India mania has hit!

We both see and hear a great deal about India; their politics, culture and history.  Their Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just been on a State visit to England resulting in excellent trade agreements – the first visit by an Indian PM for more than a decade. 
In addition the Victoria & Albert Museum here in London has also catered to our long term interest in all decorative crafts with the current exhibition Textiles of India and the Bejewelled Treasures, the collection of Al Thani which opened last week.

The Textile exhibition is so comprehensive and beautifully displayed, for once I visited it twice – there was so much to enjoy.  Every stage of existence, birth, betrothal, marriage and death is marked in lndia with gifts of cloth. The exhibits show the love of colour and texture all augmenting life’s rich pageant.    Even the spinning wheel became a weapon in the struggle for women’s freedom.
I have been lucky enough to visit the Northern areas of India and on my last visit I was intrigued by a stone grille window frame (open to allow the cool air to circulate – my design ‘India’ shown here worked on 18 mesh canvas with floss was the result

Textiles for centuries have also been central to opening up India to the world and their far reaching presence today both inside the subcontinent and outside is a testimony to their continued importance.  They have a live quality due to the skill and dexterity with which they are manipulated – a simple length of fabric, a sari becomes animated when wrapped around a woman, another length can become a turban, a dramatic form which I would dearly like to master.

Textiles have always been prized in India for clothes and furnishings.  One of the most exciting display in the current exhibition is a ‘palace room’ completely hung tent-like with beautiful embroidered fabrics.  Even their elephants had lavish gold and silver encrusted embroideries at royal ceremonies.   One year, our stitching theme on the Italian trip was ‘Elephants’ a great subject for canvas work and here are some of the results just showing how colour and stitching can be so individual.

Fabrics opened India to the world, and their far reaching presence today both within the subcontinent and outside is a testimony to their continued importance.

It was the late 17/ early 18th century when England became involved in the trade, particularly of chintz, a glazed fabric, which became so popular and still are to this day.

In the 19th Century with the industrialisation of cloth manufacture in England, India was compelled to concentrate on beautiful hand-woven and embroidered fabrics.  Today many internationally known designers use the skills of Indian craftsmen for beadwork and embroidery and for a taste of sumptuous and vibrant textiles one can glimpse an impressive array in Green Street, Southall, Wembley  or Belgrade Road in Leicester.

I am biased, the Victoria and Albert Museum is my favourite museum in all of London and I do think that the membership of the Friends, even of one seldom gets to London is worthwhile just for the beautiful V&A Magazine and free priority entry to all exhibitions when in the capital. 

Textiles of India Finishes on the 10th of January
Bejewelled Treasures Finishes on the 28th of March


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