Material Benefits
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A fervent supporter of Indian handloom and the artisans who create it, Neha Lad is currently using her textile design background in the automotive domain

How did you become passionate about handloom?

NL: As a part of my student years at NID we had a module called ‘Craft Training’ for which we had to select a craft and a region of our choice, and find a crafts person or an organization who could teach us the basics of this handcraft. The explorer in me wanted to use this as an opportunity to travel and explore places I had never been to and meet people from completely diverse backgrounds. The slowly dying craft of making footwear out of hemp fiber yarns - pula chappals - in the Kullu region of Himachal Pradesh caught my attention. Essentially, this craft entailed a technique of interlacing hand spun hemp yarns to form a strong base for the footwear.

Soon after this first step into the craft sector I realized that I derive immense joy from traveling and meeting people (specifically artisans) from diverse cultural backgrounds who are absolutely selfless while sharing their precious skills with you. For me, it was all about the people and experiences. Good work and collaboration always followed! I gravitated towards handloom over all other crafts because of my fascination for structure, texture and mathematics (weaving is all about numbers)! Also, no matter how much you try to visualize the result of your design on paper it always has an element of surprise and unpredictability!

Tell us a little about your journey in design.

NL: NID introduced me to the strong basics of design, functionality and technical expertise. My time at the Royal College of Arts, London, where I pursued a Master of Arts, helped me use all of the above to create work that was an extension of myself, a selfexpression. It also gave me a chance to exhibit my work on a much larger platform that could be viewed by people from all over the world.

The head of textiles at NID, Aditi Ranjan, had an extremely important role in introducing me to the world of handcrafts in India and encouraging my passion for crafts. My six-month internship towards the end of my time at NID left a lasting impression on me. I was working with an organization called Avani located in the Kumaon region of Uttaranchal. I lived on the main campus and traveled to the other centers around that region (some of which were only accessible by foot). I also had the chance to live at the home of one of the weavers. This close glimpse into the lifestyle of my weavers made me treat them with great respect and at the same time be patient yet persistent in getting the best out of them as far as weaving and work was concerned.

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