Six Yards Plus is born out of our love for all things saree. We are always thinking of ways in which to bring crafts and weaves together so that we create sarees that have a story to tell. And working with crafts that present narratives- like Kalamkari, Cheriyal, Patachitra. seemed quite natural to us.
Cheriyal is a GI tagged art form native to Telangana. It was originally used as scrolls for supporting oral storytelling traditions. Masks are also a large part of their repertoire, and although there is only a very small group of artisans that work on Cheriyal in its traditional form, product diversification and strong Government and non-Government support has played a role in the ability of the artisans to continue to remain relevant to changing times.
Personally, I love Cheriyal masks, and when I saw that the Cheriyal style of painting was being made into home décor items, my first thought was that- it would be wonderful on a saree.
Vivid colours that bring out the spirit of the rural Telangana landscape, motifs and themes deeply rooted in folk arts, and the fact that we could apply the art to a different kind of a product, to tell the stories that we wanted to share.. all these were the motivation and the inspiration for the Cheriyal Chronicles collection.
The design approach…
The collection was about bringing a folk narrative to sarees. We wanted to celebrate the joy, the innocence and the freedom one experiences while playing games. We wanted to depict traditional games that we used to play as children, which are finding less and less space in our fast paced urban life. We also wanted to be faithful to the art form, and to not tamper with the motifs or the colours in any way.
The paintings are beautiful, but for them to be a successful product that could sustainably be made, produced and sold in sufficient numbers, we had to find a way to make the value proposition right. We did not want to short change the artisans who worked on the saree. Neither did we want to create something that exoticised the art and made it out of reach for most. This balance was the toughest to find.
The traditional and the modern come together…
The first decision was the base fabric- we have been collaborating with the Aditya Birla Group to create beautiful sarees using Liva certified modal yarns and fabrics. Modal is essentially a cellulose based fabric obtained from trees. Liva certification is given to sarees where the yarn is produced in a sustainable manner with a positive environmental footprint. Modal yarn can be in the warp or in the weft, or in both, and it can be combined well with silk and cotton. For the Cheriyal Chronicles series, we decided to work with Modal Silk. Essentially, regular mulberry silk in the warp and modal yarn in the weft. The fabric itself is not handwoven, but the yarn is certified sustainable.
The end result is a beautiful, light, flowing fabric that drapes like a dream. Luxurious to touch and sustainably produced.
The next decision was on how we wanted to bring Cheriyal paintings onto the fabric. I had already been turned down by a well-known artist when I chanced to meet Mr. Venkataramana at an exhibition where the both of us had stalls. An award winning Cheriyal artist, luckily for us, he was open to the idea, and came in to discuss with us as to how we could faithfully translate the art form to the saree keeping both the craft, and the cost in mind. We had earlier done a series on off white silk cotton Maheshwari sarees. Although those did sell out, we got strong customer feedback that colours were preferred over plain whites and off whites.
The design team therefore made a decision to construct these sarees- all the pallus would be white, with bright Cheriyal motifs, and the sarees themselves would be offered in a range of colours including off-white.
And then the motifs themselves- we selected, in discussion with Ramana garu, the three motifs for the pallu.
- A girl playing 'thokkudu billa' or hopscotch
- Two ladies playing 'Vamanaguntalu'- a strategy game that is played with a wooden board and tamarind seeds. This is a particular favourite because I was taught the game by my grandmother and I spent many a languorous summer afternoon playing it.
- A girl enjoying herself on the swing, or the 'Uyyala'.
Games I love to play, and those that remind me of a simpler time.
The motifs are as they are depicted in Cheriyal craft, and the colours, the features as well as the adornments are all credit to Ramana garu and his family that work together on the sarees.
Hand embroidery and construction…
The idea was to play up the construction rather than to play it down, and since the art is so rooted in Telangana, pearls were our go to embellishment. We brought in hand embroidered pearl lines and pearl tassels onto the saree, and added a beautiful Cheriyal inspired border that was embroidered by hand. The turmeric coloured 'gadapa' or threshold is an integral part of most Cheriyal paintings, and we wanted to pay an ode to that.
And that is how our design team led by Sridevi and myself conceptualised and put together the Cheriyal Chronicles collection for all of you.
Do take a look at the collection. It is truly wearable art, and most definitely once in a wardrobe!