Meet Babu: Mara Vera Master Weaver

Words by Hanna Pumfrey, Images and knowledge by Drashta Sarvaiya

In the unlikeliest places, tucked behind cowsheds in villages and down dusty roads in small towns, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, India’s ancient tradition of hand-woven textiles is alive and booming.

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

The origin of weaving in India dates back more than 5,000 years; there is archaeological evidence of a cotton textile industry at Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley around 3000 B.C. In Roman times, Indian handwoven cottons and silks were exported in big quantities, a trend that continued for centuries until industrialisation and demand for mass-produced goods meant weaving skills lost their value and with it the lives of the weaver families of India.

That is not to say that these skills have disappeared though. The clickety clack, ching-ching of the looms can always be heard in Indian villages, just today, for many weaver families, it is not their main job or source of income.

With the revival of ethnic and ethical products however, this is starting to change. Here in the UK there is a strong group of designers, like Drashta, Mara Vera’s founder, who are working to change this. Drashta and her team of weavers and block printers are teaching us to consume differently; educating us on the importance of the skills of these artisans and providing them with a stable income from their traditional skills.

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Mara Vera’s weaving partners are from Kutch, India. Meet Mara Vera’s master weaver Babu and Gauri - Partners for life and work. If you own a hand woven, Mara Vera silk cotton scarf it's made by them. Gauri helps in preparing the warp yarns and silk reels for the shuttle and Babu prepares the handloom and weaves the textile. 

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

In this process the strands of yarn pass through the reeds. This is done by joining each silk strand to the old warp threads manually; it takes nearly 2-3 days to complete the joining process. Each Mara Vera scarf takes roughly four days to weave and print. In India, the art of textile making is passed down through generations. Master weaver Babu’s great grandfather used to weave exquisite Mashroo textiles for the turban worn by the king of Kutch. And more recently, his father used to weave shawls and wraps for the women and men of local Rabari tribes.

Due to the rise of modernisation however, hand woven textiles have been replaced by power loom fabrics, which are cheaper and faster to produce, which in turn put the weaver community out of work.

It forced us to either stop weaving completely or to sell our textiles at cheaper rates”, says Babu “Weaving textiles is what we are best at as a family. It brings us together, and makes earning our living an enjoyable activity rather than a chore.”

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Credit: Drashta Sarvaiya

Before Babu met Drashta he was working two jobs. During the day, he would go door-to-door selling insurance policies and in the evenings, he would sit on the looms to weave and further support his family. “There was a point when I had almost made up my mind to give up weaving completely”, says Babu sadly, “but that was when Drashta came into our lives.  The work given to me by Mara Vera Textiles has brought back stability and security to our lives. I'm a full-time weaver again now and able to take care of my family while continuing with the art of hand woven textiles.” 

Today, thanks to brands like Mara Vera, the rhythmic clacking of wooden beams is timeless and the future of the handloom, for now, looks secure. Mara Vera’s eco-friendly and socially conscious textiles are once again finding a home in the retail industry.

Thank you Drashta for sharing this beautiful story with Flor + Cesta. Support these artisans and their skills by shopping with Mara Vera Textiles.

 

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