Sunday, 9 May 2010

Day 154- Selecting Banjara Tapestry

A Vintage Banjara toranam or door hanging

I have always loved textile, especially folk and tribal ones. Even when I was a poor student, I would buy traditional fabric or textile whenever I travelled, usually  in nearby countries like Malaysia (batiik) or Indonesia (ikat),  They  cost very little then but today, they are regarded as vintage and rare pieces. For those of you who love folk textile like me, I want to share with you some facts I have found out about Banjara embroidery. 

 Most of my material came from this book, words in italics are verbatim from here

The nomadic Banjara community who trace their origins in Rajasthan, create beautiful embellishments on cloth. The Banjara women, locally known as Lambani, make symmetrical embroidery by lifting the warp thread  of the fabric with a fine needle and making triangles, diamonds and lozenges, parallel to the weft thread, giving the effect of an extra weft weave. 

The base cloth is usually handwoven madder (red-coloured cloth) over which embroidery is done in yellow, green, red, off white and black. Referred to as "Banjara" embroidery, this style is accompanied with the extensive use of mirrors, beads and cowrie shells. Our women arrange vintage textile patches with Banjara embroidery in a harmonious fashion to create fascinating wall hangings or tapestries.

While the usual criteria such as  shape, size and colours apply to the Banjara tapestries as well, there are a few nuances that you should look out for in selecting an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. 

Extensiveness of Embroidery 

This is possibly the most important factor that impacts the beauty and the price of the Banjara tapestry. The best patches from vintage textiles and dresses are extensively embroidered. Wall hangings that are made primarily using these patches display a greater range of colours and motifs and are usually more expensive than the rest.   

Mirror Work and Bead Work 

If you multiply the number by 12, there should be 468 mirror beads (not including the big ones) in this piece of toranam.

Embedded mirror work in various sizes along with beads (usually wood, bone or metal) , old coins and cowrie shells add to the sparkle, weight and price of the Banjara hangings. In most cases, wall hangings with mirror work produce a glittering effect- the exceptions are cases where the mirror work has been exposed to the elements and is rusted. Wall hangings with patches over 20-25 years old can have cracked or missing mirrors.  

Cowrie shells are considered auspicious because they represent Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity and most banjara tapestries will have a few of them. 

Pattern Arrangements

Banjara embroidery hangings tend to have a more ordered placement of textile patches compared to say, the Indian sari beaded wall hangings. The visual appeal of the two patterns is quite different. Some feel that much  more care and creativity goes into placing the patterns of a Banjara embroidery than the haphazard manner of the other. 

It is important that the pods (bottom part of the valance) should be as similar in size and shape as possible. They are usually made of simpler fabric and not as embroidered as the upper piece. Nonetheless, pricey vintage pieces show remarkable workmanship even in the crafting of pod pieces. 

I hope you have enjoyed the  facts as much as I have enjoyed making a piece of Banjara history.

All important photographs  courtesy of FaiZ and his super expensive new Canon.


Meli said...

WOW!!! Sans is lovely and love the photo of the window!!!
Thanks as always for all I learn from your blog.

Merry Jingle said...

I also love embroidered fabrics, I could fill my house with them :) They are just really hard to find in Finland and the prices are terrible.

I love that piece of yours, the colors and the workmanship is fab!

I have this antique elephant with tons of embroidery, it's really old and almost all of the mirros are fallen off. I think that my mom brouhgt it either from Thailand or from Indonesia, aren't quite sure but it's fab.

Have a nice weekend,


Eva said...

I have seen some of this embroidered fabric from Indonesia in some shop of Barcelona, and are so beautiful. And probably they are not so pretty as the real oneBecause of the coloours, the patters, the shapes and those tiny mirrors.
Thanks for explaining us about the fabrics.
Your windows look Excellent, really well done.
Are you fine these days? I do not why I have a strange feeling...
Hope you are ok my dear.
Un beso guapa

The Dangerous Mezzo said...

Your valences are exquisite, Sans. Thanks so much for telling us about the embroidery. I love your use of barley as cowrie shells! So clever :)

Tallulah Belle said...

