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Meet the Artisans Behind Applique

Today, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Odisha (Orissa) and Bihar are home to a numerous communities who create the art of applique.

A woman from the Kutch community dressed in self-made appliqued clothes
A woman from the Kutch community dressed in self-made appliqued clothes

Apart from Gujarat’s Rabari communities’ prominence in the art of applique, several other tribes native to the Gujarati regions of Kutch and Kathiawar have been using various techniques to produce applique embroidered work:

a) The Mutva community. This Muslim community’s applique embroidery, done using tiny mirrors, thick stitches and sometimes metal threads, is iconic. Their style is characterised by the patchwork of seven sacred colours of the Muslim faith which are also the seven colours of the spectrum: green, red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo and violet.

b) The Hingorjah are another community is involved in producing applique work.

c) The Harijan community. They reside in the villages Hodka, Bhirandiyara, Ludiya, Khavda and are known for heavy mirrorwork in their embroidery, along with the use of vibrant coloured fabrics.

A Harijan woman in traditional applique attire working on an applique piece
A Harijan woman in traditional applique attire working on an applique piece

The Junagadh, Rajkot, Bhavnagar and Jamnagar districts of Saurashtra are also known for applique, as well as beadwork and embroidery.

Rajasthan is another hub for applique work. The chief community producing applique are the Marwaris whose textiles are distinguishable in workmanship from applique of other communities:

a) The Sodha Rajputs. A symbol depicting the tree of life, with its leaves substituted for triangles and having prominent branches, is a recurring pattern, and so are the sun, moon and swastika motifs. These are considered auspicious in the Rajput community. The swastika, which literally translates to "that which is associated with well-being" from Sanskrit, has been considered lucky by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains for centuries.

A type of applique work known as neran from the Sodha Rajput community
A type of applique work known as neran from the Sodha Rajput community

b) The Gadia Lohar community. The main use of applique by this community is on the odhani used to cover the heads of women. Tiny silver gota flowers are used for this applique work. This piece can either be plain or have floral patterns.

Pipli, Odisha (Orissa), where applique is most prominent and seen throughout religious ceremonies, professional tailors, referred to as darjis, initially practiced the art of applique. Today, many other castes within the community have taken up applique as their occupation. In Bihar, applique is practiced throughout most parts of the state.

Integration of applique work in contemporary products such as pillows and bed furnishings
Integration of applique work in contemporary products such as pillows and bed furnishings

 

Images: Melissa Enderle, Tushky Tales, Communities of Kutch Gujarat, Things Will Fall Into Place