the-beautiful-hands-project-ri

many hands make beautiful work
For the last 45 years Ritu Kumar has pioneered a revival of the finest textile techniques. The revivalist collection is a product of this legacy. Its purpose is to use the finest artisinal techniques still alive today and convert them into a product relevant to a contemporary India.
 
Ritu Kumar’s two year intensive project involved the participation of master craftsmen and their intrinsic knowledge of age old techniques of weaving, spinning and dyeing. This collection uses special pure gold plated yarns to re-create the sophistication for which Benaras and its Ganga Jumana brocades were famous.
 
The traditional designs in Orissa were more in the nature of temple cloths where whole paragraphs of the Gita Govinda were meticulously narrated in the medium of weaves for fabrics hung behind the dieties. The intricate design of Ikat emerges from yarns that are resist-dyed and hand woven with high precision skills of the artisans.
 
The skill of chikankari - white-on-white cotton embroidery - was originally confined to Lucknow, Dacca and Calcutta. True chikan work is limited to a fixed repertiore of stitches which form embosses shapes, usually floral motifs. A unique feature of chikan is the wonderful textural contrasts it produces.
 

Real People Real Stories

Sk. Hasim Ali
Age: 53 years
Expertise: Hand embroidery

Kantu Gorai, a small-scale printer from Serampore joined the Ritu Kumar family in 1977. Ritu Kumar herself recalls Kantu’s precision work, ‘Printing, the water, the colours, the process are all in the blood in Bengal, and Kantu seems to have learnt the craft from a very organic stage of his life. I never really had to worry about the execution of the colours he used, or the end result of the printed sari as he knew instinctively what was and what was not aesthetically appealing. It is a long way to come to Kolkata and he did that and more, set up a printing unit under the palm and coconut trees around his village, and has not looked back since then’.

Kantu worked in the organization till 1996 and recognizing his inherent skill and passion for the craft, Ritu Kumar took the initiative to help him open his first unit by investing in it. He first opened his unit in Uttarpara with 2 tables and then relocated to a larger space in Rajarhat for which he further received a capital investment from the company. Kantu has not forgotten his days of distress and he admits that without the help of Ritu Kumar, he would not have been able to lead such a life with his family.

Md. Nisar Ahmed
Age: 55 years
Expertise: Hand embroidery

Another endearing story of a Md. Nisar, a young artisan who started as contract worker with Ritu Kumar 35 years ago when he was in his late teens. Ritu Kumar fondly remembers Nisar as an artisan who knew his textile trade in a way that is rare in the business. 'He had an eye for detail and craftsmanship, which did not fail to impress me. I remember giving him a really intricately printed panel with the image of the ‘Devi’, which he worked on for over a month. What came back to me was a master craftsman’s interpretation of the goddess, in intricate thread work, the likes of which should be in the realm of art and not only craftsmanship. He was modest though, and knew his worth and believed in the craft so strongly that I knew it was only a matter of opportunity, and he would go far.'

Ritu Kumar encouraged Md. Nisar to start his own embroidery unit. With a small group of 7-8 embroiderers, he scaled to over 300 odd embroiders in a short span of time. Over the years, he developed an expertise in various embroidery forms like Kashida, Zari, Zardozi and machine embroidery. Md. Nisar, the son of a head mason, hails from Bihar and has completed his education till Class VIII. Today his younger brother helps in his business and his family and children are well settled. His eldest son is a post-graduate and works in the IT department of a reputed firm in Salt Lake and 3 of his daughters are undergoing graduation. He strongly believes in the saying that ‘Learning never ends’ and continuously endeavors to hone his skills. He also says, ‘When your skill is appreciated, you find the extra enthusiasm to go the extra mile’. Today he has built a vast talent pool of skilled embroiderers who will help keep the tradition of hand embroidery alive.

Sk. Israfil
Age: 55 years
Expertise: Hand embroidery

Sk. Israfil started work as a Hand embroiderer along with his uncle in Delhi and received his first job contract of garment alteration from the Ritu Kumar Head Office. Ritu Kumar identified his raw talent and keenness to work and offered him the choice to work for the Export Division in Kolkata, which he took up promptly. Ritu Kumar then supported him in setting up a unit in 1984. Israfil started the unit in full swing with 20 workers and eventually scaled the work-force strength to 120 by adding another floor to his existing unit. And during peak seasons, he has to engage more than 300 embroiderer's in six different villages to complete the job. He credits his success to Ritu Kumar and feels he will always be indebted to her for her support. His children today are well settled. His daughter has completed graduation while his sons have finished schooling in Darjeeling, a dream come true for him. For him ‘Ritu Kumar will always remain his source of inspiration’.

Kantu Goroi
Age: 63 years
Expertise: Screen Printing

Kantu Gorai, a small-scale printer from Serampore joined the Ritu Kumar family in 1977. Ritu Kumar herself recalls Kantu’s precision work, ‘Printing, the water, the colours, the process are all in the blood in Bengal, and Kantu seems to have learnt the craft from a very organic stage of his life. I never really had to worry about the execution of the colours he used, or the end result of the printed sari as he knew instinctively what was and what was not aesthetically appealing. It is a long way to come to Kolkata and he did that and more, set up a printing unit under the palm and coconut trees around his village, and has not looked back since then’.

Kantu worked in the organization till 1996 and recognizing his inherent skill and passion for the craft, Ritu Kumar took the initiative to help him open his first unit by investing in it. He first opened his unit in Uttarpara with 2 tables and then relocated to a larger space in Rajarhat for which he further received a capital investment from the company. Kantu has not forgotten his days of distress and he admits that without the help of Ritu Kumar, he would not have been able to lead such a life with his family.

 
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