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Handmade: Creating Textiles in South Asia


Handmade: Creating Textiles in South Asia




August 11, 2021-May 7, 2022

Artists, cooperatives and workshops across Bangladesh, India and Pakistan are creating new textile designs inspired by centuries-old traditions. Organized by GW Art History Professor Cristin McKnight Sethi, this exhibition shares artist stories alongside vibrant examples of handmade saris, scarves and other garments.



About the Exhibition

GW Art History Professor Cristin McKnight Sethi invited a group of artists in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan to create new textiles inspired by artworks in The Textile Museum Collection — with stunning results.

Handmade presented these new works alongside their historical counterparts. Laxmiben Kalyanji Puvar, an artist in Gujarat, India, reimagined a man’s wedding sash as a luxurious silk sari. Gohar Sajjid and other artists with the Sabah Pakistan organization embroidered a shawl with stylized floral and geometric designs found in a 20th-century bridal shawl. In all their work, these contemporary makers interpret centuries-old textile techniques, patterns and motifs in fresh ways.

Some of the featured artists work independently, while others are part of cooperatives or workshops. Sabah Pakistan, for example, is an organization that provides women embroiderers in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region with skills training and retail spaces where they can sell their work at fair prices. Puvar developed her design and business skills at Somaiya Kala Vidya, a design institute that helps Indigenous artisans build on their family traditions.



Kantha textile with elephants


Coverlet (kantha rumal), Bengal, pre-partition India, 
2006.24.1, anonymous gift.


Woman embroidering


Mahua Lahiri with the Hushnohana workshop in Kolkata, India. Photo courtesy of Hushnohana.


Embroidered sash


Man’s wedding sash (bokani), Sodha Rajput culture, Sindh, Thar Parkar or Mithi Taluka,
pre-partition India, c. 1920, 1991.17.4, acquisitions fund.


A group looks at colorful textiles in a museum collection


Laxmiben Kalyanji Puvar (center) and others examining textiles at the Kala Raksha Museum in Kutch, India. Photo by Judy Frater.


Two young women sit in a window embroidering


Laxmiben Kalyanji Puvar (left) and Tulsiben Pursottam Puvar (right) in Kutch, India. Photo by Judy Frater.


Chintz bed cover


Bed cover (chintz palampore), Coromandel Coast, India,
18th century, 2017.14.1, gift of Gail Martin.


Artists hold up a long shawl


Artists at DWARAKA in Kalahasti, India. Photo by Cristin McKnight Sethi.



Exhibition Program Videos