Category Archives: India

India, including travels, the crafts and the culture

The Unassuming Indian Dhurrie

Dhurrie Weaver using Vertical Loom

Most Indians have dhurries at home – they are the default choice of floor covering readily available across the country in every size and colour possible. For this reason, other than making the distinction between a Shyam Ahuja dhurrie (these were very stylish and very expensive when I was young) and all others, I never really paid much attention to them. That is, until I saw some flat weaves in Morocco and it struck me that we make more interesting and high quality ones back home.

India has a rich tradition of floor decorations. Done to invoke blessings for the home using simple rice paste, and at times flower petals and bright colours, these have become an art form in their own right. There are regional differences such as Alpana in West Bengal, Mandana in Rajasthan, Muggu (or Muggulu) in Andhra Pradesh.

Equally interesting is the variety of floor covering …

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Hand-crafted Ceramic Art and Pottery by Pratima Vaidya

"Precious" Ceramic Art Wall Tile

“We create hand-crafted ceramic art for contemporary interiors,” says Pratima Vaidya of her pottery studio, Ishalgad Ceramics & Pottery, nestled in the lush green hills of the Western Ghats, 65-odd kilometres from Mumbai. “We do studio pottery, a concept where the products are hand-made and produced in small quantities.”

The concept has worked well for Pratima—in essence, it is responsible for the steady success of Pratima Vaidya’s exclusive collection of ceramics. As a sculptor, painter, and ceramist, she has acquired a well-deserved reputation for producing finely hand-crafted and exclusive ceramic art and pottery for the urban, contemporary interiors of today’s homes and offices. Now, in keeping with our dedication to presenting carefully curated selections, Arastan is proud to showcase a limited-edition line of products by Pratima.

A creative journey that began 30 years ago

In 1973, Pratima earned a Fine Arts diploma from the Sir J. J. School of Arts, Mumbai, …

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A World in Miniature

Kamancheh Player, painting from Hasht Behesht Palace, Isfahan, 1669

The historic, colourful and bustling city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, is home to some remarkable artists who are repositories of that ancient skill: the painting of miniatures. Miniatures that have found their way around the world! And, thanks to my meeting with one such extraordinary individual, a selection of Jaipur Miniatures now graces the display cases at Arastan.

It is no exaggeration to say, that every time I see a miniature, I am taken by surprise!

Its size never ceases to amaze me. Then there’s the intricate detail – down to the last, delicate eyelash resting on a rosy cheek. The smooth, flowing lines of the human body, a bird’s wings, a horse going full tilt. Vibrant, vivid colours – picked out in burnished (in fact 24 karat!) gold and sparkling silver.

Amazing! And to think that the Indian miniature is an art form that can be traced back to about …

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Banarasi Brocade, Mirzapur Carpets, Fantastic Samosas and some Soul-searching (Part II)

Revival of Old Saree Pattern

I like Banaras. Busy streets that are impossible to cross with beautiful old architecture mixed with 1960s utilitarian buildings and bustling. This is an ancient trading and tourist driven city and so has the good and bad that comes with it. I visited the by-lanes of the town and several surrounding villages that have clusters of weavers of the beautiful brocade you get in Banaras. Conservative heartland so loose fitted churidar kurta with dupatta recommended. The by-lanes were incredibly interesting and I so wanted to pick up some of the ancient bricks lying in broken structures but had to behave myself! Unfortunately many of the families have moved away from traditional hand looms to running the more lucrative power looms and the whole area reverberates with the noise.

One national award winning family in particular who work on revival of old patterns with Taj Khazana had the most beautiful hand-woven saree in the …

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Banarasi Brocade, Mirzapur Carpets, Fantastic Samosas and some Soul-searching (Part I)

Mirzapur Tufting Centre

Back from Mumbai and off to Varanasi (also known as Banaras and Kashi). I do love my job, well some parts of it. Dealing with octroi, (still waiting for the February refund) breakages and insurance has to be my least favourite part and so I left the mess TCI Express made of my return shipment to Binaifer and off I went. The main reason was the Indian Carpet Expo in Varanasi. There were over 300 Indian carpet vendors showing off their wares and I thought it was time to do a deep dive into the carpet industry in India. To understand the entire supply chain better, I went off to Mirzapur which, along with Bhadohi, is one of the main weaving centres in this part of India. What I found was both enlightening and disturbing.

My understanding of what I see is that Indian and Pakistani handmade carpet manufacturers have …

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Christmas is Coming…

Zardozi Christmas Bird

Doing a Christmas mela in Delhi proved an interesting experience. For security reasons we had to be in by 6:20am so there we were a bit cold and not quite awake and then had to wait till the dew dried up on our roof covering before setting up! The AWA team were great though and produced just about everything one had forgotten or not anticipated. The day went well although not as fantastic for us as the guy next door: his papier-mâché Christmas baubles were flying off the shelves, with his exaggeration on age/workmanship increasing as the day progressed.

Our own Indian Christmas decorations have arrived and we’ve been busy photographing and tagging them. Here is a sneak preview!

Each one is hand-embroidered, all done by an NGO that has managed to keep producing consistently high quality – a win-win for everyone. I love the zardozi embroidered baubles but …

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And They Call it “Speed”post…?

There has been lots happening recently behind the scenes at Arastan, despite the lack of blog activity. Unfortunately some things in India can take a lot longer than they ought to. We had a small package to send to a supplier in Srikalahasti, a temple town in Andhra Pradesh, less than 300km from Bangalore. Nothing too complicated, a simple next day delivery, so we used the Indian Post Office’s Speedpost service. Turned out our package was off on a week long grand tour of the state…

Date & Time From Office To Office Event Remarks 02/06/2011 15:50:01 BANGALORE Article Received 02/06/2011 20:02:35 BANGALORE TIRUPATI Article Bagged 02/06/2011 21:24:44 BANGALORE M-34-IN Bag Sent through PVT VAN Scheduled Dep.02/06/2011 21:30:00 hrs. 03/06/2011 18:21:32 ____ TIRUPATI Bag IS Opened 04/06/2011 00:37:50 TIRUPATI SRIKALAHASTI HO Article Bagged 04/06/2011 08:10:19 ____ SRIKALAHASTI Bag IS Opened 04/06/2011 16:46:56 SRIKALAHASTI TIRUPATI Article Bagged 04/06/2011 21:52:04 ____ TIRUPATI …

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Visiting Master Craftsmen In Moradabad

nickel-plated brass box

Reshma and I drove from Delhi to Moradabad early in the morning. Moradabad is famous for its brassware and we were told by the Head of the Brassmakers Association (we named him Mr White as he had on a pristine white kurta-pyjama, white sandals and yes a white phone!) that over 400,000 artisans work in the industry. We got to meet a national award winner and see the product he got his award for.

It was fantastic but very sad as well. The sons have focused on making products for the mass market and do not have the skills their father has, so his craft will die with him. He learnt it from his father who learnt it from his father – a skill that dates back to the Mughals, and now on the verge of extinction. He knows it and you could see the profound sadness in him.

Saw …

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

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