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The Art of Applique

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Applique - The Art

Appliqu is decorative work in which one piece of cloth is sewn or fixed onto another, or the activity of decorating a cloth using glass pieces, metals, wood or metal wires. The art of applique is mostly practiced in Orissa and Rajasthan in India giving rise to some of the most beautiful Indian fabric art. Exquisite bed spreads, lampshades, wall hangings and more are made using the art of applique.

Applique Work in Orissa

Orissa's appliqu work is one of the most fascinating handicrafts of India.

The Pipli village in Puri district of Orissa is the main center of appliqu work. Rows of shops in Pipli flaunt appliqud handbags, bed sheets, wall hangings, purses, cushion covers, letter cases, pillow covers, canopies and garden umbrellas.

Patronized by kings and nobility of Orissa, appliqu work at one time had reached the artistic heights of excellence. The kings of Puri engaged craftsmen in the service of Lord Jagannath and set up village Pipli for them to live in.

Though the art became popular after the construction of the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, its origins go far beyond.

In the old days, Pipli craftsmen used to make canopies, banners, umbrellas and trashas (fans) for festivals held in Puri's famous temple. But as the craft's popularity spread far and wide through the pilgrims of Puri, the craftsmen started making other decorative and utility items also.

Process of Applique

This beautiful craft is usually practiced on dazzling red, purple, black, yellow, green and white fabric. The craftsman first prepares the base material in the shape of square, rectangle, circle or oval which forms the background for the pieces of art.

Appliqu motifs in contrasting colors are then cut in the shape of animals, birds, flowers, leaves, celestial bodies and geometric shapes. These motifs are then stitched onto the base cloth in aesthetic arrangements.

Raised motifs are prepared by giving several folds. The actual grace of appliqu craft lies in its intricate stitches namely, bakhia, guntha, turpa, chikan and other very delicate and esoteric embroidery techniques. Nowadays, small mirrors and bright metal pieces are used to enhance its beauty.

After attaching the appliqu patches to the base cloth, the borders are then stitched.
The piece of art is now ready for sale.

Almost all the family members get involved in this craft. Skilled persons of the family go for beautiful intricate designs while the less experienced take up the simple works like stitching the borders and making the base clothes.
Applique Work in Other States

The traditional appliqu from Punjab is called 'phulkari'. The meaning of the word phulkari is flowering as the surface of the cloth begins to resemble flowering petals. Phulkari is generally made on shawls using the darn stitch to attach pieces of cloth onto the surface of the shawl. Apart from flowers, stylized figures of animals and plants are also made. Silk thread is generally used in creating phulkari, though occasionally cotton thread is also put in use.

In Andhra Pradesh, the blouses and headscarves worn by the Banjara tribal women are not only embroidered but also decorated with appliqu and mirror work.

Rajasthan is also known for its unique appliqu or gota, which is created by sewing edges of zari ribbon onto fabric, to create elaborate patterns. It is commonly used for making costumes for women. Khandela in Shekhawati is best known for producing these items.

Appliqu work these days can be seen on utilitarian items such as bags, lampshades, tablemats etc. Appliqu embroidery can also be seen on blouses, petticoats, gowns and other garments.

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