Chelsea Khadi Project

Celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
BA(Hons) Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) in
collaboration with :

  • High Commission of India, London
  • Khadi London

Project Brief

Final Year Students of BA (Hons) Textile Design at Chelsea College of Arts (UAL) were asked to explore new markets and products for khadi.

In India, khadi refers to handwoven and hand-spun cloth. At the beginning of the 20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi called for a boycott of foreign cloth and promoted the spinning and weaving of khadi for rural self-employment and self-reliance (rather than using cloth manufactured industrially in Britain). Khadi became an integral part of the movement that led to India’s Independence in 1947 and embodies principles of freedom and non-violent protest.

Project

The project was initially briefed to stage 2 students in February 2020, with Rohit Vadhwana (First Secretary (Economics), Indian High Commission) Kishore Shah (Khadi London) and Jo Salter (Khadi London) in attendance. After a delivery of khadi materials and a fabulous round of charkha spinning workshops from Asha Buch, the UK was put into a national lockdown and the project was put on hold. The students were then re-briefed at the end of October 2020 as Covid restrictions were relaxed.

For much of the project, Covid lockdowns have meant that students have had limited access to the generous material supplies provided by Khadi London. However, BA Textile Design students have shown resilience and imagination, often working on ideas without access to textile workshops and equipment. The judging panel commended the high quality of student submissions and from an outstanding array of entries, four winning students were chosen to collaborate with partners in India on the development of their designs.

 

Kishore Shah, Co-founder and Director, Khadi London

“This project feels like the beginning of something much bigger. It is part of a rediscovery of Indian handmade fabrics by the western world as fabrics with a meaning, with texture and aesthetics as a bonus. Khadi with its inherent idea of localised production where farmers, graziers and artisans collaborate and where crafts and technology work together can provide a pathway for fashion and textiles fit for the twenty first century. I wouldn’t be surprised if khadi becomes an integral part of fashion and textile syllabus in the very near future.”

 

Lisa Bloomer, Senior Lecturer, BA Textile Design, Chelsea College of Arts :

“This wonderful project has gone through a number of iterations in difficult times and has been able to go ahead thanks to the energy and commitment of all involved, particularly Kishore Shah at Khadi London and partners in India. This a unique opportunity for our BA Textile Design students to collaborate with expert artisans and promote khadi to the wider community. Virtual meetings between students and partners in India have already begun and we are really looking forward to seeing the new designs.”

The Winners

Caitlin Hartmann

Yarn windings (mixed fibres)

Woven samples, indigo-dyed and
warp painted (silk, khadi cotton, mohair)

During lockdown, Caitlin Hartmann built a backstrap loom from found materials which she uses to explore supplementary warp and weft weave techniques, ikat and natural dyes.

Caitlin says : “I interviewed weavers globally about their backstrap weaving practice and discovered a shared khadi mentality. By making connections with other craft people and engaging with the natural world, we can create sustainable craft production and build relations of respect between alternative communities.”

 

Judges’ comments :

Caitlin shows a brilliant understanding of the craft along with a great passion for the subject. It’s great to see such motivation and creative use of resources during lockdown and it will be very exciting to see where she takes her work. Caitlin’s idea of ‘East meets West’ cultural exchange for a contemporary take on khadi, especially through an online platform, is brilliant.

Caitlin is collaborating with Khamir (see below for further info).

Inspired by traditional Indian imagery and storytelling, Morgan explores potato and lino print and natural dyes, making paint using locally-sourced natural chalk.

Morgan says : “I was inspired by a quotation from Gandhi who said, ‘In a gentle way you can shake the world’. I thought about my own practice and how I can promote positive attitudes and I took part in the spinning classes with Asha Buch, which was a joy.”

 

Judges’ comments :

Morgan displays a good engagement with Gandhian principles and has developed a lovely colour palette using natural dyes. Morgan’s work illustrates an interesting journey from inspiration to designs and colours which would work very well with cotton khadi. Her work is grounded on traditional khadi designs and she has succeeded in giving them a fresh look.

Morgan is collaborating with Hind Natural Dyes (see below for further info). The project with Hind Natural Dyes will be facilitated by Abhishek Jain.

