Mar 27, 2015

New Discoveries - Madhubani Painting and New Weaves - Part 1!

The travel bug bit me again!  Last February, we were finally able to get away for another exploration trip to the villages where our weaving is done and to source some new Artisan work.  This is probably the most fun part of what I do, besides getting to design to my heart's content!

This time, we decided to take a trip out to the Madhubani region of Bihar, bordering Nepal.  I had long wanted to explore the beautiful handpainted Madhubani artwork and finally, we were heading there! Leaving Maka Maka, our flagship store and cafe in Calcutta, in able hands, we headed out.

The winter chill was strong as we got off the train in Muzaffarpur, in the early hours of the morning.  We headed out for the town of Madhubani with our escort, Kailash-ji.  As soon as we got out of the congestion of the city, the highway became a pleasure to drive on!  With yellow fields of mustard flowers on either side, and the morning mist hanging low, it was a refreshing and serene sight.

Once we reached the town of Madhubani, we headed to the NGO's workshop where most of the Madhubani artisans came to showcase their work or use the space to do their work.  We spoke with a few women artsians and the chief coordinator of the location about the history of this beautiful and intricate painting that apparently originated during the times of the epic, Ramayana!  The folklore says that, King Janaka, Sita's father had ordered that all the houses should be decorated with intricate paintings during Sita's wedding to Ram.

It's traditon, till date, for the villages in Madhubani area, to decorate their homes with this form of painting when there's a wedding or any festive occasion.  In its original form, Madhubani painting was done using local herbs and cowdung.  Currently, fabric paint is used to create the beautiful paintings on silks, cottons or on paper.
The pen used to create this artwork is almost similar to a fountain pen of the old days where the nib had to be dipped in paint to get the color in it.  The artisans meticulously paint various stories from the epics, folklore, village scenes, or just elements from nature.
It was really enriching to see the high quality of artisanship.  The icing on the cake was the freshly made sweets using fresh milk from a cow that lives on the premises!  The flavor and taste was just out of this world!

After our work was done in Madhubani, we had to speed off to the village where Sujni embroidery work is done so that we could speak to a few artisans and start off a project with them, where a few of my designs would be done in their traditional Sujni embroidery.  But before the next stop, a quick bite to eat was a must at a roadside dhaba!! Minimal facilities but optimal food at unbelievably cheap prices! 3 cheers for dhaba food! :-)

By the time we entered our familiar village, it was getting dark and cold.  Without much further ado, and only after soaking in the fresh unpolluted air, feasting my eyes on the greens of the fields, did we get down to business!  After discussing the new concepts and designs with the artisans, one of which is "Shakti"(women's empowerment), we headed back to the Muzaffarpur station to catch the overnight train to Bhagalpur.  We knew it would be a pretty cold and uncomfortable journey as it was a Sleeper Class train! Well, it is what it is!