Wow very impressive...fancy making me a full sized one :-)

I have bits and pieces of the mirrored trim and other Indian trims from when I used to live back home. I used to stitch it onto my jeans :-)

Really well done and another fab lesson as well. I love your blog...I learn so much :-)

Thanks again for the sidebar link to my giveaway..we are doing pretty good but more is always welcome :-)

Liberty Biberty said...

Fabulous!! That little window looks great!

Papillon Bleu said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Love the colours.

dale said...

Love it!

Love all the color and doo dads. :)

It's like where's waldo in here. Did you picture the trim on actual pods, while relating about them?

I was going to ask what was up with the can of food, but, Dangerous gave it away. At first I thought it looked like hominy but, then it does say barli on the can. lol

Jean Day said...

Oh San, that was so interesting! That is a wonderful piece of Banjara you created! I had very interesting woven and embroidered tops from India in the 60's when I was a weaver, you really reminded me of those beautiful fabrics. Your window and shutters look so great too. Love the colours.

Snowfern said...

i cracked up at the picture of the 'cowrie shells' XD XD XD

Sans said...

Thank you Meli :):). I couldn't take the details of the tapestry with my cheap digital camera so I had to enlist the help of FaiZ who has just bought a really fancy Canon. It was past midnight and almost 1 am when the pictures were taken. We were just using an Ikea spotlight but I thought the results were amazing. So the camera is well worth the money he paid which is (*whispering) more than all the money that I have ever spent on my dollhouse hobby ! ::)

rosanna said...

Hi Sans, I'm late commenting but I wrote you a mail yesterday night.The valances are wonderful! not my piece of cake in real size, I like them in other people's home,but in mini it's gorgeous!!!! the little house has so much changed and it's so incredibly good! Everybody pays you compliments are they are well deserved!Huhs Rosanna

Peach Blossom Hill said...

Sans, the embroideries are beautiful and exotic and thank you for researching them and sharing about them. I, too, love fabrics and embroideries and you will have to pop in my blog and see the crazy quilt from 1889 my friend asked me to repair! Nothing like these exquisite tapestries but a beautiful pieces of American history currently in my possession neertheless. And Monday I plan to go to a huge fabric store in my region called Mary Jo's (at over 80, Mary Jo still works the sales floor daily) where there are cottons, upholstery fabrics, silks, imported laces, trims, etc. in search of things that will work in small scale. I have to make a list to stay remotely focused and head to the correct area as this is as close to the New York garment district as we get in our area!


dora said...

Susan, are some wonderful tissues.
Thank you for the explanations are very interesting, apart from teach us wonderful things we explain the origin, I love learning new things.
The curtain of the window, you have beautiful.
Kisses and hugs. Carmen

Sans said...

Ira, I have so many textiles, they are in boxes. I try to switch them but get so lazy sometime, because they are not easy to clean. So they aged very well just lying on my furniture day in day out for years :).

Mirror work is almost always Indian, Ira. Even if you buy them from Thailand, they are probably made in India. The elephant motif however, is also very Thai. Their national animal is elephant :) and March 13 is Elephant Day in Thailand where awareness are raised for conserving elephants.

I am glad I live near these parts of the world where access to folk fabric is easy. :)

Sans said...

Eva, you are telepathic! :):) Or maybe I have stopped writing funny stories for the past few posts :). Building this tribal house makes everything so technical, I just have facts all the time to share.

If you show me pictures of the textile that you see, I can probably tell you which country they are from, especially if they are Thai/Indonesia/ India. I am no expert but I live in this part of the world where I see them often.Plus making them in minis make me understand the fabric/ embroidery / art even more now.

I sent a parcel out to you a couple of weeks ago. Looks like you have not received them. Post to Spain is a little slow, I suspect.

Sans said...

Wow, Nina, how do you know it's barley? Do you read Malay ? ;p

In case anyone is interested, the can reads "Cock Brand Since 1892- Rice Barley White- Net weight 450g"

Thank you for the compliments . I know it isn't much but the cowrie shell is my favourite meself-made-mini, at the moment. The bananas have gone down a few notches to a distant 2nd.

Daydreamer said...

