Up at 5.30a.m. to visit the local flower market, bustling and busy with the Navratri (Nine nights) festival getting into full swing. Just coming to the end of a whirlwind week here at Arts Reverie, a restored haveli located in historic Dhal Ni Pol in the old city of Ahmedabad. I'm juggling two collaborative projects whilst here, the Pol Project (with Amanda and CJ) and Marking the City (with Kate Egan - unfortunately not here with us) and both of these will feature in the Ahmedabad International Arts Festival (AIAF) towards the end of this month....the pressure is definitely on!
The Pol Project is investigating the social aesthetics of the urban environment within the Pol, looking at the individual ways that local people 'find beauty' in their environment (resonating with the umbrella theme of the AIAF, Making Beauty.) My role within this is to create a site-specific artwork in the heart of the Pol, and a series of smaller related pieces, which will act as temporary 'way markers' to guide visitors to the artworks within the Pol. Marking the City is to consist of a series of digitally printed textile banners, focusing on floral motif's inspired by the prints of master wood-block carver Maniklal Gajjar of Pethapur (a traditional community of wood-block carvers, located close to Ahmedabad city). The proposed site for these banners is the historic Ellis Bridge, which links the old and the new parts of the city, just as the banners will link traditional and digital printing technologies.
Our guide, mentor, collaborator, food advisor and all-round 'Mr Fixit' while we are here is Lokesh Ghai, a textile artist trained at NIFT and now living and working in Ahmedabad. Lokesh is facilitating our many strange and diverse requests with enthusiasm, grace and good humour, helping us to tap into the appropriate local knowledge and expertise, making introductions, arranging our meetings, selecting and sourcing local materials, equipment and technology.
This first week has been spent researching and 'mapping' the Pol, getting to know some of the people, trying to understand the social dynamics of the space, developing, discussing and testing ideas. The highlight for me has been the discovery of a textile printing workshop in the Pol; meeting, talking and taking tea with the owner, Mr Sandip Shah, and watching beautiful lengths of block-printed textile emerge.
Printing table on the ground floor at Mr. Shah's workshop - printing in gold seems to be his signature.
Up on the first floor, block printing in bright yellow onto pre-dyed fabric.
Detail of the finished fabric length.
Up on the roof, resist printed fabric hanging out to dry after dyeing.