Thursday, November 3, 2016

Cardamom Collective and the tale of the indigo ikat

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I am so happy to feature my friend from far away, Kelly Moe - Rossetto on Handmadetalks today. Kelly and I virtually met via Instagram, and have formed bonds of friendship that transcend miles and distance. We share a passion for ikat textiles, good chai and a common goal of sustainable living. I requested Kelly to share a little about her venture Cardamom Collective, ikats and the inspiration behind her work. For everyone who nurtures a dream of starting their own venture, but can't find that spark, will find Kelly's story especially inspiring. 

Read along...

You never know the change a tiny packet from India will bring to your life.

Last October, I was on the brink of realizing my first line of block printed textiles, a collection that had been in progress since I’d visited India the spring before and the completion of which I could hardly wait for. It was a year of transitions and I wasn’t sure exactly when I was headed next. It was a month before a planned trip to Peru, and my job, home and career were entering into what would be a year- long process of growth and change. As excited as I was for these scarves to debut, I wasn’t sure which path to take next. One a day especially gray and windy, a tiny package arrived from India. Out came a simple but beautiful indigo stole of handloom ikat. Small traditional movements across the fabric made it rhythmic and wearable. Fine Indian cotton with enough of a shimmer to to save for something special but washable, practical and carry -on stuffable! A travel essential. Something lit up in me and I saw then a new path had appeared.

I’ve always been a seeker of art and knowledge and for the year or so leading up to that day it had centered on primarily Indian textiles as I’d been working at a beautiful museum like store full of them called Khazana in Minneapolis.  I was familiar with ikat and had begun recognizing it’s painterly patterns in different places. I’d even had the honor of wearing my boss and friend Anju’s Patola sari and come to love all those that were woven in the ikat pattern. Still, I didn’t quite realize the presence ikat held in the world of textile history. In the months following the indigo ikats arrival it became a talisman for me, a constant at my side through interviews and large events, lectures at colleges, and international airports. Its traveled each trip with me since and serves as a reminder of the ephemeral nature of discouragement.

It has also attracted other blue ikats from all over the world into my life, the first breadcrumb along what I like to call the ikat trail. I received that package almost exactly a year ago and in the time since traveled to Peru, New York, Italy, France and Montana. Through books and dreams of textile encounters I’ve spanned the globe, always with my eyes wide open for that next glimpse of ikat. Interestingly enough, though ikat has been found around the world (the earliest piece I have seen with my own eyes was a 10th century scrap found in Yemen) the United States does not seem to have a history of it in our weaving traditions, at least that I have come across. In countries like India, Japan, and Guatemala it remains a mainstay in the current folk arts, and others like France and Scandinavia where it is now found largely in museums, private collections (and the odd thrift store remnant if you’re lucky!)

Each part of the world has it’s own place name for ikat, though “ikat” a Malay word meaning tie or bind, is widely recognized as a universal term. Curious what word to use in the markets and museums around the world when seeking this magnificent resist dyed weave? Here’s a list of the terms I’ve found so far! The Uzbek word for an ikat “abrband” may be my favorite as it describes the weaver as “one who ties the clouds”

Uzbekistan: Abrband
Guatemala: Jaspe
Thailand: Mutmee
Japan: Kasuri
France: Provence Flamme
Cambodia: Khmer Hol.

My favorite thing about ikat is how it continues to reveal it self, in old scraps of fabric or in scarves I’ve had for years but am only now just seeing the familiar brushstroke weave. There is such joy in discovering images or fragments of ikat in a place where I had missed it before, a bit like a treasure hunt. Recently I was sorting through old photos and found one I’d taken years before of a traditional Swedish folk costume that hangs in the American Swedish Institute in my hometown. Sure enough, running through the apron over woolen layers and skirts were tiny indigo and white rivers of ikat. A conversation with a Swedish friend and textile historian confirmed these weavings had once flowed across traditional dress there.

