Crafts of Tilonia Bazaar
Rural handicraft is one of the programmes, which concentrates its efforts on women empowerment, financially as well as socially. Any rural woman can train and work as a Barefoot artisan, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, age, schooling or prior work experience. All payments are made through cheques to encourage the rural women to read, write and handle their own bank accounts. As the programme is an opportunity for learning, the artisans are encouraged to train in as many crafts as possible. Below is a brief description of the crafts:
Bell Totas, have been one of the classic designs since 1975. They are made from remnants of cloth, and sequins, beads, multi-colored threads and goat bells. The designs have been inspired by takiya totas or cushion parrots that hang over baby cradles in Rajasthan. The bells signify those that hang around necks of cattle and goats. The brightly coloured birds with small sequins, remind one of the traditional odhni or scarves that local, rural women wear. The sight and sound of colours, beads and bells, truly bring out the local flavour of rural Rajasthan.
More than 150 women have been trained to make a living by making Bell Totas.
Started in 1981, Tilonia Appliqué designs have been inspired from mandanas or traditional patterns made on the floor and walls, the local flora, fauna and lifestyle of the local people. The motifs are cut from plain or hand block printed fabrics. The rural women artisans neatly hem the edges to reveal designs on a base cloth. The designs are then outlined with a running stitch of colored threads. Intricate as well as minimal designs are created by the Barefoot designers on bedspreads, cushion covers, curtains, garments and accessories such as scarves, bags and pouches. Tilonia Appliqué also provides livelihood to the handloom weavers and hand block printers who produce the fabrics.
At least 550 rural women have trained and worked as Tilonia appliqué artisans.
Barmer Appliqué and Embroidery
Barmer appliqué and embroidery was traditionally practiced by women from Sindh area of Pakistan, but is now found in parts of Barmer, Kutch and Bikaner as well. Elaborately embroidered items were given to a girl at the time of her marriage. A bride’s kanchili or blouses are embroidered by her mother. The Barefoot College began working in the Barmer district in 1988 in an attempt to pay fair wages, develop new designs and preserve the crafts. Whether simple geometric patterns, elegant floral patterns, and colorful and ornate bedspreads, cushion covers, wall hangings or bags, Barmer appliqué give an essence of Rajasthan rural desert culture, environment as well as design sensibilities and detailing.
Over 500 women have been trained in appliqué and 300 women in embroidery. They now work as artisans in Barmer.
Weaving was traditionally a scheduled caste occupation restricted to the community of Balais or Meghwals. The community used pit looms that produced up to 24" width fabric. Handlooms were introduced so that they could weave fabrics wider than pit looms. With the change of looms, people from other communities became weavers as the caste association with pit loom weaving was removed.
All Barefoot handloom textiles are dyed and woven by 30 weavers of the Gramin Hastshlip Vikas Society, a weavers’ association based in Tilonia. Yarn is reeled onto bobbins for weaving by hand. Dye is measured and mixed for dyeing the cotton yarn used to weave the handloom fabric. Subsequently, the fabrics are stitched by rural, illiterate and semi literate Barefoot artisans into bedspreads, table linens, curtains and other home furnishings, or garments and accessories.
Tilonia began working with leather craftsmen in 1973, when leather products were limited to producing and repairing water pails, traditional footwear and ropes. Men crafted the leather and the women embellish it with embroidery. With design and quality inputs from the College, the craftsmen diversified into making leather wallets, bags, belts and pouches, and started playing with mixed media such as canvas and printed fabric.
Members of the Reger community, the only community that crafted leather in Rajasthan, were persuaded to replace the problematic and time consuming technique of bag tanning with buying East India (EI) or Madras Leather, as they were subjected to untouchability due to the stench associated with bag tanning. Tanned hides were procured from Ajmer, Agra, Kanpur and Ahmedabad. The misconception of chemically treated leather causing fungal infection was also removed, and the quality of leather and wool embroidery was improved as well.
Over 100 leather craftsmen have been promoted, while some of them still work with the College, others have chosen to select and work with entirely new groups of artisans and market their products independently.
The Tilonia chair design originated from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh. The traditional design was streamlined and improvised with embroidered leather back in 1982. 10 local carpenters have been trained to produce the chair with side tables in sheesham and babool wood. Traditional peedas or stools are also teamed with embroidered leather or woven seats, so that the wood as well as the leather craftsmen can be engaged.
Hand Block Print Textiles
The villages of Bagru and Sanganer are well known in Rajasthan for their hand block printed fabrics. In Bagru, over 200 families practice this craft. Traditional dyes are vegetable-based and produce red, black and indigo patterns on unbleached cotton fabric. More recently AZO free chemical dyes have been used to produce a wider range of colours.
Block printed fabrics are stitched to make a wide range of garments, accessories and home furnishings, by more than 330 rural women based in and around Tilonia and Barmer.
Jaipuri razai or quilts are characterized by their lightness and the close running hand stitch. They are only made of hand block printed voile fabric and filled with cotton. A double razai contains 1500 grams of cotton. The Barefoot College works with 30 rural women from villages in and around Kishangarh and Harmara in Ajmer district of Rajasthan, who are skilled in the art of filling the quilts and sewing them.
Bandhej or Bandhani
Bandhani or tie and dye is a craft that has been practiced through generations for hundreds of years. The women folk specialize in tying and men in dyeing. Two styles of Bandhani have been explored by the College, one in which the women pick intricate patterns on a fabric with their experienced fingers without the help of drawn patterns or thimbles, and the other in which the designs are first marked then tied by women. While the former style has eight basic designs with intricate variations, the latter style is simple and less intricate.
Over 50 bandhani artisans have been engaged in the same.