Sans, your banjara tapestries are amazing! And I love the Barley cowrie shells! You are very clever and you make beautiful things. I too adore fabrics.. I have a whole collection of Indian embroidered Saris, not to mention bureaus and boxes full of exotic bits and pieces I have saved for my "someday" projects! There is a store in a nearby town that imports Indian fabrics, furniture & jewelry.... I have to stay away if I want to save money!:)Thank you for adding so much detail and research! As usual you are an inspiration to me!

Sans said...

Jayne, cut up those jeans and make yourself a toraman like a good Banjaran woman ! :)

AND EVERYONE, if you are reading this comment, GO DONATE USD2 if you haven't already :) - Clean drinking water for day, it may be our children who needs this. Singapore is famously scarce in water (we relied on Malaysia for our water) but we have build recycled water plants, recycling sewer water (yes, you read that right) into NEWater :). Not kidding.

I have gone through this list. Most of them not only have donated, they have posted your giveaway on their blogs too :).

Sans said...

Thank you Mercedes:). I hope you continue to fight your kids and hubby for that computer and visit me often :)

Sans said...

Patricia, thank you for visiting my humble abode :) . Congratz on Children Salon :). What an exciting adventure it is ahead of you!

Sans said...

Dale, now that you mentioned pods, can I tell you about them, the real ones? I was walking through my park and found them and thought : for my firefly park!! They are going to be made into table tops, roofs etc. Don't you just love them?

Anyway, as usual, I took the pictures 1st and did the association later. I do think my mind work subliminally though so I may not be consciously thinking of it but somehow, my pics often relate to the stories.

By the way, the whole bit about pods (the flaps underneath the main panel are really called "pods") are my opinion, not the experts ;p! The rest are the experts'.

Nina is very sharp , isn't she about the can? I thought only Cindy would get it ..hehe

Sans said...

Jean, you never fail to amaze me with your many talents, 1st the painting, and now, a weaver?? WOW! I hope one day, you will show us on your blog some of the weaving that you have done. I have seen miniature Persian rugs made by traditional weaving methods and looms and I find them absolutely mind blowing. :) They also cost more than the real life ones :).

I was thrilled when I found the red embroidered ribbons which I could use for this piece because the colours are exactly Banjaran. The motifs are not too far off either, after all, the ribbons were bought at a vintage store in Little India. But I think what really made this valance worked were the tiny mirrors which I was thrilled to find at the Chinatown bead shop. And the white ribbons with the mirrors, another special find at a quaint little textile shop just outside my house, were made in Bombay.

Sans said...

Cindy, you know that Ayam can was posted for you right?

Snowfern said...

hhahaha DONCH BRUFF! XD but i don't care, it really made me laugh, amidst all the serious serious pictures, i am still chuckling now lor!

*sings the Ayam Brand Chilli Tuna jingle*

Sans said...

Rosanna, I love that you always let me know Ro's taste :):). I just think sometimes that everyone likes what I like..haha :). But thank you for your lovely compliments. This house is for the Rollas and Sans is just the contractor building the house. She needs constant feedback from the owners to let her know that she is going the right way :).

Everything looks cute in minis, I agree. I mean, I just threw away rusty cans and pots when I was spring cleaning for Chinese New Year yet I make my dolls eat and cook in them because they are soooooooooooooo cute! Luckily dolls never die from rusty food.

I do think I am going a bit mini mad though. My mum and I went shopping for enamel wares on Mother's Day and she kept complaining how difficult it was to maintain enamel since they chip and rust so easily. I kept telling her "Mum, it's ok, let it chip and rust, it's more authentic" Mum just glared at me like I was from!

contar said...

es muy interesante todo lo que escribe sobre los tejidos.
me gustan mucho los que enseña son realmente preciosos.
un abrazo

It is very interesting everything what writes on the fabrics.
They like to me much those that it teaches are really precious(beautiful).
An embrace

Texas Belle said...

Well, that is just stunning! It took me several minutes and a number of photo enlargings to figure out that you made the valences yourself (I was wondering what the photo of the barley was for, lol!). It looks so amazing on the window, and the colors really set off the turqoise you've used for the woodwork. That photo with the wondow and the door does not look at all like a miniature, imo. I hope you'll show us more photos of the exterior!

