The name Shiuli comes from one of Tagore’s poems and since Uma was so wonderful that she let me choose the music so here it goes.
Uma brand’s founder and designer says – Shiuli is also known by the name coral jasmine. It is a monsoon blossom that blooms at night and fills the air with a deep fragrance. A student of literature I love the works of Tagore and it was in his books that I first came across the Bengali word for this flower – Shiuli.
Shiuli is the culmination of a lifelong passion for fabrics and handcrafted embellishment techniques native to India. As the wife of an army officer Uma says she has been literally transported from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. “In the process I have had ample time to see for myself the rich and varied tapestry of handwork that abounds in our country. All the years I spent traversing the length and breadth of this country reflects in the Shiuli range that had something from every part of this country. Having moved every three years since the time I turned 23. I love the colours, the vibrancy and the seasons in India with a special place in my heart for the monsoons. I grew up in Kerala and so this special penchant for the rains!!”
Uma used to be an assistant professor of English language and literature in various colleges over the years and an avid crafts person in her free time. Her love for this would find expression in the sarees and blouses she handcrafted and made for family, friends and of course herself ! “I am also a keen yoga enthusiast to the extent of holding a p.g. diploma in yoga and naturopathy! A voracious reader I have over time moved on from reading fiction to non-fiction and new age literature. ”
“Every time I would go out to buy a saree I would end up wishing I could tweak the design around just a bit or add a trim and in some cases remove an existing trim. This is what first led me to create my own Sarees. Given the overwhelmingly positive response to all the Sarees I created, I organically decided to grow this into a small label for handcrafted Sarees.”
“I use natural fabric like silk, cotton, linen and khadi that have been around for centuries and create a saree that appeals to the contemporary woman in the choice of designs and colours. The embellishment techniques I use are all heritage hand-crafts like shibori, block printing and embroidery. I blend tradition, heritage and the contemporary in a seamless fashion in the sarees I design. Not only do I love sarees, I truly believe that as a garment, the saree is unparalleled in the effortless grace it lends to the wearer. Therefore all our Sarees are single pieces with no cut and stitch of pallavs and pleats to retain the authenticity of its six yard splendor.”
Peacocks in the Rain and Uma’s favorite Shiuli Saris :
On the top of the list is the Shibori saree. It takes around 4 persons to work on the various layers of this. The naturally cream/white sari is first marked out for the pallav which is then hand-stitched, tied and dyed. It is then unpicked and opened out. Then the clamp design or stitched design is done on the body and it is then dyed, again dried and opened out. To get the sense of space in proportion to the rest of the saree is tough, it takes several layers of ironing out the fabric….There is always a certain uncertainty in the shibori process as the dye permeates the clamped layers- it is creation in a pure form.
Then there are batiks on silk and linen. To conceptualize a design for batik is an arduous task as the crackling of the wax that creates the batik effect often interferes with the first visual drawing on paper. Then it is hand-drawn on the sari and again it is dyed in different layers for each colour.
Another favourite is the Maheshwari sari. We first get it woven to our design specifications and then embellish it with minimalistic block prints. Maheshwari sarees are the perfect wear for Indian weather, it can be formal, semi-formal, casual- it is a fabric that breathes and the weave has an ethereal quality to it. So is the Chanderi weave Shiuli saree. It is slightly different in weave from the Maheshwari sari but both have the same sheen to it. Our contemporary hand-block prints designs on this heritage fabric is another favorite.
We also highly value our hand-painted Kalamkari sarees, which are still made in the old-fashioned way – it is first soaked in milk and then in Myrobalan which gives it the characteristic yellow hue. Lady artisans who are skilled at free hand drawing etch our designs in black ink on the saree and then the colour fills are done. It takes around a week to make a saree.
Shiuli uses good quality raw materials sourced through weavers’ societies. Then comes the design aesthetics. They consistently use space to highlight their design- instead of filling the fabric with designswhich is something we really love . The sarees suit Indian weather – they do not have heavy fabrics that are stifling. The designs reflect the woman of today – sure of her space and happy to reflect that in what she wears.
“One of my favorite memories from the design journey is when our team was browsing around in another exhibition when two ladies recognized us as the people who run Shiuli and complimented us on the lovely shiboris we were doing and how unique it was. And we were standing at the stall of another brand that makes Shiboris that we personally love. We were left speechless. And of course customers like Sruthi who was chatting with us on details of buying one of our sarees. Then she came back to us after 3 weeks to tell us that just as she was talking to us earlier, she went into labour, has a baby girl now and would the saree she had liked be by any chance still available? Again, we were left speechless. As for friends, family, the Shiuli team – your love and unstinted support has been a humbling experience for me. Thanks! ”
Uma says and we couldn’t agree more – Wherever we can lets support any form of hand craft. Cheap products, cheap, fast fashion is flooding our markets and we are quickly erasing an entire way of life which cannot be retrieved. Buy handmade wear handmade.
For you own Shiuli sari – drop them a mail [email protected]
Image Credits : All pictures are from Shiuli Creations
translation of shiuli phool
I CANNOT remember my mother,
only sometime in the midst of my play
a tune seems to hover over my playthings,
the tune of some song that she used to hum while rocking my cradle.
I cannot remember my mother,
but when in the early autumn morning
the smell of the shiuli flowers floats in the air,
the scent of the morning service in the temple comes to me as the
scent of my mother.
I cannot remember my mother,
only when from my bedroom window I send my eyes into the blue of
the distant sky,
I feel that the stillness of my mother’s gaze on my face
has spread all over the sky.