“It is like working on a jigsaw puzzle”, says Joy Bimal Roy, an aesthete with a passion for textiles, based in Mumbai, India, of the process of upcycling old saris by removing their strong sections and having them stitched to create an attractive sari.
The sari, a stretch of unstitched fabric, is worn by women in different parts of India. It is draped in varied styles; is tucked into a petticoat; and worn with a blouse as an upper garment. Saris are usually 5.5 m long and 1.25 m wide, and the fabric typically has a composition of borders running at both sides along its the length, a field with motifs, and a patterned end- section called pallav.
Joy’s heartening endeavour stems from the loss of his sister Yashodhara in early 2020. She had a prized collection of handcrafted saris, enjoyed wearing saris, and was admired for her choice of saris as well as the grace with which she draped them.
After Yashodhara passed away, Joy and his sister Aparajita started gifting the saris to family and friends so they would have a memory of their sister through a beautiful textile. When a few saris were left, some of which had sections that were worn out, Joy thought of giving them a new life by bringing together the strong sections of the saris.
These recreated saris, which began as collectible vintage heirlooms, came to be appreciated by textile lovers. Joy then teamed up with Radhi Parekh, Founder Director of ARTISANS' (a gallery with a store in Mumbai) to take the initiative further.
ARTISANS’ set up a Sari Bank asking people to donate hand-woven, natural fibre saris for Joy to upcycle, with the proceeds from their sales being given to Shanti Avedna Sadan, a hospice for cancer patients in Mumbai.
The initiative came to be called A Touch of Joy. A lovely play on Joy’s name, and the project truly lives up to its name as old saris are given a new lease of life: the donors are happy to give old saris for a cause; the process of integrating sections of old saris to create a `new’ one brings Joy happiness; the buyers enjoy wearing the unique creations and being part of the initiative; and the proceeds help in the care of cancer patients.
Keeping in mind the dimensions of a sari and its composition, Joy spares no effort to go through a collection of old saris and yardage to create upcycled saris of grace and harmony, ensuring it is much more than the sum of its parts.
While Joy quips that there is a method in the madness, he says it is an honour and responsibility working with old saris that have been entrusted to him for the project, one that retains memories of the old saris and enables more memories to be created.
Written by Brinda Gill
Find out more about Touch of Joy and Saving Saris on the ARTISANS' website: https://artisanscentre.com/
ARTISANS' Sustainable Devlopement Foundation are also exhibiting in collaboration with Leshemi Origins as part of the Selvedge World Fair 2021. View their products here: India,Leshemi Origins | ARTISANS' Sustainable Development Foundation, Weaving