Perhaps most importantly, ikat serves as a talisman and a temptress for me, keep seeking and keep pushing forward into the world of adventure and knowledge. Victoria and Albert curator and textile historian Rosemary Crill shares in the Maiwa Textiles podcast Voices on Cloth that the bits of Patola ikats in Indonesia were sometimes burned and the ashes smeared as protective blessings and remedies for those experiencing serious illness. It’s hard to imagine anyone doing that now as Patolas have become some of the most expensive and sought after textiles in India and I believe the world, but wearing one is still seen as something saved for special and sacred occasions.

Although I do not yet own a Patola, in the past year blue ikats from Cambodia, Thailand, Japan and Guatemala, and France have come in to my life and I treasure each one for its story and the journey it took to find me. Still, my simple indigo ikat remains my favorite and has become symbolic not only of a moment of change but the friendship that grew out of it, between me and dear Kriti over the oceans! This roller coaster of a year in life and business has been supported and enhanced by her presence and for that I am forever grateful to her and my little blue ikat. A few weeks ago I began a new job, a new career really, as an elementary school art teacher. It’s a position that will be rewarding but certainly very challenging, and my first day of school filled my stomach with butterflies and even a bit of doubt. Can you guess what I wrapped around myself as I stepped through the door of my classroom?

Thank you Kelly! 
Follow Kelly and her work via Instagram, Facebook or her website 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Shopping in Hyderabad - what to buy, where to buy?

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Last week, a conversation with a friend steered towards my shopping adventures in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is know for its rich cultural heritage and finger- licking good food, so, when she asked me for my top five gift ideas from Hyderabad, I decided to make a blog post out of it.

A quick research into what other Hyderabadi bloggers felt, I realized that most had listed shopping destinations and stores in Old Hyderabad - Char Minar, Laad Bazaar, Abids, Dilsukh Nagar etc. Now, for somebody like me, who lives in the newer part of Hyderabad (Gachibowli, Financial District, Hi - Tech city) venturing into the Old City is no mean feat.

If you are visiting from out of town or cannot summon up the time to venture into the bylanes of Old Hyderabad, here are my top five gift ideas from Hyderabad. These are specifically for shopping locations around Hi-Tech City, Gachibowli, Financial district and Madhapur:

1. Kalamkari Dupatta/ stole

Kalamkari technique involves painting or printing on fabric with natural dyes. The motifs are intricate floral designs, birds and sometimes deities. A kalamkari dupatta in cotton or silk makes for a great gift. For a home decor enthusiast, consider picking from a range of kalamkari table cloths, napkins or a floor rug.

Where to buy: Take a short detour towards Shaikpet to Suraiya's Traditional Weaves, a quaint store set up by revivalist Suraiya Hassan in her home compound. Fondly known as Suraiya aapa, on most days, you will find the octogenarian enthusiastically greeting customers in the store. If you have time, talk to her about the history of the textiles in the store and take a peek inside her handloom weaving workshop behind the store.

Pro-tip: Suraiya's store is like a treasure box, go with some time on hand and an open mind to explore.

2. Banne Nawab masala boxes

There is no better gift for a home cook than the gift of good local flavors and from Hyderabad, it should be some authentic local masalas. If you can't carry Hyderabad's awesome delicacies with you, pack a couple of boxes of Banne Nawab masalas and flavor your curries with a Hyderabadi twist at home. Two of my favorite Banne Nawab masalas are mutton curry and Dum chicken

Where to buy: Pick these from a local supermarket like Ratnadeep or Balaji Grand Bazaar

3. Ikat fabric 

For textile enthusiasts, the Ikat weave is a magical combination of mathematics and design. The pattern is produced by creating a design on paper and then translating it on warp and weft yarn by the tie and dye process. When the tie and dye warp and weft yarns are woven together on traditional wooden hand looms, it produces the ikat fabric with geometric motifs. Pochampally is one of the places where traditional ikat weaving is practiced on wooden looms. For the fashionista at home, buy a few meters of handwoven ikat fabric or pick a bed spread for your bedroom

Where to buy: Head to the recently opened Pochampally Textile Park Center in the State Art Gallery, Madhapur. It houses some of the most beautiful modern, geometric ikats that I have seen in Hyderabad. Their fabrics are produced from Azo-free dyes and directly benefit the weavers in Pochampally

Pro - tip: Telia rumaal sarees are a rare collectors item. Telia rumaal is a variation of ikat which is now produced only by a handful of weavers. The prices start from Rs 12000, pick one for someone who will really cherish it! It's an heirloom piece.

