Selvedge guest blogger Emma Sumner tells us about staying with the organisation Somiya Kalavidya. The district of Kutch in the West Indian region of Gujarat is famed for its signature mirror work and dense embroidery motifs with each of the regions tribes and sub-tribes maintaining their closely guarded signature styles. Central to all this activity is the distinct and well-respected Somaiya Kalavidya, an organisation who provide design education for Kutch’s traditional artisans while helping to preserve and protect the regions design traditions. Famed for their artisan to artisan programmes, the school’s curricula, schedule and language of instruction are designed to accommodate the lifestyles of the artisan, their only requirement for admission being a prior knowledge of traditional crafts. During an extensive research trip in 2014, I met some of the school’s graduates and current students to find out more about the impact of the school’s work. On my first day with the school, I visited a small village called Arakhpur to meet with Irfan Khatri, Soyeb Khatri and Salman Khatri who all specialise in Ajrakh print; a form of block printing in which the pattern is printed on both sides of the fabric. Basing their work on the traditional Ajrakh themes and using natural indigo dyes, all of the artisans mix traditional motifs with their own contemporary designs, producing products suitable for a variety of clients. Ifran Khatri took inspiration for his designs from artists including Jackson Pollock, Vincent van Gogh and M.F Hussain. The next day I was taken out to the village of Mundra where I met and Shafik Khatri who are both bandi (tie and dye) artisans. A Meticulous and careful craft made by tying sections of the fabric with thread before it is dyed, the tradition of bandi is not as prominent as some of the other crafts synonymous with the region of Kutch and has more traditional associations with South India. A recent graduate, Zakiya plans to build her own brand and is looking to launch her own website while continuing to make traditional work for the local market and occasions like weddings. After a quick lunch, my journey took me to Tunda Vandh village to meet Rabari embroidery artisan Mongoben. A current student, Mongoben’s designs have been heavily influenced by the luri (shawl) her sister crafted for her own wedding but also by the cycle of the moon. After graduating, Mongoben wants to learn how to make her own garments rather than just embroidering designs on readymade items, a skill which will help her to establish a collection for her own brand. Still in the planning stages, with the help and advice of current staff and graduates from Kalavidya, Mongoben hopes her business plan will be fully developed by the time she graduates. An organisation helping talented artisans to raise the profile of their design work, Somiya Kalavidya is enabling Kutch’s traditional artisans to forge their own career paths and be respected as designers and not just makers. Making real and lasting changes to the way that our clothing is produced by reconnecting the maker with the consumer, Kalavidya is generating a new movement of Design Craft. Read the original full length article here.