abril 10, 2024

Ahmedabad and the importance of the Charkha

Ahmedabad and the importance of the Charkha
A conversation, an idea, the beginning of an obsession: my journey into the discovery of the Charkha Box and the friendship born from it.
Meeting with my friend Jean Anning, an avid and experienced wool spinner and weaver always brings me so much joy and our common fascination for the processes involved from seed to cloth always leads us to lengthy conversations about our wish to share this journey with our community through demonstrations and workshops in an effort to reconnect people with the cloth we use and wear everyday - so that we learn to appreciate it and learn to care for it.
During one of our events last year, Jean received cotton seeds from our friend Shelly Tindale from Tindale designs, which she planted on her verge patch and has just recently harvested. The question was now how to best spin it. Last year, I went to visit our producer group, The Stitching Project, to create a photo documentary with Raquel Aranda, Perth photographer, in an effort to showcase and be fully transparent about our practices from the spinning of our cotton to our finished product. To meet with one the couples who spins and weaves the khadi cotton that our garments are made of was an incredibly humbling experience that will forever stays with me. We also made a video documentary on our full process which you can watch here.
As it is Fashion Revolution week, a great way to create change is to reconnect with the makers of our clothes to truly appreciate their work and the clothes we wear. In February, I decided to travel to Gujarat, the birth place of Gandhi and where his main Ashram can still be visited which houses a wonderful museum following his life, faith and work. The Charkha - the tool used for hand spinning cotton was so often present in my research of Gandhi’s life and I became determined to bring some back for my customers to experience what Gandhi not only saw as a tool allowing each Indian to spin their own cotton to weave cloth easily, but also as a meditative medium aligning with his nonviolence practices.
This research led me to meet Avani Varia on my first night in Ahmedabad. After contacting her through her Instagram page of Charkhaindia where she provides initiations and weekly Charkha classes for people from all walks of life, Avani invited me to her own home filled with research papers from academic studies of the art and heritage of Gujarat and memories of her late father who supported her in her journey and instilled in her a life of service for others. Her mother was present serving us the most wonderful chai and telling stories of her past and how spinning was part of her daily life growing up. Together they pulled out their treasured Charkha boxes, Takli spinning tools and meters of Khadi woven from the yarn spun by many in the community. Together, they shared how this box has been such an important part of their life, cultural heritage and Avani’s mission to preserve it before India forgets about it.
Least to say, I was mesmerised and we decided to start a journey connecting Australia with India thanks to the Charkhas I would bring back with me and allow the community of spinners that Avani has started on the ground and online to grow globally. Now that the Charkhas, Taklis and other treasures have landed in Australia, we will keep you updated on various initiations and workshop events we have planned. You can secure your own Charkhas online here, or in store at Store @ Fib.
“If everyone in the world spun for an hour a day, there would be no more wars.”
To have met Avani has enriched my life by the sharing of her knowledge learnt through her extensive studies in the heritage and craft of this region, her activism to educate, preserve and showcase the wealth of Gujarat. Her love of people and the gentleness and generosity she brings with her instantly makes you feel welcome and ready to learn. Avani, in her last name carries the legacy of the traditional Varia Potters. Her patience trying to teach me, guiding me is something I will forever treasure.
I had the privilege of meeting Avani again 12 days later on the last day of my trip when she offered to show me and a couple of friends her favourite places in Ahmedabad, and what a day it was! From Gandhi’s ashram where she opened doors often locked to visitors, to the fascinating museum of tools, to the Bandhej store founded by Archana Shah whose book “Crafting a Future” I read throughout my trip, to a stop at Swati snacks and their fabulous lemongrass ice cream. The day was filled with learning, laughter, the sharing of memories and even an impromptu shopping spree at Fab India.
For anyone visiting Gujarat and needing a guide with deep knowledge of the craft and art of Ahmedabad, or simply wanting to learn more about her Charkhaindia, Museums of Ahmedabad, or Varia Potters projects, you can connect with her here. My dream is to invite Avani to Fremantle in the future - craft is an incredible medium of connection and I invite you all to join us Avani, Jean, Shelly and I into this wonderful world!

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