I am very lucky and honoured to have been awarded a grant from the Arts Council England under the Grants For Arts (AIDF), which has given me the chance to come to India to learn techniques from artisans skilled in their fields of expertise, in order to develop my own artistic skills.The activities I will undertake will include practising and eventually perfecting techniques; observing the practitioners at work; seeing their social and work environment, and sharing the knowledge I have gained from my own experience, cultural and educational background.
My objectives for the research trip are to develop a greater awareness of how cultural differences influence artistic practice, approaches to work, and the artisans’ reasons for producing such work – including generational traditions, cultural and economic pressures. I will learn in different ways, contexts, and environments, which will increase my awareness, knowledge and breadth of experience as an artist.
On my return to the UK, I intend to incorporate the skills and techniques learned with more contemporary methods to form a new body of work, to network with other artists and hopefully collaborate with some.
I will initially spend four weeks in Rajasthan, India, hosted by an Indian family in Jaipur, learning from three established and highly regarded centres for the following techniques:
1) Block printing: to learn the traditional skills of block printing; the physical demands involved; use of available materials; how blocks are made, and the traditions of pattern making.
2) Dyeing: to learn how materials are prepared and finished; the use of natural dyes, including where they are found, grown, and prepared; and comparisons with synthetic dyes.
3) Weaving: to learn the traditional techniques from a village community of weavers and undertake visits to centres training new artisans in Jaipur.
This will be the beginning of a year-long project which will incorporate further visits. I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural traditions behind the production of crafts in Rajasthan at a time when, due to mass production, we are increasingly removed from any understanding of their history and process of production. Observing and learning these techniques first hand will deepen my understanding of the complexities of making, and qualities that can only be achieved by hand and cannot be replicated with mechanical or digital technology.
Over the year I will be documenting this project on this blog as it develops, and no doubt it will take on a volition of it’s own.