Sans said...

Jody, I remembered that you use to blog under The Carolina Quilter :):). After I picked up miniature crafting, I became very interested in almost all aspects of crafting including quilting and saw some really amazing work, including what you are currently restoring :). I also went back to your old blog and saw some of your amazing work (like that church!)

I will be so interested in learning how people know where to find fabrics that work in small scale. It is very difficult for me and so far, I am mostly using plain coloured cloths, embroidered/ jacquard ribbons and pieces of cloth I picked from the road..LOL :). Yes, I have more success as a tramp than when I visit Spotlight :). Maybe it is because I live near Indian textile stores, I often find remnant sari pieces with very fine prints flying around.

Sans said...

Carmen, thank goodness you like origins like me :):) and thank you for your wonderful compliments. It has been such an incredible journey just finding out how extensive and influential Indian culture is. Like yesterday, I just met an Indonesian lady who gave me some miniature cans of Indonesian crackers. I researched and found out that the mini Indonesian crackers look exactly like the fried Indian sweet called jaangri. I will post about that soon :).

Carmen, es bueno que le gusta la historia como yo :):). Es fascinante descubrir cómo acaba extensa e influyente cultura india es. Al igual que ayer, conocí a una mujer indonesia que me dio unas latas de galletas en miniatura de Indonesia. Investigué y descubrí que el mini galletas de Indonesia ven exactamente como los fritos india llamada jaangri dulce. Voy a publicar acerca de que dentro de poco:).

Sans said...

Betsy, you are lucky to live so close to the fabric store. If it is anything like mine, it should look like an Ali Baba enchanted store! I just read from your blog that you have made sofas from shiny fabric! I can tell you must really love the saris :):). I definitely love mine. You know, the really expensive wedding saris can cost up to tens of thousands! I have a friend who was given 8 sets as her dowry. Yes, her wedding lasted a week!

Thank you for your sweet compliments :).

Sans said...

Cindy, who else may possibly read Malay or know the Ayam brand! Of cos it was for you :). Also, need to make a date with you possibly in September :). Read your email tomorrow when things are slightly more firm. :)

Sans said...

Thank you, dear dear Contar :). I am so happy that now, with a translator, I can share all this with you :).

Hugs hugs!

Gracias, querido mío Contar:). Estoy tan feliz que ahora, con un traductor, que puedo compartir todo esto con ustedes:).

Sans said...

Belle, I told FaiZ this morning what you said about the photo with the window and door and he was smiling from ear to ear, repeating how he has never regretted spending so much money on that Trust me, he was feeling really guilty about it. He had hinted that a macro lens will be so great for taking miniatures so I thought I could get him one for his birthday BUT my goodness, I found out that just that lens alone cost S$1000+ !

I think I will give the lens to him in instalments.

Thank you for your sweet words, Belle. I was cracking my head over what to use as the cowrie shells as I do so want my Banjara embroidery to be a valuable piece. The photos were close up so they do look barleyish but in real life, they can pass off as shells :).

Carmen L said...

Hi Susan, who are creating such a wonderful job. Since I saw the door and windows, I felt that you would do an outstanding job and I'm not mistaken, you're right
Banjara fully with the mat. I love it!
A hug

dale said...

I think the pods would make neat mini canoes. :)

Snowfern said...

wahhh mystery date! how eggciting!! is Dale coming to Singapore? or Kiva? :P :P :P

Sans said...

Carmen, THANK YOU! un beso :). Have you found your laces? I hope you got my emails on the links to some online store. :) Didn't hear from you so not sure if it's your email or mine :(.

Can't wait to see your beautiful completed work!

Sans said...

Dale, guess you can give me more suggestions when you see them for yourself ;)! I can even show you the park where I found them :)

Sans said...

Cindy! So sharrrrrp! Pack an overnight bag, honey, you are coming to a slumber party, like you always "threaten" you would. You better make good your promise, babe :). Or we are coming to drag you here! SOONER than you think!

Snowfern said...

