Jaipur, the famed Pink City of Rajasthan conjures up
images of a bygone era in the mind's eye. Of royalty and stories of gallantry
and battlefield valour; of a desert landscape poised against vivid shades of
colour; of art and aesthetics and above all, its vibrant people. Built in
AD 1727, the splendour of its
palaces and forts and the breathtaking array of its traditional crafts continue
to attract tourists and connoisseurs of history and art from all corners of the
world. The Jaipur textile industry has for long, inspired countless artists and
designers to create exquisite products of both beauty and utility. The
is a perfect
example of this exclusive trend in its display of excellent traditional
craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty as well as its high utility value.
was born in Poland and lives in Stockholm, Sweden. She studied interior design
in Florence, Italy, and History of Art at Lund University, Sweden. Her thesis
was on Jaipur and Provencal quilts.
Krystyna worked with Swedish
Television and for Emilio Pucci in his fashion house
in Florence, which was one of the best places in the world to learn about
exquisite textiles and original design. Writing for interior design magazines
has been a natural outlet for her creative and writing
Having visited India and especially Jaipur many
times since the early eighties, Krystyna learned
about Jaipur quilts and the local quilt-making tradition on these visits.
Jaipur has been my home for many
years now and I have watched the city grow and change over these last three
decades. From a population of barely eight lakh in the 1970s, the city is now
bursting at its seams with a population of thirty-seven lakh. The look and feel
of the city has also changed over the years with the city's limits expanding
and a lot of new buildings coming up in the new areas of the modern part of the
What hasn't changed too much, thankfully, is the
character of the Walled City, better known and recognised as the Pink City. The
eighteenth century look and feel of the planned city still impresses and
attracts the visitor. Even after having written extensively about the city and
its numerous attractions, I still felt that there was so much more to discover
and so much more to record.
One area that has been a little neglected is the
craft segment. Jaipur is recognised the world over for its wide range of arts
and crafts giving it a well-deserved reputation as a shoppers' paradise. From
jewellery to stoneware, from textiles to blue pottery ... it's a long, long
Among the many handcrafted items that the Pink City
is famous for, the Jaipuri
or the Jaipur quilt occupies
an important place. Block-printed cotton fabric with some exquisite designs
carefully filled with as little as 250 gm (or more) of cotton -wool that is
spread evenly and stitched in traditional patterns ... In
popularity and reach can be gauged by the number of framed photographs of
celebrity customers, from high ranking politicians to film stars, that are
displayed in shops in the old city.
When you read Krystyna's
interesting account you'll look at these quilts a lot more carefully instead of
taking them for granted as most people in Jaipur tend to do. We see them all the
time, we use them regularly and we even gift them to our friends and relatives.
In fact, they are so much a part of our daily lives that we don't always give
them the importance or attention that they deserve. It took a Polish woman to
set that right!
When Krystyna Hellstrom met me last year through a mutual friend and
showed me her book on Jaipur quilts, I was pleasantly surprised and a little
taken aback because despite having written so much about Rajasthan and several
aspects of Jaipur, a book on the famed jaipuri
razai had never occurred to me!
Krystyna has had a long relationship
with the quilts and quilt-makers of Jaipur and she has recorded her
interactions with them in a very readable way. She has researched and
documented this craft beautifully.
Jaipur Quilts is a very well-written and
illustrated book and provides an in- depth look into the wonderfully creative
world of the quilt-maker, touching upon the contributions of the block-printer,
the filler to the craftsman who stitches intricate patterns on these
beautifully designed and lightweight quilts.
This book will give readers a detailed look into a
craft that they too may have just taken for granted.
Around 250 years ago, Sawai Jai Singh II, the ruler of Jaipur, brought the quilt
makers from neighbouring hamlets to the Pink City and settled them down. Since
then the Jaipur quilts have created a rich tradition for themselves. The two
most popular varieties available in the market are cotton and velvet. New
customer markets for the Jaipuri razai are opening up gradually.
