For those who think handwoven is one process, this exhibit highlights the dizzying array of ways in which we manipulate textiles in this land. There is embroidery, resist-dyeing, printing, painting and appliqué among others. The yarn itself ranges from local varieties such as Kala cotton of Gujarat to Kandu cotton of Karnataka. There is Muga and Eri silk from the Northeast as well as commissions that use camel and sheep wool, goat and yak hair. And then there is Baldota herself, a textile-lover of indeterminate age who spends day after day, leading small groups or individuals through the exhibit.
When one person (from one family) puts together an exhibit such as this, it is natural to wonder: why is she doing it? What’s in it for her? Clearly some name and fame. Clearly she loves textiles and collects them with relish. Clearly she has the clout and the means to convince a wide network of people in the textile trade to take on commissions from her. But time and again, during walkthroughs with Baldota, the words that she repeats are “relevance and continuity.” Here is a woman who wants Indian textiles to adapt and flourish. Like many before her, she wants to show the world what is possible, to stretch the canvas. Her Whatsapp status reads, “If it’s to be, it’s up to me.”
So how did she do it? “The process has been to identify the various textile crafts and then work with people involved in it, in a way that they stay true to the craft but present it in a contemporary language,” says Baldota. Her mandate was that all the pieces had to use indigenous yarn and eco-friendly dyes. So sourcing was a challenge because China is a supplier of yarn in Kanchipuram– which I saw personally. “A lot of innovation has gone into these works. There have been students working with the artisans and contemporary artists creating art using textile crafts. But I am very proud that every participant walked that extra mile to achieve excellence.”