4. Uppada Silk saree

An Uppada silk saree is the Kanjeevaram of Andhra Pradesh. Uppada saree or Uppada pattus are handwoven in a jamdami style with bright, bold colors and real zari. A well made Upadda saree will have designs on both sides which is quite impressive and rare. Pick one for the saree connoisseur at home.

Where to buy: Personally, I love Kalanjali Silks for their well curated range of sarees. Their styles are fresh, modern and tasteful

Pro-tip: Shop online at Silklane for a traditional Uppada Saree curated by their owner Neelima

Picture via SilkLane

5. Pearls

No trip to Hyderabad is complete without a string of customary pearls. Unlike gold or silver, pearl rates are not standardized. This means the rates aren't fixed and may vary from shop to shop, which also gives you the power to bargain. Pearl prices depend upon the size, lustre and shape. Rounder, glossier and larger pearls are more expensive.

Where to buy: Mangatrai Pearls is probably the most popular shop with branches across the city. Most tourists in the city are directed to Mangatrai for pearl shopping. They promise authenticity but are usually on the higher end of the price spectrum. I would suggest shopping around in smaller, government approved stores as well. Swati Pearls, near the Gachibowli circle is another store that offers a wide variety at lower prices

Pro - tip: If you know a good jeweler back home, consider buying loose pearls. Also, most pearl dealers will offer some discount, ask for it!

This is not all folks! Hyderabad is a mecca for beautiful handmade crafts. Look around for Bidri work, cheriyal masks, perforated leather puppets and Kondapalli toys.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Best ever dark chocolate brownies with walnuts

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Pinterest is by far my favorite app to discover new creative content. For years I have been religiously pinning food pins in the hope of trying some of them in my kitchen. So this Summer holiday at my mum's place, I finally decided to give a couple of the many brownie recipes on my Pinterest board a go. 

When I told my mum that I would be baking brownies in her kitchen, she pulled out her dearly preserved, 30 year old recipe diary and gave me her brownie recipe. That, in brownie world, was pure gold and I can safely say that it produced the best ever chocolate brownies. 

I did make a few changes to the original recipe, but most of it is intact and reproduced here for everyone who wants to try brownies from scratch. 

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 35 - 40 minutes 


2 eggs
150 g dark cooking chocolate bar
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/3 cup Plain Flour + 1 table spoon
2 tablspoons unsweetened Cocoa powder
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essense
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 th teaspoon baking powder

1. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla essence till light and fluffy
2. Melt the butter along with chocolate in the microwave until completely melted. (15 second intervals)
3. In a separate bowl, sieve the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together. Gently mix with a dry spoon. 
4. Now add the dry ingredients to your wet ingredients (egg mixture) and combine gently. Do not beat. 
5. Add the chocolate and butter mix and combine well
6. Grease a 8 inch square baking tin and pour the mixture
7. Roll the walnuts in 1 tablespoon of flour. This will prevent them from sinking to the bottom 
8. Drop your walnuts in the batter and bake for 30 - 40 minutes at 175 C / 325 F
9. Cool the brownie before cutting into squares 

Note: This recipe will result in gooey, fudgy brownies with a cracked top. For a cakey brownie, add three eggs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

SoulWeaves - Kalamkari Pashmina

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For the few years that I have lived in Hyderabad, I have had some wonderful opportunities to meet and learn from various artisans. From ikat weavers to cherial mask painters to kalamkari block printers, it is an humbling experience every single time  to watch these amazing artists work on their art with such dedication and passion. In an era of mass production, their arts are dying and their survival is paramount to preserve artistic techniques that define our culture.

