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Why old is not always old fashioned: A journey into re-looking at the old from the eyes of the new

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  • Chhail Khalsa
    Chhail Khalsa

In the midst of the technological revolution, new, sleek, shiny metal gadgets show the promise of a better life. A better life for us, the consumer. The question remains though, where does that leave the people who can’t afford these gadgets? Is the technological revolution inclusive? Or is it just making the lives of the more privileged, even more privileged? Can we move towards a new future with everyone together?

These questions rose in my mind too as I was working towards conceptualising my project Anuvad. Anuvad is a project that re-looks at old, traditional skills to solve the complex problems of today. The first phase of our project started with a very exciting weaving community in the western part of India, in Gujarat, in the region of Kutch. Kutch is known for its diversity in techniques and its rich cultural heritage with a very unique sense of aesthetic. Bhujodi, the village is so proudly called, is a village where the craft of Kutchi weaving is most popular. This is not to say that other villages don’t practice it, it's just that this village got the most visibility through this craft. Kutchi weaving is essentially extra-weft weaving. In layman words, an additional thread is used while weaving to inlay characteristic patterns in the fabric which appear to be slightly embossed. These patterns are usually done in bright colors thereby making it very visible.

Team Anuvad is a team of me, as a design researcher and conceptualiser of this project, and a tech expert, who in this phase of the project was Pranshu Chaudhary. I am a passionate craft lover (I mean, who doesn’t love craft, right?) but I love it with all my heart. When I decided to step into the world of e-textiles (electronic textiles), I decided to take my love for craft with me and hence was born Anuvad’ So here we were, we decided to go on the field with a couple of arduinos, and conductive materials in our suitcase to see if we could perhaps reimagine the way e-textiles are designed, prototyped and produced.

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Anyone who has seen these skilled craftsmen at work, knows that they are extremely intelligent and talented, and to respect that, I created techniques to co-create e-textiles with them. Through co-creation workshops and tools (more of which will follow in other blog posts) we worked with them to conceptualise a new technique of creating woven circuits (this is also now in a patent pending). This circuit allows us to integrate the technology and precisely the wiring that goes behind an e-textile right into the structure of the fabric making it seamless. Through this we explored a bunch of different ideas, a lot of which were suggested by the craftsmen too at one of the co-creation workshops that we conducted. At the end of it all, the outcome was a range of different prototypes that exhibit the potential of the combination of craft and technology. We created some heated cushions that work with a powerbank. So you can essentially just plug them in and take them with you to enjoy a crisp autumn evening with a hot cup of coffee. We also created heated rugs that move with you from season to season. As the nights get colder, you can simply plug it in and lay your feet on a sheep wool woven rug that feels like a warm hug. All of these products are now in further development, we are working on power sources and batteries to make them even more sustainable and usable. The support from Creative hub is crucial in keeping us moving forward and for this we will be eternally thankful.

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