Lately, there has been this trend of reusing leftovers bits or tapes of embroidered fabrics to create jewelry. There are many designers who work with zardosi fabrics, Aari tapes (another metal embroidery technique) or machine embroidered ribbons to create earrings and bangles. In this post, I would like to shed light on the art form of Zardosi embroidery and its evolution through the ages. I would also like to share my experience in making zardosi bangles
What is Zardosi?
Zardosi is a form of exotic embroidery involving metal work. Evolved from two words – Zar and Dozi meaning gold and embroidery, Zardosi embroidery has been mark of luxury and richness of Indian royalty. Regardless of whether the patterns are minimalist or ornate, they are all inspired by nature. From flowers, leaves, and trees to animals and birds, you can see the national ecology of India in the embroidery.
The patronage of zardosi in India through ages
Though the Mughal Dynasty is credited with the popularising of the embroidery, the word Kalabuthan that is found in vedic texts apparently refers to silver or gold metal wire that was used to ornament silk fabrics. The royal Rajputs also used the technique to add grandeur to their clothes. The next mention of the embroidery is during the Sultanate period. The sultans fond of luxurious fabrics and statement jewelry appreciated the richness of the metal work adding pearls and stones to it.
Soon 3D embroidery techniques ( Peacock in the above collage) developed but their popularity diminished during last years of the sultanate only to reach its zenith during the early and mid-Mughal era. Its patronage decreased, during Aurangzeb’s rule as he was trying to cut back on all forms of grandeur. It receded further during the British rule and even in the succeeding decades after Independence because of its high price leading to the lack of patronage.
I still remember seeing zardosi work for the first time (in the nineties) in a fashion shoot of garments by Ritu Kumar. Even though many Indian designers like Manish Malhotra, Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla, and Sabyasachi Mukherjee use it in their designs, I associate the revival of this embroidery with Ritu Kumar. As fashion cycles go, this trend wasn’t any different and soon local embroiders and tailors started making knockoffs. To aid this further, several low-cost metal springs in a plethora of colors flooded the market, almost nullifying the material cost.
Today Bridal blouses, lehenghas and sarees are incomplete without zardosi or aari work. Top international designers use this technique to ornament their couture garments Designers It has become so commercialized that you get embroidered sew on/ glue on patches of the work that you can use to embellish almost anything.
Embellishment in Jewelry
Zardosi embellishment is also the latest trend in silk thread bangles. However, unlike the other style where the tube are sewn to the fabric, here they are simply glued. Such bangles are further embellished with ball chain, Kundan stones, and rhinestone chain. You might remember seeing a pair of zardosi bangles made by Prakashini for me in the pink and purple jewelry post
I got an opportunity to create silk thread bangles for an engagement ceremony in Nov – Dec 2016 with zardosi as the focus. Though I got a few of the bangle bases wrapped, I did rest of the wrapping and all the embellishments by myself. Unlike the regular bangles, these are quite time-consuming. The metal spring is quite unruly, doesn’t stick easily and spoils the base with glue marks in a second. You need superb skill and supreme patience to do it right and I found myself lacking in both.
With just a week’s time to make both the sets, it was a maniac run. So as soon as I finished around 80% of the work I did the photoshoot as I shoot in the Natural evening light. From there on, it was all downhill. I usually work at night, indoors under fluorescent light where many of the glue marks were not visible. On the other hand in the bright natural light, they were all too visible. This only meant one thing – REDO!
I kept correcting the bangles over and over again until I went mad😠 The pink and purple set took two tries. However, the red one got completely spoiled when the spring of the back focal recoiled spreading glue throughout the surface. (after the above photoshoot) and I was in tears. Consequently, I ripped half the wrapping and all the embellishment work what I did on each of the two focal bangles. I picked a supporting color a light red from the lehenga and wrapped the thread. It was muted like how the bride to be wanted it to be but matched the dress better.
In the end, which was 12:45 AM a night and day after the shoot it all turned out right. I finished both sets, shot the above-seen images indoor and packed the set. Thankfully, the bride loved them and said that they were better than what she had imagined. Consequently, I made two more designs with double color bases in January. One was a pair of simple thin gray and black bangles for a client and a purple kada for myself.
I did not take separate photos of the bangles as I was in a hurry. But I posted pictures of wearing them on my Instagram page. For quick updates, pictures of latest creations, and behind the scenes stories, follow me on Instagram.
Though I was quite successful at making the bangles in the end, I would not be making any more of them. When I wore the bangles, particularly with the Benarasi brocade saree I found that the zari of the saree and the zari of the dosi kept interacting with one another. Eventually one whole strand of zardosi just unraveled. Regrettably, until I now how to fix this quality issue I will not take any more orders. Maybe, I could look into using the embroidered fabrics instead.
Read more about Zardosi at Craft revival
I hope you find it interesting