Then, through this blog, I also get to interact with passionate individuals who have dedicated their lives to the revival and survival of these arts and crafts. Meet Swati Kapoor, an entrepreneur, mom, artist and the brain behind SoulWeaves.

SoulWeaves offers an exquisite selection of natural fiber shawls, scarves and stoles that were born out of Swati’s love for everything natural, beautiful and enduring that Indian artisanal traditions have to offer. Every product is handmade and handcrafted by skilled artisans. Every natural fiber that is used is hand selected by Swati from various parts of our diverse country.

When Swati shared her work with me, what struck me most, were her handwoven, handpainted Kalamkari pashminas. I have seen a fair bit of kalamkaris - both hand painted and hand block printed, but Soulweave's hand painted kalamkari on pashmina was a first. Pashmina is the finest type of cashmere wool and is incredibly soft, warm and rare. Kalamkari is a traditional art form of Andhra Pradesh that involves  drawing intricate patterns, motifs or illustrations directly onto cloth with a bamboo pen or brush. The drawings are then filled in with natural colors. Kalamkari is one of the most difficult techniques to work with. The marriage between pashmina and kalamkari is mind-boggling, something that I have never seen before.

The SoulWeaves kalamkari Pashmina is entirely hand-drawn and hand-painted.  Taking weeks, often months to make. The final product is a medley of fine lines and delicate dyes sitting comfortably on Pashmina fibres.

Swati says “Our most exclusive offering – the Kalamkari Pashmina – is a tribute to the most intricate artisanal traditions of northern and southern India. Handpainted shawls in the kalamkari technique from Andhra Pradesh, created with a pioneering technique that is entirely and exclusively SoulWeaves.”

So how does SoulWeaves guarantee authenticity? Swati tells me that every single fiber lot they buy is tested by the Craft Development Institute and each shawl comes with an Authenticity Certificate. A SoulWeaves Kalamakari Pashmina is truly an heirloom piece. 

The beautiful products at SoulWeaves’ are one-of-a-kind, entirely hand-crafted, and truly deserving of being called wearable art.

Visit Swati at her studio in Lado Sarai, New Delhi to get to know more about her work and while you are there, pick a pashmina for youself.
You can also visit Soulweaves on Facebook or their website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Watercolor Portraits by artist Hemal Paliwal

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I came across watercolor artist Hemal Paliwal's beautiful work on Instgram and it brought back vivid memories of a wonderful time spent in my boarding school art room. That art room was my retreat, a happy place where I could breakaway from teenage stress and paint my heart away. I haven't painted in a while now, so when I spoke to Hemal about her story and inspiration, I had to blog about her exquisite portraits of indigenous African people in watercolor.

The fluidity and transparency of watercolors make it one of my favorite mediums to paint with. The control over brush strokes when painting can make watercolors a challenging medium and Hemal has mastered that.

An architect by education, Hemal has worked extensively in the field of culture. Currently based in Kenya, here is what Hemal has to say about her work

"I do not have formal training in art but have always loved to paint and experiment from as long as I can remember. Somewhere in between managing marriage, kids and life in general, I completely stopped painting for almost 17 years. We moved to the beautiful town of Nairobi, Kenya a few years ago and the move helped reignite my passion for painting. Abundance of nature and the lush flora and fauna of this tropical place brings so much inspiration every single day. 

When we visited Masai Mara, I was so taken in by the beautiful beaded jewelry and colorful clothing that the Masai people wore with so much pride. Being of Indian origin I couldn't help but compare what Tribal people have so much in common, they try to live as close to nature as possible. Memories of the tribes in Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra and even the hilly regions of India came flashing into my mind. I would say this was the starting point of my new-found inspiration.