Morgan Martin

Lino print/Digital

Natural dyes on cotton
(turmeric, red cabbage, nettle)

Misha Nikkah

Tulip, drawing, pencil

Handwoven silk tapestry sample, natural dyes (Persian buckthorn berries, pomegranate rind, indigo, turmeric, and cochineal)

Misha Nikkah investigates tapestry weaving and natural dyes. By using traditional materials such as hand-spun khadi silk yarn she creates contemporary bespoke tapestry weaves that show appreciation for Indian hand-crafted textile traditions.

Misha says : “By collaborating with local indigenous communities in India we can highlight the historical and ongoing significance of khadi, helping to preserve and safeguard skills and revitalise khadi.”

 

Judges’ comments :

Misha’s work shows great exploration into tapestry with visually appealing results. It’s impressive that Misha not only dyed all the yarns but achieved an incredibly beautiful colour palette. Her work shows great sensitivity to natural, abstract forms that have real high-end commercial appeal.

Misha is collaborating with Gram Bharati Samiti/GBS (see below for further info). The project with GBS will be facilitated by Abhishek Jain.

Sarah Tibbles composes shibori, pleat, natural dyes, ikat and woven structure, using gradations in colour and proportion to create a contemporary aesthetic that honours traditional textile skills.

Sarah says : “I considered ethical and sustainable practices, using recycled yarns and yarns sourced in the UK, with an aim for the textiles to be hand-woven and translated using hand-spun yarns in fibres native to India. “

 

Judges’ comments :

Sarah shows an amazing exploration into weaving and natural dyes that clearly references khadi while bringing a fresh modern aesthetic. She’s developed some dynamic and interesting samples that show great sensitivity to colour. The balance between the rustic application of natural dyes and exploration into graphic shapes clearly references traditional crafts while bringing it to a modern audience.

Sarah Tibbles

Design development, paper

Design for ikat weave, digital

Organisations in India assisting Competition Winners

Khamir (working with Caitlin Hartmann)

Khamir is a non-profit organisation (NGO) located in the desert district, Kutch, of Gujarat state in western India. Khamir was established in 2005 as part of rehabilitation efforts following a major earthquake in the region in 2001.

Khamir serves as a platform for the engagement and development of the crafts, heritage, and cultural ecology in the area. Once a major trade hub of the Indus Valley delta, Kutch has a long history of farming and traditional crafts. Khamir has been supporting both to ensure that they remain relevant in today’s market.

Khamir has also been successful in creating a democratic and empowering space, a meeting point for a range of stakeholders to exchange ideas and collaborate. They aim is to shift consumer perspectives and raise the cultural value placed on crafts and artisans alike by people worldwide.

Gram Bharati Samiti (working with Misha Nikkah)

Gram Bharati Samiti (GBS) is a Gandhian NGO which has been serving villages in the Jaipur district of Rajasthan since 1984. Environment and health awareness, and empowering rural women have emerged as their major programmes.

A comprehensive programme for women’s empowerment amongst the rural poor has evolved over the decades. This includes organising women’s Self-Help Groups (SHG), raising awareness about their rights, combating domestic and worksite violence, and providing training and other support for income generation activities. Their work has benefited over 7000 women spread over 78 villages. They have supported the SHGs for setting up a wide range of entrepreneurial activities. These include dairy, weaving carpets and durries, embroidery, tailoring, shoe, and bangle making, and retail trade.

The project with Gram Bharati Samiti will be facilitated by Abhishek Jain.

Gramin Vikas Pratisthan (working with Sarah Tibbles)

A khadi organisation in Chhattisgarh, a predominantly tribal state in central India. The organisation forms part of a larger network of institutions in and around Tilda in Raipur district. The weaving will take place in villages around Champa where the organisation works with independent weavers.

The weaving project will be facilitated by Avani Kumar who grew up in a khadi institution near Delhi and has retained his passion for the fabric. He works as a freelancer, assisting khadi institutions and weavers in the states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in central/western India and the Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayan foothills.

Hind Natural Dyes (working with Morgan Martin)

The business is based in Jaipur. The founder, Deepak Agarwal, has an experience of working with natural dyes for over thirty years, dyeing and printing yarns and fabrics made with a wide range of fibres. These include cotton, silk, and wool. Deepak also provides training in the use of natural dyes.

The project with Hind Natural Dyes will be facilitated by Abhishek Jain.

 

Enquire Now

Event Location :

Craft Central
The Forge, 397-411 Westferry Road,
Island Gardens, London E14 3AE

 

Contact Details :

Email – info@freeweaver.co.uk