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Monday, July 1, 2013

Ganesha on Fabric - Vegetable and Flower Dyes

"Happiness is making the most of what you have."
      Rosamunde Pilcher

I grew up in a frugal household. I was raised by my grandmother. We made do or did without.  She is  extremely industrious and can weld and sew or quilt with equal ease. First need and then habit led her to choose frugality as a way of life. While growing up, I had scoffed many times at this choice. But as I go through my own life, I see that there is potential to be generous only when you live within your means, because that would mean that you have saved something in order to share it.  Very early, I learned from her to make the best of what I had available to me, both of time and resources.

 When I came to the US in 2000, among my total life possessions at the time, packed in two suitcases, was a sewing kit with lots of  fun little sequins and beads and.......a hand painted Ganesha by yours truly! A long time ago, while in college ( heavens! That does seem a long time ago!)I had attended a workshop by an eminent vegetable dyeing and painting expert Toofan Rafai. I had  painted the piece then. I enjoyed the process of extracting the dyes and mixing them with guar gum to make paints. We had a smorgasbord of raw materials to choose from - berries and roots and flowers. Marigolds, beet roots, Indian gooseberries.... The fragrance that filled that huge room was remarkable!

You can tell that I love the piece. I cherished it and brought it along to the US in a suitcase where every cubic inch was expensive real estate. Now that I think back, I think I never did get that thick tome of a computer science textbook that  my husband reminded me innumerable times to pack. Haha! So anyway, I went to town with some cotton cloth and an old quilt to provide some body to the background for the art work. The cotton cloth was dyed yellow using turmeric after a good bath in the mordant of asaephoetida, both of which can be found on Indian woman's kitchen shelf.

Then began the fun part! Sequins were attached, various embroidery stitches applied and lots of songs were sung and many days passed blissfully lost in this work. If not for this kind of occupation, I would have lost my mind. But I have learned the way to my mind. It needs my hands to be working, creating, solving.

For all these years, this piece has hung in my home. I haven't yet gotten around to framing/hanging it better, but it is very close to my heart. Indeed, it is a very humble piece, and has not much to distinguish itself with, but to me it signifies steadfast loyalty to what I consider authentic about me.