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'India Inspires' Workshop for Sangam Festival 2022

Recently, myself and a fellow local designer - Iqra, of Creative Seams - were commissioned by Woven in Kirklees to develop a full day workshop for Sangam Festival 2022 - a month long community event celebrating South Asian arts, culture and heritage across Kirklees. The premise was a collaboration with Huddersfield's Heritage Quay who have a wonderful array of textile collections, including the Textile Fabrics of India Archive. In 1866, the Secretary of State for India presented Huddersfield Mechanics’ Institution with a set of 18 volumes containing 700 working samples of cotton, silk and woollen textiles, which now form this particular collection at Huddersfield University.

The idea of the workshop would be to invite a group of stitchers to view the collection and collectively produce a creative outcome inspired by the fabrics. From this brief, I began developing an approach that would be both intergenerational and inter-cultural - exploring the South Asian community's younger generations draw to more western clothing styles, whilst still maintaining connections to the textile patterns & fabrics of South Asia.

In the morning, we spent some time exploring the fabrics in the collection, making notes and sketching ideas inspired by the patterns, colours and motifs we saw.

We then began to develop a design based on our sketches to be stitched onto fabric, experimenting with different techniques such as embroidery, patchwork and applique to evoke the textile patterns of India. The group were experienced stitchers, so it was really inspiring to see the multitude of different approaches undertaken, prompted by the same initial set of inspiration. Everyone's work was so different and yet all with the same underlying influence and recurring range of themes such as paisley, diamonds, spokes and spots.

Upon completion of the stitched designs, I spent the next day in the studio curating and mounting the pieces onto a secondhand denim jacket, combining South Asian and Western attire into one garment as an expression of the fusion of cultural and inter-generational influences. The completed jacket then went on display at the Sangam Hub for the remainder of the festival.

The session was a wonderful, unique opportunity to explore the beautiful archive of textiles from India. It was amazing to see how much influence these fabrics from 150 years ago have had on the patterns and motifs we still wear today. The group produced such a variety of different stitched designs and it was a real honour and labour of love to bring them altogether to embellish a preloved garment for display. A lovely lasting memory of the day, bringing cultures and generations together!

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