For now, this collection only includes a few pieces, and from two diverse places: Bhutan and India.
Bhutanese textiles are only rarely seen outside of the Himalayas, and old pieces like the ones we offer are even rarer.
The Banjara of India
Their name means ‘gypsy’, and though originally from the desert regions of Rajasthan, the Banjara people now live and move through 22 states in India. Primarily nomadic, they produce textiles for their own use from available resources. Natural dyes abound, as does handspun and handwoven cotton. Their use of embroidery is especially well-suited for a migratory people, as are the types of textile made. Surprisingly, given the ease of creating natural motifs with embroidery, their designs do not include plants or animals, but are more geometric. Various embroidery techniques are used and serve as a way of differentiating between certain groups and locales. The use of cowrie shells, mirrors, beads, buttons, and tassles is for protection and to deflect the ‘evil eye’, a concern shared with many other nomadic groups. We especially like their color sense and the freshness of their designs. The works resonate with the honesty of the maker’s vision and circumstances of their lifestyle.
The Textile Museum of Canada has a nice collection of similar Banjara pieces.
Mellowed with age, this beautiful old panel was part of the characteristic Banjara belt worn by the women. Natural colors on handspun fabric are used in the native motifs and borders embroidered in silk and cotton. The back is handspun cotton with multiple small stitches for reinforcement. Condition is surprisingly good for an old piece that gets continual use in nomadic circumstances. Fine old pieces like this don't come along often.
Size: 24″ x 7″
Softly faded, this artful old 'gala' has a nicely graphic design in natural colors. All cotton, with a border in indigo, printed cotton, it is in good condition, with typical wear and holes only on the backing. Cowrie shells border three sides and wool tassels ornament the corners and centers of the three sides; an amuletic 'pouch' is top center. These old 'galas' are not often found.
Size: 15.5″ x 10″
This handsome 'gala' plays games with the positive and negative spaces in a very artful way, and with a dynamic, contrasting border of dark indigo, giving it a very lively quality. All cotton, the red is definitely handspun, and the yellow and blue could also be; colors appear to be natural. Condition is good, with an original repair horizontally across the center (on the back) which does not really show up on the front. Sacred cowrie shells adorn three sides, with wool tassels and amuletic triangles at the corners and sides. These old 'galas' are not often found.
Size: 15″ x 10″
A nicely ordered and executed design, this old 'gala' has some nice details: a complex central design, borders with dynamic, complementary motifs, and defined upper corners and lower border. All the cotton, except the applique cut white, is handspun. Cowrie shells edge three sides. Condition is good, with some original repairs on the back and front left of center; the lower border is likely an old, recycled piece. This is a lovely example of the genre.
Size: 16″ x 11″
Made to cover a ceremonial shield used in weddings, this textile is similar to the 'chakli'/food covers, but includes a fitted edge making it distinctive. All the designs are appliqued and enhanced with decorative stitches, also in white. The background fabrics are cotton and are handspun and naturally-dyed cotton; the appliqued pieces and yellow edging are in a very fine cotton. An edging of block-printed cotton in naturally-dyed colors has cowrie shells sewn to it and shows wear. This is an old piece that has been used much; a patch is evident in the detail of Side 2, but it still has charm and a lot of soul. Just think of all the weddings it was present for!
Size: 14″ dia. X 4″ return
Made to cover a ceremonial shield used in weddings, this textile is similar to the 'chakli'/food covers, but includes a fitted edge making it distinctive. Most of the decoration is appliqued, but additional embroidery also enhances the appliqued designs; everything is handsewn. The background fabrics are cotton and are handwoven, with two panels of a block-printed design. The cutout motifs are interesting in that all are different, and two colors are utilized, with additional embroidered dots of color. Condition is very good. We see very few of these.
Size: 13″ x 13″ x 4″