Alanakar, a Hindi word translates as tracery, adornment or decoration; metaphorically it represents visual enhancement or value addition. Alanakar is the title of an ari embroidery project and experimental collaboration I conducted with artisans in West Bengal, India in 2014 / 2015. Exploring different ideas and references the Alanakar project integrated pattern, line and motif into the tracery of natural colours with handmade embroidered, dyed and woven textiles. The initial group of embroideries was exhibited at Barometer Gallery, Paddington in 2015.
One series, Earth lines, involved the translation of hand drawn lines with embroidered French knots that referenced text and weaving, while the final works alluded to views of landscape. In the following years several more drawings were translated into embroidery with the silk ground fabric and embroidery threads being dyed with locally sourced Eucalyptus pilularis (Blackbutt) and Eucalyptus cinerea (Silver Dollar) leaves before being embroidered.
The November 2020 solo exhibition ‘Alanakar revisited: an ari embroidery project’ at Gallery 76, Embroiderers’ Guild NSW in Sydney, included a selection of embroideries from the original project alongside latter pieces Earth lines #4, #5 and #6 and Alanakar Panels #1, #2 and #3 embroidered but not exhibited until this exhibition.
All the embroideries were hand made by Zardozi Original, a small enterprise led by Heera Mondal, an exceptionally skilled embroiderer from Katra Village, Howrah District, West Bengal, India. The project was facilitated by CRC Exports, Kolkata, West Bengal. As a social engagement and design development project the Alanakar ari embroidery project integrated traditional artisan expertise with enhanced design knowledge and successfully inspired new design directions for the group.
In mid 2022, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney acquired three large works from the Alanakar series - ‘Alankar panel 3’, ‘Earthlines 5’ and ‘Earthlines 6’ exhibiting them on Level 2 of the museum.
Ari embroidery (French knots) on silk fabric dyed with Eucalyptus pilularis (Blackbutt) and / or Eucalyptus cinerea (Silver dollar) leaves in an eco bundle. Cotton embroidery threads dyed in Eucalyptus pilularis. Embroideries were stitched onto a firm interface backing; all fabrics and thread sourced and dyed in Australia.