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Australian Maggie Baxter's look at Indian textiles

In her book, Unfolding Contemporary Indian textiles, Australian artist and writer Maggie Baxter has explored the adaptation of traditional Indian textile craft traditions in contemporary forms. Baxter speaks about her tryst with the young and the old in the country

  Q. As mentioned in your book, textile-fibre art is not a widely practised genre in India. What do you think is lacking in the Indian art space to not push artists in this direction?
A. It may be that the sheer volume of amazing textiles all over the country is in itself such an impetus for creativity that it can satisfy any creative output. But also, in India, the institutions teaching fine arts and design are kept separate, giving no opportunity for cross fertilisation of ideas between disciplines. This is different in most other countries where fine arts and design are taught in the same colleges and students are able to move freely from one to another. It is interesting to note that most artists in the final chapter (in the book) did post graduation overseas in multi-disciplinary colleges. Also, it seems that there is some reluctance in some art galleries in India to show textiles, though this is slowly changing.

Abdulaziz Ali Mohammad Khatri, Multi Kandha, detail of textile length, bandhini on silk, untied but left to twist tightly in its own texture.  pics courtesy/Unfolding Contemporary Indian textiles, niyogi books
Abdulaziz Ali Mohammad Khatri, Multi Kandha, detail of textile length, bandhini on silk, untied but left to twist tightly in its own texture. Pics courtesy/Unfolding Contemporary Indian textiles, niyogi books

Q. What do you feel about the current contemporary take on Indian textiles and crafts by artistes and labels here, in terms of both a quantitative and a qualitative approach?
A. I was very encouraged while researching the book to find the level of commitment to the handmade by Indian designers and of course some such as Péro and 11.11/eleven eleven are using traditional handloom and other techniques to make fashion garments that sell in niche markets in the US, Europe and Japan, as have Abraham and Thakore before them.

Jagannath Panda, Free-Fall. Iron, tile, fabric, plaster of paris, glue, acrylic paint, auto paint
Jagannath Panda, Free-Fall. Iron, tile, fabric, plaster of paris, glue, acrylic paint, auto paint

Q. Were there any topics that you had to leave out from this book?
A. It was more about how much of the country I could cover in limited time. I missed out on the North East, which was a shame.

Sanjay Garg for Raw Mango, detail of odhni, Banaras silk and tested metal zari
Sanjay Garg for Raw Mango, detail of odhni, Banaras silk and tested metal zari

Q. What are your favourite Indian textiles and embroidery works?
A. As an artist, I am passionate about block printing as a technique. I don’t wear saris but I do wear Indian designers with a more western bent like Péro, Small Shop, Ravage, and 11.11/eleven eleven, as I can easily wear them in Australia. I also love leheria and ikat but have never worked with them myself. I like Meera Mehta’s approach to ikat.

Unfolding Contemporary Indian textiles, Maggie Baxter, Niyogi Books, Rs 3,000, available at bookstores.
Unfolding Contemporary Indian textiles, Maggie Baxter, Niyogi Books, Rs 3,000, available at bookstores.

Q. You are known to visit Kutch frequently; what has been your most precious find?
A. I have some amazing minimalist weaving by Vankar Shamji Vishram and a wonderful contemporary ikat and embroidery shawl called Broken Earth by my friend Kirit Dave.

Maggie Baxter
Maggie Baxter

Lecture Handloom: Fashion’s Future Fabric
On: Today 6.30 pm
At: Dr Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Byculla (E).
RSVP: ccardoza@bdlmuseum.org
Book launch and signing
On: September 23, 5.30 pm
At: Artisans’, Kala Ghoda, Fort.

Both events will be organised in association with the Australian Consulate General.

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