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 three
Associate Lead- Integration of Making
"My desire was to have my own house on rent, as even after marriage I had to stay with parents due to marginal earning. I wanted to flaunt in garments I created get myself photographed."
For women in orthodox society in Lucknow it is unconventional to work and earn for household besides doing some embroidery from home. Sabbo participated in the craft design course run by Sangraha in 2016, and now manages the production wing of the artisan run brand. She loves to embroiderer and travel. She has actively travelled for various exhibitions to Delhi & Mumbai.
She is the only woman in her family to work from 9 am to 5 pm and ride her own two-wheeler to office. She now has additional income for family, has her own rented house and her wards go to school. Sabbo enjoys her work and while embroidering shares jokes with her co-workers.
The Sangraha Sat́ (सत्) Story
Art & Science of Embroidery