen and cotton Khadi attire. Since 2019 celebrates 100th year of Charakha I talked to Sarita about her Khadi venture.
MD: Acquaint us with your family and creative background.
SaritaG: I come from a conservative Marwari family. My mother is a housewife and father a trader/businessman. My sister Sarika, is a Chartered Accountant by profession. But I have done Bachelor of Fine Arts from MSU, Baroda. And later post-graduation in Textile Design and Development from NIFT, Delhi.
From a young age, I have been seeing my mother make sketches with utmost detailing, embroidering the finest cross stitch, passionately taking dance lessons and looking after her music records and gramophone with greatest care. So without doubt I believe that I have inherited her creativity.
MD: Why did you begin with Karomi-the handloom tree?
SaritaG: After finishing my studies, for 8 years I worked in the industry. But that lacked a soul. From childhood, I have preferred working on projects from start-to-finish. But there, I felt like a cog in the wheel. My creative self was getting choked. Born and brought up in a diverse country with a veritable textile heritage I was busy taking design instructions from people sitting in plush offices of New York.
Yet longed for my work to be an expression of both- Art and Textile. Was convinced that with sufficient effort it was possible to make wearable textiles as good as wall art. In the year 2000, while working with Weavers’ Studio on a project, I had a tryst with handloom, more specifically weavers in Bengal, and loved it!
In 2007, I finally took a call and moved back to my hometown – Kolkata, to begin setting up Karomi, The Handloom Tree. Ours is a journey of train rides to villages, bumpy roads and uncertain timelines, but most importantly of establishing relationships of trust with artisans of Bengal.
MD: How do you hope to tip the scale with khadi and naturally dyed textiles?
SaritaG: At Karomi we do what we believe in, to make a difference in the lives of the people we’re engaged with. For the first few years, we primarily worked with silk. Gradually, linen and cotton were introduced. It is only in the past 4 years that we have consciously moved towards Khadi and naturally dyed textiles. In so doing, a bulk of our work, perhaps 30-40%, is now naturally dyed.
To work with natural dyes has been a long-cherished dream of mine. Our linen and silk are chemically dyed. Even our brighter collections in Khadi are so.
Also, moving towards Khadi was a decision to dress comfortably in a tropical climate like ours. Fine Khadi of 100s or 150s thread count is something that only Bengal can deliver.
I hope we tip the scale in our favour for innovation in fabric and contemporariness in jamdani weaves. Our colours and compositions, through a combination of different yarns and weaves underlines a certain design belief and grammar. We’ve always created ‘quality Khadi’ that speaks for itself.
MD: What do you want to achieve with Karomi in the near and distant future?
SaritaG: To continue working in the hand-loom sector with a clear focus on design innovation is a challenge. As the number of skilled weavers reduces, the challenge is not merely to produce quality fabric but also to keep the craft alive. Towards it, first and foremost we need to instill in the weaver a sense of pride for his chosen profession. At Karomi we are strongly committed to this ideal. Our allegiance to textiles, craft and most essentially to the craftsperson.
MD: Who are the people you admire in this space?
And historically, its Bauhaus that is a huge inspiration.
Photos courtesy – Karomi Crafts