Saturday, May 31, 2008

Crafty India

I just got back from a whirlwind 10 days in Northern India - Delhi and Agra. Here's me at the Taj Mahal in Agra. It was truly spectacular. Beyond the wonderful sights and food, I got to explore the strong craft tradition that India has.

One of my most memorable days was spent at the Craft Museum in Delhi, wandering through its galleries to see its wide range of metal work, sewing, pottery and painting. Though this museum was actually set up by the British during their ... ahem ... stay, it covered a wide range of India's crafts, even dividing up the religious art into items that would appear in shrines and temples and ones that would be used in households or outside. I thought that was an interesting way to divide them up! Below is a photo of a small piece of a wall full of paintings that narrated the Ramayana. This was an extremely large applique rug that hung on the ceiling of the main gallery. I loved the patterns on it - very beautiful. All of the textiles that we saw during our stay were beautifully patterned in bright eye catching colors with many floral motifs like this one on the applique.

There was such a focus on decorative elements and details in everything, from textiles to wood carving, embroidery, masonry (see above photo of the semi-precious stone work inlay on the Taj Mahal) to even your body! Their wonderful tradition of mehndi is a henna dye technique that is applied to you hands and feet. The tradition began as a decorative ritual for weddings, but has spread to be more widely used for other celebrations as well.

Ah, India was so much stimulation, I can feel the wheels on inspiration going!