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Dr. (Mrs.) Parul Bhatnagar

Faculty of Arts
Dayalbagh Educational Institute
(Deemed University)
Dayalbagh, Agra.

Textiles have occupied a prominent place in the world, in different geographic regions
and in all climatic conditions, since ancient times. People naturally
utilized whatever material was conveniently available; when they learnt
weaving, garments were made. Over a period of time, the designing of
textiles developed in the hands of artisans and they enriched fabric and
garments. Contemporary textile designs reflect our spirit, our
consciousness and the vibrancy of the society in which we live. This is
how textile designing has evolved in India.

The artisans and craftsmen have played a pivotal role in textile

designing since prehistoric times. The vision vocabulary of the artisan
and functional usage of a particular artifact have led to important
contributions in the development of artistic designs. The division of
techniques was not clear-cut and quite often one technique could flow into the other, and later
there were variations in characteristic forms and styles.

The preservation, revival and study of the best of the traditional designs and motifs is
necessary to provide a guide to good craftsmanship. These designs embody the indigenous
talents synthesized over time with new cultural impacts and the imagery of sign and symbol.
Craftsmen today, too, create such crafts, the designs and ornamental motifs of which are truly
characteristic of India, and these become the inspiration for future generations.

The dates when specific patterns in textile designs appear and reappear are
illuminating, for they help to show how motifs and styles repeat themselves. Often a pattern
seems typical of a far later time than that of its actual making. All fashion arises at a
particular moment in history. People demonstrate how they belong, where they are in place
and time, by shaping the lines and colours of their clothes and furnishings in their homes. But
there is nothing to be shaped except what is already there. To be original in traditional textile
design is to make the best use of the old vocabulary of designs. A fresh modification of the
old motif, ornamentation or design is generally how innovation is accepted in traditional
textile designing.

Traditional designs go back to mankinds earliest times and

belong to a very old tradition of symbols. Although reinvented several
times, the basic art forms retained their shape and artistic appeal through
the centuries. Like other art forms, traditional textile designs also link the
past with the present. Through the centuries, the skill of the artisan has
been employed for design creation or modification, not for
documentation. Accordingly, the burden of documentation has fallen on
museums, design centers and archives.

In this research work, traditional Indian textile designs were accessed wherever they
could be found. A large number of designs from all over India were classified and
documented on the basis of chronology, region and technique, for ease of evaluation. A few

designs have also been created for the first time by digitizing the traditional design symbols
and modifying them into similar new forms using specialized computer technology, reflecting
the fusion of modern technology with traditional art. The traditional textile design symbols
may now be digitally modified, according to need and function. This will enrich the library of
traditional art symbols and give a fresh direction and a new dimension to the revival of
traditional Indian design. These designs have been documented on CD-ROM media, in
accordance with my primary objective of preservation, for revival and study.

The changing roles of the artisans, craftsmen and designers are

emphasized in the context of emerging technology that is capable of
facilitating the preservation, dissemination and generation of new
designs based on traditional forms, and also offers enhanced
capabilities in terms of colour variety and colour differentiation. It is
hoped that this will lead to a renaissance in the field of traditional
textile designing. Indian traditional designs can be innovatively used
today by interchanging motifs and their ornamentations for serving the
world of fashion and increasing awareness about our rich cultural
heritage. This research work further reflects the fact that real art knows
no confines, strictures or bond.

The presentation is subdivided into six parts. The presentation introduces the
subject of traditional Indian textile designing in the first part by explaining the meaning,
scope and significance of the subject. The second part looks at continuity in the midst of
change in traditional designs chronologically from pre-historic times up to the 18 th century,
with emphasis on just a few characteristic features of design. The third part focuses on design
centers established by the government and details the developmental work done there
particularly for handloom and handcrafted fabrics. In the fourth part, artistic forms are
appreciated, whether woven, printed or embroidered. This leads on to the fifth part which
considers the utility aspect of traditional textile designs in the context of how they are
evolving into contemporary designs. The presentation
concludes on a note of hope for the future in the sixth and
final part of the presentation.

Indias traditional textiles constitute one of the

richest sources of designs in the world. Contemporary
Indian designers have a unique advantage. They are
surrounded by a living tradition and have access to people
skilled in various crafts, facilitating experimentation at
minimum cost. Design sense and market awareness of the
artisan help in the development of applications using
traditional designs which enrich design visual vocabulary,
but regrettably, sometimes consumers do not appreciate it
and the effort proves to be in vain. For instance, while
attempting to copy or adapt some fanciful Persian forms
for carpet manufacturing, Mughal craftsmen of the seventeenth century introduced such
familiar flowers of Persia and Kashmir as the crocus and iris in their design, but unfortunately
the designs did not gain popularity.

In this evolving saga, todays creations and inspirations will themselves, in turn,
become a tradition for the future. In describing the renaissance of the crafts it will be noted

that sincere efforts are being made in all crafts that are being produced in India today,
including the quality, purity of motif and ornamentation. At the same time, given the
economy resulting from mass production, manufacturers have had no alternative but to move
to cheaper machine-made products, to meet price competition. The craft ideology and love
for the handmade products which formed such an important part of living in the past is facing
severe economic pressures.

In today's fast changing world of fashion, designers and

manufacturers are constantly faced with the challenge of providing
new designs to suit the rapidly growing fashion consciousness in
the market. Most of the designs today are traditional textile designs
from Kalamkari, Madhubani, Patola and Bandhani. Designs from
stone-works, frescos, carpets, ceramics, jewellery and folk paintings
are also being used liberally in textiles. Rustic, earthy colours and
ethnic motifs are liked by the people, as are the vivid and bright
colours and floral prints.

Technology, in the shape of Computer Aided Textile

Designing (CATD) has become a new designing tool. It is
effectively reducing the time-to-market of the designed products. With CATD, it is now
possible to proceed directly from the initial idea to the visual representation of fabric,
displaying different types of designs and colour combinations. CATD has enabled more
variety, flexibility and speed in design development. Images can be stored in the memory of
the computer. Whenever required, they can be accessed to re-create or modify designs with
the desired colour combinations. CATD is gaining popularity with large mills because it
combines wider design choice with ease of production, leading to economy.

In a certain way, fashion is timeless. This is the irony of fashion: always up-to-date,
yet always dated. To be original in traditional design is to make the best use of the old
vocabulary. In terms of the last few centuries of art, with their ever-higher estimate of the
value of originality, this is a peculiar idea about invention. For example, design adaptation of
good products which are now entering into decline phase of their product life-cycle, may
prove to be fruitful. In the case of traditional designs, this may imply simplifying the
decoration, or modifying the shape and proportion of items to suit requirements of
contemporary consumers.

The export market offers a great scope and opportunity for design development to
budding designers in an era of globalization. However, it is necessary for designers to keep in
mind some special features for meeting the expectations of the export market, such as a
requirement of combining aesthetic value with value in use, hence the increasing demand for
good-looking functional items.

To conclude, it may be stated that in this research, traditional Indian designs were
accessed wherever they could be found. Computer Aided Textile Designing (CATD) was
used intensively for traditional Indian textile designing, and new designs were developed by
using software to modify traditional design symbols. For the first time, a large number of
traditional Indian designs which are characteristic of different regions, chronology or
technique, have been classified and documented on CD-ROM for their preservation,
modification and dissemination.