My intention is to give the reader a general idea
about Jaipur quilts and the tradition of quilting in the world. I have also
made an effort to present to the reader a visual experience of the beauty of
the quilts through some of my photographs. I have quoted some authors on subjects that I personally did not research
or write and have freely rendered the authors' thoughts instead. Chandramani Singh was my guide on Jaipur textiles and she
advised me to use the catalogue she wrote for the City Palace Museum- Textiles and Costumes from the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum-which was an important source of information. My task was
to go to Jaipur and find some of the people who
produce, de-sign or collect the best of quilts, interview them and photograph
the quilts and the people associated with their production and popularity.
Building the concept and writing my book was like trying to solve a jigsaw
puzzle-finding the correct pieces and fitting them in to slowly create the
whole image. I am sure some pieces are still missing and perhaps the discerning
reader can take up the task of completing the picture after reading this
Dear reader, thank you for picking up my book. I
hope it will be useful and will let you spend a few moments
One cold December evening in the early nineties, I
stepped into an international bookshop in Stockholm in a rather gloomy mood. My
eyes caught the new issue of Architektur
& Wohnen with the title: Creative India Discovered by Trendsetters.
looked through the magazine and was taken aback by the pictures and stories
about the people and the beautiful things it featured. The issue presented
Charles Correa, one of the best Indian architects in contemporary times and one
of his creations-the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur.
This was a cultural centre dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru, with galleries, a
library, museum and a theatre.
Next in line was Asha
Sarabhai, a minimalistic designer from Ahmedabad,
with her famous boutique Egg in London, followed by Brigitte Singh, the
French-born designer of exquisite clothes, quilts and textiles, living in close
proximity to Jaipur. And finally there was the legendary Kitty Rae, who started
the commercial production of quilts in Jaipur in 1963. What captured my
attention was the adaptation of the razai or
the Indian quilt-a traditional handicraft-to suit modern tastes and needs and
the fresh new style created for a demanding international
The gloom disappeared magically and I decided to
visit India. I wanted to meet the producers and to see and touch the beautiful
objects, which enchanted me. It did not cross my mind that nobody was actually
waiting for me in Jaipur. However, I guess my enthusiasm subsequently opened a
few doors and I was able to achieve my goal in the end.
I arrived in Jaipur, ready to explore and enjoy. The
fact that a well-known designer had accorded me a rendezvous perhaps melted the
heart of the manager of Diggi Palace Hotel in Jaipur.
He actually found me a room in the fully booked hotel!
After a halting start things started to improve and
over the years I made friends in Jaipur. Gradually, I also developed the
opportunity to get to know a few quilt producers, printers, designers, jewellers
and art dealers. I came to understand how rich the tradition of handicrafts was
in Jaipur and see how talented even the lesser known artists and craftsmen
I often wished more people knew about Jaipur quilts.
Although I met a few regular visitors to Jaipur who are somewhat addicted to
these quilts, as I am, it is more like a secret society of quilt lovers who
remain hidden from the public eye.
Slowly the thought of creating an album on quilts
emerged, and Chandramani Singh, an Indian textile
promised to give me a helping hand. It seemed that there was an
absence of documented material on the history of Jaipur quilts, at least in
English or other languages, which I spoke. I contacted the Victoria &
Albert (V&A) Museum in London and when I received the answer that the
museum did not have anything on Jaipur quilts either, I decided to produce this
Quilts are meant for everyday use and
of traditional handicraft and art. They can be used as
a blanket or
duvet and also as bedcovers. The light cotton fabric breathes. Should one quilt not be
enough, you can put several on top of each- other and create
The patterns and colours may differ but they still look chic
together. If a quilt is really thin, you can decorate your table with it,
or even hang it as a curtain. It will keep the heat
out in summer
and lend the room warmth when the cold days come. You can
favourite quilt around you when you watch television, read a
book and also
it to the
Jaipur quilts are made of very fine cotton
fabric, called 'mulmul' and are
fluffed-up cotton wool. The air pockets make them warm,
soft, light and
fluffy. The soft cotton fabric cover has block-printed designs and is
stitched usually by hand. The designs come in bright hues as
shades, using traditional motifs of flowers, leaves, plants and geometric
assimilating them in a stylised, contemporary form.
the Pink City
quilts and quilting
origins and the making
legendary Kitty Rae
Comfort, culture, craft
Designers, Producers and Museums
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