ZOMGZORZ NOWAYS!!!! REALLY>?? i thought i was pulling out the most unpossible guess out of my jumbled up brain AHHH????????????????????

crap. are ratty t-shirts and shorts ok for a slumber party, i'm not really a lace 'n' teddies kinda girl......*shy*

Ara said...

I always learn something fascinating when I read through your blog Sans!!! And this time I saw beauty I didn't know existed! I just love that piece that you have and I love that you placed it over that window. I think it looks perfect there!! hugs, ara

dale said...

Cindy, lace teddies seem to be a male view (read fantasy) of a slumber party. ;)

I picture green facial masks, curlers in the hair, tissue between the toes from just being painted.

And singing Motown into hair brushes while jumping on the bed. ;)

Sans said...

Ara, so good to see you here :). And thank you! High praise indeed coming from you ,my dear :). I wasn't sure it was going to the windows outside or inside the house. Or maybe the door. But I think I am swayed by what you said and so these toranam may very well end up on the windows outside the house. :)

Sans said...

Cindy, came back so late last night that I couldn't email you part 2!

I am just about to start a very complicated wall in the kitchen for the tribal house, having finished the living room ceiling/ walls etc. Will see how late this takes and maybe I will email you again.:)

Sans said...

Dale, definitely the masks! But who does curlers these days? That's so 60s!! lol And yes, I haven't painted my nails regularly since I started this crazy hobby! I hope you guys will bring the feminine side of me back! I so loooooove feminine in a rugged/grunge way. :)

dale said...

Oh, too funny about the curlers!

I can remember being little and seeing women at the grocery store with their hair in curlers. As a child I was outraged. lol ;)

Of course, now you go to the store and people are in their pajammas and slippers. I give up! lol

I used to curl my girls hair when they were little, it was always so much fun. :)

Feminine in a rugged way, a girl in her guy's flannel shirt.

I guess you don't have flannel in Singapore. ;)

(whispers, it's official now!) tee hee. :)

Sans said...

Dale :):):):) , that'e me smiling the word "happpppiness" :).

O, I had to google "flannel" although I suspect I am wearing one but the cotton version , a red and black checked cotton farmer shirt :) Very good for crafting..haha.

We don't say "flannel" here . Don't know, better ask Cindy :)

dale said...

(comes in to do a happy dance!)

Snowfern said...

man. Sans, i was known as the 'checkered' or 'flannel' shirted girl back in poly. so yes, we do have flannel here, but you'd have to be crazy like me to wear it in our type of weather. unless of course you spend 8-12 hrs in the freezing comp lab like i did. (no i wasn't in comp-related courses, i just hung out a lot with the geeks :P)

Dale, i think i watch too many american teen dramas :X no don't smack me with that hairbrush (aren't you glad i didn't say 'spank'?) HA HA HA oops. :X

dale said...

Cindy! You are always the naughty girl! lol!

Gemma (Gempo) said...

Wonderful detail for the window, your work is incredible. Congratulations. Best wishes

Sans said...

Gemma , thank you muchos muchos gracias , amigo. Un beso :):) So good to see you here again !

Sans said...

Hey Cindy!! Have you been getting Chinese spam comment??? How in the world do they do this again and again?? Even with word verification!! It is maddening , I have just spent the last 1/2 hour deleting them !

Back to happy thoughts..:)

Sans said...

Dale, Cindy and I will teach you a few Mandarin swear words when you are here :)

dale said...

Good to know, Sans. :)

Here I was thinking, hello, how are you, good, thank you, please.

Up til now, I only knew bad words in Spanish. ;)

One should learn to cuss internationally, I always say, lol. ;)

Maria Jose said...

Beautiful window !

Sans said...

Dale! We even have a dictionary of local words that has Hokkien (my dialect) swear words :). It's called the "Coxford Singlish Dictionary".The online version is .Amazon sells it for USD69!! Crazy! :)

Cindy, you may want to check it out

Sans said...

Maria Jose, Gracias :)

Just went to your blog and saw your gift from Meli. We are so lucky to have her as friends :).

dale said...

LOL! I think one or two will suffice. ;)

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