Original photograph by Eric Lafforgue

I started to paint Masai people and other fascinating tribal portraits as well. Abundance of color in their clothing and jewelry is simply enchanting. Tribal all over the world celebrate color with such aplomb! They truly live the "handmade" life and this skill is also a part of their culture which is so delicately woven into their daily life. My subjects are usually chosen from photographs and my chosen medium is watercolor. Just love the fluidity of watercolors! I paint other subjects too but am just a bit partial to Tribal portraiture!

Original photograph from flickr attributed to " One more shot rog"

I believe I have a long way to go and I need to work more and work harder each day to try and capture the 'tribal' essence into my paintings." 

Thank you for sharing your work Hemal! 

My art teacher would always say "Painting is not photography, use your creative freedom." I love how Hemal uses her creative freedom to create such exceptionally expressive paintings. 

Here is Hemal's Facebook page
Follow her on instagram here

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ready- to- cook recipe box from Ezycook

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Today was a 'don't feel like cooking - want something nice' kind of a day for me and just when I was contemplating Maggi for lunch, I received a box of ready - to - cook Telangana Fried Chicken from Ezycook.

Ezycook's concept of a ready - to -cook recipe box is innovative, stress-free and quick. Their idea is to make cooking easier for everyone. Every box of your chosen dish is pre-prepared to a ready- to -cook stage and is then delivered in a sturdy box. The raw materials are pre-measured, pre-cut and each box comes with a recipe card. My box of Telangana fried chicken contained pieces of marinated chicken that were ready to fry. The fried chicken turned out to be perfect! The chicken pieces were succulent, the marination was excellent with just the right amount of spices. The boneless chicken pieces were cut small for quick frying and my box contained a generous helping, more than enough for one. 

I found the process of cooking simple enough to ditch my maggi for fried chicken that was ready in just as little time as a packet of maggi. I am totally sold on the idea and will definitely be ordering again. Their menu includes a range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian sides and main dishes like panner butter masala, sambhar, spicy chicken curry, Natukodi pulusu etc. The menu and recipes are developed by an experienced Mom which makes it much easier to trust the quality of their products. 

Ezycook is starting full-fledged operations in Gachibowli, Kondapur, Whitefields and Kothaguda areas of Hyderabad from June 20. They plan on expanding their delivery locations, so even if they don't cater to your area now, do keep an eye on their FB page for details on upcoming areas of delivery. 

Visit them at or their FB page
Use coupon code EZYCOOK20 for a 20% discount for a limited time only.

Closing with a picture of their spicy chicken curry!

All photographs were taken by me. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DIY - Edible paint for toddlers

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Edible paint for toddlers - sounds strange? Here is a DIY that toddler mums will love!

Baby K turned 18 months on May 12 and recently discovered the joy of walking hands-free. Ever since he has been unstoppable and everything within his reach is usually found on the floor. So I have been looking for toddler activities that require him to sit and focus for short stretches of time. Painting obviously popped up as one of the top favorites. It helps them explore colors and develop their fine motor skills.

Now finding non- toxic paint for toddlers that won't cause tummy troubles if ingested was another story. Crayola finger paints were probably the only good quality non-toxic paints that I found in our local store but then those explicitly mentioned that they were not suitable for under 3. In such situations, I usually resort to Pinterest and I was not disappointed.

Many of the edible toddler paint recipes I found on Pinterest required using flour and water or cerelac and water plus food color, which in my opinion can get quite sticky and messy. But then I discovered this gem that called for just two ingredients - Curd and food color. Voila! Easy to wipe clean and does not become sticky.

A table spoon of curd mixed with a drop of Wilton Gel food color (that I bought in the hopes of creating colorful cakes and cookies) created purple paint good enough to keep baby K busy for full 15 minutes. That is a LOT in toddler time!

Next time I will try and use natural food colors like beetroot juice, saffron strands, turmeric, spinach puree etc. The idea is to get creative!

Sharing a few pictures from our coloring day. I would love to hear more ideas to keep a toddler busy.

P.S: We use Mothercare high chair with a removable tray, laminated fabric and a toy basket. The chair is easy to clean and we love it!

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