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Taanbaan is a label that produces textiles of excellence in handspun/handwoven organic rain fed cottons & indigenous low twist silks. Taanbaan has worked with local cotton varieties which were conducive to organic cultivation & hand reeled silks. It is involved in research, revival & development of hand skill techniques in draped garments as well as home furnishings, accessories & stitched garments on request. Though the cost factor of the above processes remains a cause of concern, it is largely due to the small scale of the effort & could be curtailed with up-scaling to a limited extent, of raw material to end product by hand. Taanbaan was initiated by Rta Kapur Chishti, co-author and editor of the ‘Saris of India’ volumes, as well as ‘Handcrafted Indian Textiles -Tradition and Beyond’ & several other publications.
Rta Kapur Chishti is a recognized textile scholar, co-author and editor of the book, ‘Saris- Tradition & Beyond’ covering 15 states & the previously published ‘Saris of India’ volumes on Madhya Pradesh, Bihar & West Bengal as well as ‘Handcrafted Indian Textiles -Tradition and Beyond' with Martand Singh & Rahul Jain. She has been a contributing author to several other publications. As a writer and translator she has written of the life and work of craftspeople and scripted for films and exhibitions. She has been consistently involved with research and development of handspun-handwoven textiles from cultivation of the raw materials to all the hand processes involved in the weaving of saris, stoles, fabrics and home furnishings. She is founder of the “Sari School” which organizes workshops for those who wish to learn the wonders of this unstitched garment & make it more relevant to their lives today. She has also collaborated with ‘The Daksha Sheth Dance Company’ to develop the production titled, ‘SARI’, a tribute to the process of turning by hand, raw material into a wondrous woven unstitched garment.
In the early 21st century, in the field of textiles, India has been fortunate to have pockets of hand skills that were and could be its greatest and most unique resource for future development, given a form of limited period hand holding.
Far beyond its soft, supple breathable texture relevant for summers & winters, Taanbaan was careful in not competing in the handspun varieties with the machine made range. Also, by introducing patterning in the weave or mixing of materials such as silks & metallic yarns, which enhance the texture and strength of handspun handwoven, that could not be easily replicated by machine for varied weight & usage. It belongs to the genre of ‘human handmade’ which creates its own benchmark whether the fabric is coarse & heavy or fine & translucent, suitable for seasonal & functional requirements.
These handspun hand-wovens work hand in hand with the cycle of nature particularly in the case of Desi local cottons in various hues of white to brown, cultivated between autumn & spring in soil & climate they have matured in, over hundreds of years, fed only by rain & not dependent on irrigation, pesticide or fertilizer, except a spray of neem oil for insect protection.
In the case of silks, hand reeling can provide a wider variety of texture which is not possible by mechanized reeling/spinning. The reeling/spinning & weaving skills have been refined with inherited practice over centuries. Though the practitioners had the option of shifting to other mechanized alternatives, they have chosen to maintain their hand skills largely because of lower investments required, which they find easier to handle & thus have sustained a long standing tradition. One that is rare & somewhat endangered as quantitative production pushes out this recognition of quality. It is this skill level & knowledge base & continuity which preceded even the Gandhian hand-spinning movement.
Taanbaan believes hand-spun hand-woven is the research & development (R&D) base of the textile pyramid and needs to be sustained for textile development in the 'fast' lane as well. This hand processed, spun & woven range of products would also maintain a benchmark of the finest hand worked, patterned and plain fabrics. If their market outreach is strengthened, the entire chain could be made viable & sustainable in the long run. India could perhaps be the only country in the world with this unique resource for a national & international market.