The Eloquence of Lucknow
Lucknow district is the hub
of white-work of chikankari embroidery in India. It gives employment more than 0.2 million people in the district.
Embroidery engages women in our studio, and its an act of engagement and meditation. It is also done in the comfort of the craftswomen's home. From our studio in Indira Nagar in Lucknow, our team visit each artisan, at least once every week. The artisans are spread over 100 sq. km., stretching across Khadra, Saadatganj, Daliganj, Iradatnagar, Mehboobganj and Kakori.
A 1300 YEAR OLD CRAFT
Generations of master craftsperson from era of King Harshvardhan and Nawabs of Avadh now embroider with endurance for you.
The tradition of white embroidery is reported in Harshcharita and Ajanta murals of 7th CE. It was later patronised in 17th CE by the Nawabs and Shah's of Avadh.
It is also believed that Queens in Harems of Avadh commissioned the embroidery and invited travellers from Persia who shared their intricate stitches with local embroiderers and amalgamated with existing art.
Over the past 13 centuries, the artisans of from era of Harshvardhana to Nawabs have watched their fathers embroider, and then apprenticed by Usttad to become gifted embroiderers themselves. The tradition and endurance for finesse of embroidery, is truly in their blood.
Our artisans use the following
artistic techniques to execute embroidery for life —
This technique has barely changed over years since Nawabs. The art of drawing with pen (kalam) on fabric is completely lost still at Sangraha we work on small collections that are hand drawn.
Blocks are meticulously carved out of sheeshan wood 'Dalbergia sissoo' by Block maker. The quality of engraving is determined by the size of motif and intricacy. The engraver uses icons for various stitches like phanda, murri, bijli... — a higher number of intricate stitch icon indicates a superior piece will be made.
The designs are transferred onto textile using fugitive dyes mixed in waste edible gum. The grid is planned in each product with precision and then designs are printed. The force of impact of block on fabric, its maintenance and viscosity of dye bath determines the quality of impression.
The printer or Chipkar have been using this since generations when their forefathers migrated to Lucknow during the era of Nawabs. The technique has remained constant though the fugitive dye has changed from gerua (red oxide) to commercial indigo and zinc oxide.
Making the thread travel through the textile with the help of a needle is the longest and most enduring phase. The embroidery could be done by stretching textile between fist of finger, small hand frame or large karchobe. Chikankari embroidery is primarily done by women and zardosi by men but during the era of Nawabs there was do gender distribution of embroidery. At Sangraha each artisan appreciates and practices both forms of embroidery leading to creations that are in tandem with the narrative of design.
The removal of fugitive dyes involves an intensive process that give inherent characteristic to the textile. Treating with excreta of herbivorous animals, herbs of soapnut- Yucca elata, steaming for hours to remove impurities this slow curing gives the textile rich lustre and softness of flowing water.
Whilst the commercial market now works on speedy process involving chemicals, at Sangraha Sat́ (सत्) we value tradition and sustainability and constantly research and evolve the vernacular technique.
Stories of our Artisans
Embroiderer and mother of two
Associate Lead- Integration of Sensorial Experience
Mehjabi is an experienced Chikankari artisan who lives to work with intricacies. Composing stitches according to visual appeal and value are her strengths. Her motifs express context, finesse with diligence in their execution.
Mehjabi is a conscientious worker and once she understands a concept, delivers it to precision. Her calmness and humility is expressed in composition of colors yet has a fresh appeal every time.
In team work, she understands importance of co- working to achieve work goals and shoulders responsibility.
Mehjabi was always reluctant to speak to strangers but not give media interviews confidently, rides her own vehicle and travels to various cities for exhibition and inspiration.