The idea of doors opening to reveal something hidden inside was a concept I found most amusing. I started with being fascinated by the forms of doors in Islamic and Rajput palaces and forts. The Mughals and the Rajput royalty were famous for their wealth and splendor, a fact that is reflected in the grandeur of their architecture. The frescoes, the vibrant colors, the ornamentation, the arches that were all photographed in Karen's series, were great starting points for inspiration.
Motifs of doors, screens, shutters, and windows can be metaphors for so many things- opportunity (when one door closes another opens), welcome (to throw open the doors), shuttered doors and windows can signify closed minds and secrets, while screens can mean one-way communication.
My initial idea was to use these motifs of doors depicted in the traditional 16th century Islamic and Rajput architectural style onto lifestyle products. I narrowed it down to a collection of cushion covers.
I looked at the geometrical tessellations and the floral patterns combined with a variety of arches that adorn the forms of doors and windows. In addition, I wanted to explore the Turkish art of marbling or Ebru. This is the art of creating colorful patterns by sprinkling and brushing color pigments on a pan of oily water and then transforming this pattern to paper or fabric. The color palette I have chosen is incorporated from Karen Knorr’s photography series. The base backgrounds are dyed with the marbling technique and the motifs are screen printed on top.
CONVERTING MY SKETCH INTO FORM
I tend to think more clearly when I see my sketches in 3 dimensions. I took a simple sketch of a window and used cotton fabric to stitch together a scaled-down prototype. I found the form to be interesting and something I could work with. It seemed suitable to be developed into a product for children. While further looking into this, I came across the Kaavad art form. Kaavad is is a rich, oral tradition of storytelling in Rajasthan, believed to be 4oo years old. It is a portable wooden shrine that narrates mythological stories. The Kaavad looks like a box with a number of doors, with colorful illustrations decorating them. As each door opens, a new chapter in the story unfolds. The stories are from Indian epics such as Ramayana, Mahabharata as well as local folk tales. The whole idea of doors opening to unfold a story was exciting. I thought maybe I can somehow create a textile product to do the same. I would use Karen Knorr’s photography as my base inspiration and weave a story around them for children.
Cotton cushion covers 16”x16”
Dyed (Reactive) and Screenprinted
The India Song Series is almost like an interpretation of a modern-day Panchatantra. The animals are the focus. What’s interesting is the way the animals are photographed, as though the palaces and forts of Rajasthan are their natural habitat. The presence of the wild animals in these unlikely settings, yet looking natural makes this series whimsical. Using this as inspiration for my story, I sketched out the idea of having children interact with the animals yet maintaining the poses that Karen had photographed them in.
I started my illustration process by transforming the animals in her photographs into line drawings. The two characters I developed - Rahul and Rini were then added to show their interaction with the animals. Rhyming text accompanies each scene with a total of six scenes to complete the story.
STITCHING MY STORY TOGETHER
My first prototype consists of a cotton stitched cushion stuffed with cotton waste. The padded window opens onto the side to provide extra comfort for the backrest. The image on the inside provides the backdrop for the story with attached velcro on the top and bottom to fasten the illustrated animals and rhyming text.
The cushion is designed for children aged 5 to 10 to play around with its detachable components and piece together the story of Rahul and Rini’s India Song Adventure. It becomes a tool for them to narrate the story themselves by matching each animal illustration with the text or creating their own version of the story.
Stitched Cotton cushion with Kora Cotton digital print back
6 digitally printed stuffed animals, Cotton
6 digitally printed stuffed rhyming text, Cotton
Base: 20” x 16”
Windows: 7” x 14”
Archtop: 15” x 4.75”
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
After constructing my prototype there were certain issues that I needed to resolve. The use of velcro and detachable animals was not working out for several reasons. There were too many ideas jumbled together, which made the product confusing. I, therefore, decided to focus on a simple form with embellished illustrations that would enhance my cushions/pillows. I liked the idea of the doors and windows opening to tell the story, however, keeping the designs geometric with simple straight lines to achieve a better-stitched finishing. Black and white line drawing illustrations will appear on the insides of the windows and embroidery on the front to complete the look. Exploration of the arched top had to be kept simple for easy stitching. I found that too many curves made it harder for machine stitching and resulted in untidy finishing.
Ornamentation and color play a significant role in Indian culture, especially in our textiles. I decided to rework my animals by giving them new life with patterning with references taken from the frescoes in the Udaipur City Palace, Samode Palace, Podar Haveli Nawalgarh, Junha Mahal, Mehrangarh Fort, Jaipur City Palace.
Base (pink): 20.5” x 20.5”
Inner border on base (blue): 17.75” x 17.75”
Digital print in centre: 15.75” x 15.75”
Arch (blue): 20.5” x 9.25
Semicircle on arch (yellow): 12.5”x 4”
Door base (orange): 8.75” x 17.25”
Inner border (yellow): 5.75” x 8.25”
(pink): 5.25” x 12.25”
(blue): 3.25” x 8.25”
Base (green): 18.5” x 23”
Inner border on base (purple): 16” x 19”
Digital Print in centre: 12” x 15”
Arch (purple): 18.5” x 7”
(pink): 10.75” x 4.5”
Windows top: 8” x 11”
Windows bottom: 8” x 8”
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