Anita Lal, creative director of Good Earth, offers insight into the making of an Indian razai or bed quilt. This stunning short from Storyloom Films captures the detailed process of meticulously carved woodblock designs carefully printed on fabric, which is then hand-stitched to create a textile that is both beautiful and functional.
I spoke with Nidhi Kamath and Keya Vaswani, co-founders of Storyloom Films, about their piece.
What intrigues you about capturing artisans at work?
The most interesting observation about the artisans is their dedication and passion for their craft and the perfection with which they create the product. Their sensitivity to the aesthetics of the product and their humility inspires us as filmmakers. Most of the craft products on which we’re working have never been documented before, and we love exploring a new story every time. In India, after agriculture, the craft sector is the second largest occupation, yet people are not aware of the process of making and the hard work involved in it. This inspired us to take up the subject.
How did you first learn about Good Earth and their technique of hand block printing?
Good Earth is a popular brand in India, and we had visited their stores. We felt that we shared a common love for the crafts. Laila Tyabji, an Indian craft revivalist and founder of Dastkar, a Delhi-based nongovernment organization, had seen a few of our films and introduced us to Anita Lal, founder of Good Earth. We learned about hand block printing when we started filming it. We were amazed to see the fineness of the blocks and the precision with which [the textiles] were printed.
Do you think about textiles differently after making this film?
Yes, definitely. We realized the kind of time and energy and the number of hands involved in the creation of an object. So we realized how important it is to respect materials and not waste them, and also to pay fair wages to the artisans for their hard work. Textiles aren’t just pieces of cloth but bundles of feelings, dreams, and the life of the artisans who create them.
Are there any crafts that you personally enjoy doing outside of filmmaking?
Through the medium of filmmaking—what we truly enjoy—we are now exploring other things associated [with it], such as traveling, learning new lifestyles and cultures, trying new cuisine, etc.
What are you working on next?
We are working on a documentary about the ancient handloom town of Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh, India. The young 18th-century queen Ahilyabai Holkar spurred the tradition of Maheshwari saris, enabling people from her kingdom to make a living. Later organizations like Rehwa helped revive the craft from the early eighties until now through other smaller artisanal groups, like Fab Creations. It is about the rising looms of this town, craft revival, and the new generation of artisans. We hope this story would motivate other artisans in the country.
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